The Allegory of Life
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies repeatedly contrasts with the morality-driven views of the controversial philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. Golding’s allegorical novel tells the story of a group of young boys who remain stranded on an island and left to their own instincts. Golding and Nietzsche would argue the issues the boys face are based on the morality and nature of man. Ralph, the protagonist, is delegated power by the other boys, while Jack, the antagonist, quickly becomes jealous of Ralph’s power. In Lord of the Flies, the conch, the masks, and the “lord of the flies” represent civilization, freedom and evil respectively. Golding supports a Judeo-Christian order, in which society designs morality and evil inspires fear; Nietzsche in contrast argues that man should follow personal morals and that evil will grow out of an ongoing struggle for power. Nietzsche would point to the contrast between the tribes of Ralph and Jack to support his belief that yes-saying should prevail over no-saying; that is, personal ideals should take precedent over societal ideals. Golding’s interpretation of the conch, the masks and the lord of the flies contrasts with Nietzsche’s ideas of morality and the nature of man and of society.
Upon arriving on the island, Ralph discovers a conch that the boys use to call and control their assemblies. Golding uses the conch to represent the society and government which the boys construct. At the beginning of the book, the shell symbolizes their civility and order because they seem to follow and respect its powers. “Where the conch is, that’s a meeting…We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all we’re not savages” (Golding 42). Unknown to the reader at the time, this quote is quite ironic as the boys will later lose control and become savages competing for food and survival. Golding believes that civilization provides structure for man just as the conch provides order for the boys. Without civilization, man would turn to his instincts, naturally leaving him fearful in the absence of the morality and standards which have guided him through life. From fear, Golding argues, evil deeds are committed. Golding also believes that morality is a social construct and that without society morals cease to exist. These thoughts are seen in Lord of the Flies. When Ralph and Jack split up, separating their society and introducing Jack’s group to savagery, morality and order rupture and slowly fall apart. Jack and his “savages” become fixed on the bloodthirsty murder of pigs, constantly chanting, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” (G 152), demonstrating they lack sanity and morality, while Ralph and the others that remain stay moral and “…worked….with great energy and cheerfulness…” However, for Ralph’s tribe, “… as time crept by there was a suggestion of panic in the energy and hysteria in the cheerfulness” (G130). Although Ralph’s tribe tries to remain true to the conch, a sense of fear lingers as the need for survival increases. In a final meeting of the two tribes toward the end of the book, it’s clearly evident that society breaks down as Ralph and Jack end up in a brawl after the conch breaks. “Viciously, with full intention, he hurled the spear at Ralph. The point tore the skin and flesh over Ralph’s ribs….Ralph stumbled, feeling not pain, but panic” (G 181). Once the conch broke, so did all morality and order. Consequently, the boys fight to the death. Golding’s views on civilization that morality evolves from community manifest itself in the boys’ use of conch in his book, Lord of the Flies.
Nietzsche, directly contrasting Golding, believes that morality should be determined by individuals instead of society. “Every select man strives instinctively for a citadel and a privacy…where he may forget ‘men who are the rule”’ (WP 26). Nietzsche agrees that that society forms a sense of morality, but he dislikes this...