Use Of Themes Of Savagery And Civilization To Portray Society Lord Of The Flies
William Golding uses the themes of loss of innocence, evil in the world, and the progression from civilized to savagery in his novel Lord of the Flies to portray his vision of society. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is about a group of sixteen boys that get stranded out on an island in the middle of the ocean. The boys create a system of rules and organization but without the supervision of adults and a sense of civilization they become violent and barbaric. The island slowly falls into a state of utter chaos that shows the slow loss of innocence in the boys all the way to savagery. Lord of the Flies is an interpretation of what will slowly happen to the world.The dark mind of William Golding shaped one of the most influential novels of the twentieth century.
Golding got these views on humanity from his time he spent in the Royal Navy. Golding saw things that made him think man was savage at its roots. WWII changed Golding’s perception of the world and how people react to certain situations. “Before the Second World War I believed in the perfectibility of social man; that a correct structure of society would produce goodwill; and that therefore you could remove all social ills by a reorganisation of society….. but after the war I did not because I was unable to. I had discovered what one man could do to another… I must say that anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head…”
He wanted to show his ideas and what the world was turning to so he wrote the novel Lord of the Flies. Golding believed that by writing the novel Lord of the Flies that he could get the people of the world to think about the road that they are traveling down. David Powers talked about how savage the Japanese fought in World War II in his article Japan: No surrender in World War Two and how they were fearless they were in battle.“From figures of derision, they were turned into supermen – an image that was to endure and harden as the intensity and savagery of fighting increased.”(Powers) Golding experienced this savage fighting first hand and it warped his mind to think a different way than others. Seeing the savage war tactics used in the second World War scarred Golding in a way.
Golding makes sure to show how innocent some of the people in the world are and how they can be affected by the people who are turning savage. One instance that he shows this is through the character Simon. Simon is a symbol for Christ in the book and is one of the most innocent boys in the novel. “Then, amid the roar of bees in the afternoon sunlight, Simon found for the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands.” (Golding, 56) Golding shows how in the midst of all the commotion on the island Simon finds ways to help the Littluns. He is a source of youthful innocence on the island. Simon falls victim to the evolving savagery of the other boys when a storm comes to the island. In the mass confusion all the other boys though that Simon was the Beast and they speared him to death on the beach. This is a major sequence in the boys plot because all of the boys participated and the only one that will hold himself accountable is Piggy. Simon fell victim to the boys loss of innocence.
Golding uses the Bible as inspiration for elements in the book. While showing Simon as a symbol of Christ, Golding shows his polar opposite with the character, Jack. Jack is a symbol of the devil trying to turn the people of the world to evil. The island that the boys are stranded on is thought of as a fresh start or a Garden of Eden. The boys had a chance at a new beginning but human nature to be evil takes over and takes them to savagery almost like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. “Lord of the Flies, allegorically, depicts the eternal theme of the conflict between evil and goodness, a conflict in which evil is the winner in the first round and then, the table is suddenly turned and the goodness that still remains is saved; sin is also expiated.”(Alajm 101)
Golding uses references to the Bible as a way to symbolize a known good and evil. This helped him in making his point for the book clearer. Simon has an encounter with evil when the sow’s head, the Lord of the Flies, speaks to him and tries to speak to him and convince him to join Jack’s group. “The fictitious conversation between Simon, the Christ figure, and the lord of the flies referring to Beelzebub allegorically presents the struggle between goodness and evil. First of all, the Lord of the Flies entices Simon asking him to join the Jack’s party and have fun.”(Alnajm 102) Simon fights off the urge to join Jack’s group even though the pig head tempts him to go to the dark side. This is referring back to when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit but Simon did not give into the temptation of evil.
William Golding showed many cases in which the boys on the island had lost their innocence. The young children that found themselves on a deserted island tried to form a form of government but it fell through and they became butal. Golding shows even the people who aren’t evil will lose their innocence with the character Ralph. Ralph is the protagonist of the novel and is a symbol of the people who are good and have sound judgement in the world. Ralph loses his innocence when he helped the other boys in murdering Simon when they mistook him for the beast on the island. “ And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend Piggy.”(Golding 202) Like Golding, Ralph had seen and done things on the island that had changed him and how he looks at the world. Ralph is used by Golding to almost symbolize himself in some ways. Both went through very traumatic experiences that changed their view on life. Alaa Alnajm writes about the idea that Golding thinks society needs to be rebuilt and we must do that by showing the people what they can descend into.
“But a flicker of optimism is revealed through Ralph who is concerned with the fundamental values of life. Ralph sensed that things are disintegrating and sanity is breaking up, and he tried in vain to put things in order. In fact, Golding believes that the world needs to be rebuilt. And the foundation of this rebuilding has to be a blending of system and human feelings.” (Alnajm 101) Ralph sees how the human fundamental values have been lost and how the boys on the island have slipped away from these moral values. This is Golding’s way of showing the world the first step to change. John Fitzgerald and John Kayser agree with Alnajm’s analysis of Golding’s thoughts on society. They feel like Golding uses the novel as an allegory to show the downfall of society. “Lord of the Flies is an allegory on the disintegration of society due to a tragic flaw in human nature; man fails to recognize, and thereby appease, the irrational part of his soul.” (Fitzgerald 78) Golding’s view on human nature being inherently evil is realised by Fiztgerald and Kayser and they see how he is showing man falling into savagery.
One of the first instances in the book where the boys lose their innocence is when they start the signal fire. The fire then got away from them and started to burn down the jungle. This is the first time they did something bad but there were no adults to discipline them or to tell them they were being irrational. This changes the way they look at things that happen in the island because they know there are no consequences for their actions and now they will become more reckless and savage as the days go by. ‘You got your small fire all right. […] the boys were falling still and silent, feeling the beginnings of awe at the power set free below them.”(Golding 44) Golding made sure to show that that boys had never felt this kind of “power” before because before they would have been punished and scolded for their actions.
One spot in the novel that you can see civilization slowly slipping away is when Roger is throwing rocks at a Littlun named Henry. Minnie Singh explains this as the space around Henry being what is left of civilization on the island. “The ‘space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter,’ into which Roger dare not throw, is nothing other than the shrunken dimensions of civil society—the restraints taught by parents, school, policemen, and the law. What Roger is unable to disobey is not the express prohibition of civil society against violence, but an internalized restraint—that is, civility.”(Singh 204-205) Singh explains it as Roger didn’t hit him with the rocks because there is still a little bit of civilized in him. The rules and guidelines that he once knew are the only things that are holding him back from hitting Henry with one of those stones. Later in the novel Roger breaks through this barrier of civilized and hurls the boulder at Piggy which in turn makes him fall to the rocks by the sea.
The boys in the Lord of the Flies went from civilized little choir boys to savage beasts that live in the jungle. This was shown mainly through the antagonist Jack. Jack was a prissy choir boy when they landed on the island but once he realized that there was no one to control his actions he started to act like a savage beast. Jack was the leader of the hunters and shows some of his already violent tendencies. “His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.”(Golding 70) Here Golding relates the successful hunt that Jack was apart of, to his violent nature by making it sound so simple and nonchalant. “Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat.” (Golding 92) This is the point in the book that Golding starts to show the descent into savagery that Jack starts to make. This statement by Jack shows how he values killing more than order and being helpful with their growing society. Jack became overwhelmed with bloodlust and the want to kill.
Another very active theme in the novel is evil. Golding thinks that man is flawed and is evil by nature, making it impossible for society to last. Golding shows how naive mankind is by adding the element of the Beast. Some of the boys see an old pilots skeleton hanging by its parachute at the top of the mountain. They don’t understand what it is and call it the Beast. This scares all the boys on the island because they thought that they were alone. This Beast puts fear into the boys and Golding is trying to show that they shouldn’t be scared of the Beast but actually each other. Simon is the only one that knows the truth about the Beast but when he goes to tell all the boys he gets killed on the beach. Golding makes Simon the one to find this out and then die because he is the innocent one.
“Another important aspect of evil shown in the novel is that it does not exist outside; only Simon can feel the truth of evil when he says that the beast might be within us. The other boys are afraid of the beast. It is displayed to Simon alone that evil in the form of beast is just an illusion.” (Alnajm 100) Simon realizes that the evil is within them and their is no Beast but no one listens to him. Since the boys don’t listen to Simon the Beast starts to tear the group of boys apart because there are two different approaches to dealing with it. Jack wants to hunt and kill the Beast and Ralph wants to avoid it. Jack starts to get more of the boys to help him because he is the “fun” leader. Jack convinces the boys to help him saying that they will hunt, feast, and have fun. Roger also puts fear into the minds of the other boys by threatening them. Roger is pure evil and his Jack’s sidekick of sorts. Roger shows a final act of evil when he pushes the boulder off the cliff that makes Piggy fall to his death.
William Golding’s use of the themes of loss of innocence, evil in the world, and the progression from civilized to savagery effectively helped him show his vision of the world through his novel Lord of the Flies. Golding sees the world on a slow descent to savagery and he thinks that humans are evil in nature. In Lord of the Flies Golding shows all of his beliefs by writing the novel as an allegory and relating characters to other parts of literature and the world.
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