Civility vs. Savagery

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In William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies,” civility, which is associated with morality and goodness, and savagery, associated with evil and corruptness, are constantly at war. The conflict between the novel’s main protagonist and antagonist, Ralph and Jack, represents the broader struggle of these two ideas. Civility and savagery are further represented through recurring symbols throughout the novel. Lastly, these conflicting ideas present themselves in internal battles within the characters. Through external conflicts, symbolism, and internal struggles, the war between savagery and civility appears constantly throughout the novel.

Ralph and Jack’s power struggle correlates with the battle between savagery and civility. From the novel’s beginning, Ralph’s main priority is to maintain the fire so the boys can be rescued. He says, “If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire”(38). Ralph’s leadership and desire to return to society represent civility. However, as the boys continue to be trapped on the island, Jack’s violent tendencies begin to emerge. “He tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up”(51). Without adults and the laws of civilization repressing it, Jack’s savage nature becomes apparent. Jack and Ralph eventually clash over their contradicting ideas of leadership. Ralph shouts “Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”(180). As the boys’ fears increase, and their hopes of being rescued diminish, they turn to Jack for leadership, and civilization is no longer able to coexist with savagery on the island. The conflict between Ralph and Jack provides a concrete perspective on the overall struggle between civility and savagery.

There are multiple symbols in the novel that embody certain aspects of civilization and savagery. Order and unity are epitomized by the conch shell. The shell originally had a powerful...
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