William Golding’s novel the Lord of the Flies depicts a scenario in which children are left to survive and govern themselves on an uninhabited island without any adults. As the story unfolds the themes such as the loss of innocence and civilization vs. savagery become apparent. A recent incident provides a sobering reminder that real life incidents can mirror Golding’s novel.
A series of articles published by the Daily Dot report the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons. According to the article, 17 year old Rehtaeh attempted suicide by hanging herself; on April 7th her family made the call to take her off life support. Parsons’ motive was driven by what the article calls an alleged rape by four boys when she was at a friend’s house two years prior. As if the rape itself wasn’t bad enough, a photograph of the incident spread virally throughout social media channels. As a result of the abuse of social media, Rehtaeh Parsons was subject to a continuous reminder of the traumatizing incident.
In light of this story, loss of innocence is plainly obvious. At some point, the four boys involved in victimizing Parsons realized that they had an opportunity to exert control over someone. Subsequently, a conscience decision was jointly made to commit a travesty. Like a hunting party bringing back a trophy of their kill, the boys decided to seal their victory over Parsons by displaying their deed for all to see.
Rehtaeh’s mother describes her daughter as being the subject of much unwanted attention and harassment. Rehtaeh eventually changed schools as a result of the incident’s backlash and was even hospitalized in effort to help her cope with the difficulty.
One of the articles shines the spot light on the authorities and the school that Parson’s attended. With the authorities failing to press charges and the school claiming ignorance, we see the theme of civilization vs. savagery take form.
Social media is not unlike Golding’s uninhabited island. Whether claims of ignorance are authentic is anybody’s guess. However, many social media circles and networks are comprised of a cohort of teens and grade school goers. It is not hard to imagine that this sets the stage for a scene where teens are free to set up a social hierarchy and bully without reprisal. Like the children in Lord of the Flies, a sense of accountability for one’s actions is lacking. Without the presence of adults, Golding’s children went so far as to kill. The failure of school administrators or authorities to bring the rapists to justice does little to deter future atrocities.
Parson’s case is not an isolated incident. The Steubenville rape and the suicide of Amanda Todd support the idea that social media has been abused and thus lent itself to pockets of savagery. While freedom speech is important for the growth civilization, perhaps it is time that elements of savagery are taken more seriously.