“…Lord of the Flies is not, to say the least, a simple adventure story of boys on a desert island” (Epstein 204).
The elements of Lord of the Flies–a tropical island, a group of schoolboys without adult supervision, a herd of wild pigs–may seem to be the elements of a perfect Utopian fantasy. Instead, they are the elements of a nightmare, a Utopia that quickly disintegrates into, first, chaos and then a dictatorship based on fear and ritualized brutality. However, the novel is also not a horror story written merely to shock and titillate the reader. William Golding says about Lord of the Flies that “[t]he theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature” (Epstein 204).
In the novel, Golding suggests that attempts at social order are doomed to fail as greater personal freedom leads to a society which is ruled by the strong and filled with violence. Each of the three main characters–Piggy, Jack, and Ralph–represents an aspect of this degenerative process.
One of the first characters to emerge as a distinct personality is Piggy, who represents law and order. One of Piggy’s first inspirations is brought about by the sight of a conch in a tidal pool. When another boy, Ralph, retrieves the conch, Piggy realizes, “We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting” (Golding 16).
... element of humanity’s savage instincts which include anarchy, amorality, and a desire for power. Throughout the novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding ... he partakes in the killing of Simon. Dont you understand, Piggy? The things we did He may still be. Although ... of us are vulnerable to it. Bibliography “Lord of the Flies”, William Golding, The Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 1954
Piggy’s first instinct is for organization, and the conch which he spots becomes a symbol of the fragile system of order that the boys create. Piggy is critical of the kind of freedom that leads to disorder and chaos. When the boys agree to build a fire on the mountain to send a smoke signal, the first meeting breaks up as everyone rushes towards the mountain. Like the crowd of boys, the fire quickly gets out of control, and one of the younger boys appears to be missing–probably trapped in the burning jungle. In a temper, Piggy tells the others that they have acted “[l]ike a pack of kids!” and asks, “How can you expect to be rescued if you don’t put first things first and act proper?” (Golding 45) The only salvation Piggy can envision comes from behaving in an orderly manner. The degree to which he values this vision of order is shown by his reverence for the conch, which he attempts to protect from Jack later on in the book. Even when the majority of the boys have abandoned the original, organized society, Piggy clings to the shell, stubbornly believing that the beauty of order cannot be denied. He shouts to Jack’s wild tribe, “Which is better–to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?” (Golding 180) In fact, most of the boys, while they may be attracted to the idea of an orderly society, are not willing to sacrifice their personal interests and freedom to submit to organization. Although Piggy clearly has the best ideas of anyone on the island, he is physically and personally unattractive to the other boys. “There had grown up tacitly…the opinion that Piggy was an outsider…” (Golding 65).
Piggy’s intellectual vision of law, order, and a purpose beyond the immediate physical necessities is not as compelling as Jack’s vision of a unordered freedom in a society based on physical strength and physical needs.
In a society without agreed-upon law and order, might makes right. From the beginning of Lord of the Flies, Jack has demonstrated a willingness to ignore social agreements in order to take what he personally wants. As the ground rules of the boys’ society are being determined at the first meeting, Jack has no desire to consider the qualities necessary in a leader or to submit his candidacy for leadership to general scrutiny. He simply declares, “I ought to be chief” (Golding 22).
... , and think that girls are smarter than boys. Yet boys are being told that society is based on a patriarchy in which men ... need extra help with academics and elsewhere in a society that favors boys. Christina Hoff Sommers, a Ph. D. in philosophy and ... killing at Columbine High School. It would seem that boys in our society face great difficulties and risks as they grow up ...
When the boys decide to elect Ralph instead, Jack is only appeased by being placed in charge of his choir, who are now the hunters. Jack magnanimously proclaims that his hunters will take care of the fire as well as the hunting, but once he becomes involved in hunting, he ignores his responsibility to the group in order to focus on what gives him personal gratification. Consequently, the fire goes out and a chance for rescue is missed. When Ralph and Piggy point out Jack’s fault, Jack refuses to accept responsibility and instead turns to violence, striking Piggy and causing his spectacles to break (Golding 71).
The more freedom Jack has, the less responsible he becomes. Ultimately he rejects the small semblance of order that has been created, refusing to listen to the chosen leader or follow the agreed-upon rules. “Bollocks to the rules!” he shouts (Golding 91).
A few days later, he leaves the society and is soon joined by other boys who wish to hunt rather than build shelters and gather water. In this new society, Jack leaves behind any sense of social agreement or moral order. He is a brutal dictator who does not need to appeal to logic or reason to gain societal support. As two of his tribe’s members discuss the planned beating of Wilfred, a third tribal member, one boy asks the other why Wilfred is to be beaten. The other responds, “I don’t know. He didn’t say” (Golding 159).
Jack appeals to the boys’ fear of the unknown and desire for violent conquest with a regime in which he is free to behave as he pleases, with no limits and no set order.
Ralph represents a government in crisis, an attempt to balance the freedom Jack desires and the order Piggy reveres. After his election to chiefdom, he establishes simple, concrete goals and basic rules that the members of his society can easily understand. However, despite the group’s agreement to those goals and rules, he soon finds that the rules mean little when they cannot be enforced. Few of the other boys continue to build the needed shelters, gather fresh water, or even defecate in the agreed-upon location. He realizes that leadership is more difficult than getting everyone to assent at a meeting. “When the meeting was over they’d work for five minutes, then wander off or go hunting” (Golding 51).
... orderly society also. b. Jack creates a tribe solely to get food, and Ralph's has order. c. The boys first encounter a pig ... , they should have fun and not have any rules. II. Golding's plot enhances the affect of the savage side of ... that man becomes a savage, is shown by the way Golding designs each character and the situations that he creates for ...
Finally Ralph holds a meeting in which he attempts to force his authority. “You voted me for chief. Now you do what I say” (Golding 81).
Even then he realizes that his authority must be based on the others’ consent. When a later meeting breaks up into chaos, Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch and “be tough” (Golding 91) with the boys, to force them to obey. Ralph responds cautiously, “If I blow the conch and they don’t come back; then we’ve had it. We shan’t keep the fire going. We’ll be like animals. We’ll never be rescued” (Golding 91).
The balance between order and freedom that he represents is as fragile as the conch. Although he does not see law and order as beautiful in and of themselves, he tries to convince the boys who have abandoned his leadership that there are benefits to an orderly society. “…you’ll have rain…Where are your shelters? What are you going to do about that?” (Golding 151) In the end, his society is reduced to one–himself. Piggy and the conch die together in a confrontation with Jack’s group, the remaining members of Ralph’s society are kidnapped by Jack’s tribe, and Ralph is hunted through the forest as Jack attempts to destroy any challenge to his brutal authority.
Ralph is saved by the arrival of a navy ship, but Golding leaves open the question of whether or not human society as a whole can be rescued. Golding points out that “[t]he officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?” (Epstein 204) In Lord of the Flies, Golding has shown that humans are naturally attracted, not to law and order, or even a balance of order and freedom through social agreement, but to unlimited freedom without responsibility. This irresponsible freedom leads not to anarchy, but to a totalitarian regime in which those who are strongest exercise their freedom with impunity. Those who, like Piggy and Ralph, attempt to place limit on the freedom of some for the benefit of all, end up sacrificing not only their freedom, but even their lives in the struggle.
... trapped on the island as long as they have the conch, Ralph will listen to everyone and respect them as long as ... with being made fun of. Ralph is a leader that wants to be respected but in order to gain respect you have ... can be easier. This obviously shows that Ralph is drastically focused on keeping order on the island because he thinks that this ...
Epstein, E. L. “Notes on Lord of the Flies.” Lord of the Flies by William Golding. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1954. 203-208.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York, Berkley Publishing Group, 1954.