2013 Sejong Writing Competition
Winning Entries :: Essays :: Senior second place
Hebin Hannah Jeon
second place, senior essay division
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” When a man gets hold of power and status, only then does he reveal his true character and moral values. Often, the cruelty and immorality of human nature are revealed when leadership and control is bestowed upon an individual. Our Twisted Hero explores this revelation through a power struggle among provincial schoolboys in order to analogize much broader themes from the Korean political landscape. However, the author’s message that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his authority increases has been examined by many other great works of literature, particularly The Lord of the Flies. By examining these two important works, one can learn more about the corruptive influence of authority while analyzing the conditions under which morality overcomes depravity.
First, a prominent similarity in these novels is that they are both allegories—stories told with the characters of children to represent the adult world and the flaws that exist within it, most specifically the danger of omnipotence to distort one’s moral compass and personal humanity. Our Twisted Hero engages the character of Om Sokdae, who acts as the class dictator, as the antagonist of the story. Sokdae loses his moral values in order to earn the respect and approval of his peers and teacher. Because academic success is one of the fundamental qualities of the class leader, he is only able to keep his title by mendacious acts such as cheating on his tests. Similarly, Jack in The Lord of the Flies learns that the more savage and violent his behavior, the more effectively he is able to control the other boys on the island and keep his position as Chief. Furthermore, even the protagonists in both stories become corrupted by this power at one point. Though Han Pyong’tae initially attempts to overthrow Sokdae, he eventually acquiesces and becomes Sokdae’s biggest supporter and right-hand man, even becoming so drunk on a his own little taste of Sokdae’s power that he doesn’t do anything when he learns that Sokdae cheats. In The Lord of the Flies, Ralph, who serves as the strongest resistance to Jack’s violent ways and is a character who embodies the benevolence of human nature, becomes as bloodthirsty and brutal as the others when he experiences the thrill of hunting for the first time.
On the other hand, the two works seemingly diverge in certain aspects, particularly with respect to their perspectives on violence. While the boys in Our Twisted Hero seem to have accepted violence as a normal and expected action in the classroom, any acts of aggression that the characters commit in The Lord of the Flies seem to be portrayed as brutal and unnatural. However, the eventual recognition of the boys on the island that violence is an unavoidable part of human nature by the end of the book suggests that they are merely at a different stage of the process. While The Lord of the Flies illustrates the boys’ gradual process towards accepting violence as normal, the reader quickly infers that such an evolution has already occurred prior to the events described in Our Twisted Hero.
Another significant difference between these novels, however, is the outcome of the leadership; while Sokdae is eventually overthrown and stripped of his power by his classmates, Jack still remains in full control by the end of The Lord of the Flies. By examining these particular differences, a reader can observe an emerging and critical distinction between the views of the two authors, most specifically regarding the potential of humans to overcome oppression and to resist conforming to corruptive power. William Golding seems to suggest that humans are ultimately doomed when they are corrupted with power and brutality, and that people naturally revert to savagery when they have power in their hands, as illustrated by the barbaric crimes the boys commit . On the contrary, Yi Munyol presents a much more optimistic view that humans will overcome this corruptive power and that in the end, justice will prevail, as it did in Han Pyong’tae’s classroom.
Despite the contrast between the author’s viewpoints regarding whether or not corruptive power essentially triumphs over morality, both Our Twisted Hero and The Lord of the Flies analyze the tendency of power to demoralize the goodness of human nature. While Golding holds a belief that when given power, people reveal their natural, innate character of cruelty and barbarism, Yi shows that sometimes, the compassion of the human character is able to resist conformity and overcome oppression. As for the reader, the future of the world—a world in which the presence of power is consuming—remains nebulous; we can only hold onto Yi’s optimism and hope that our integrity will ultimately prevail.