Maybe It’s Only Us
Despite the fact that Lord of the Flies is a relatively short novel, William Golding does not fail to employ extremely complex themes and intricate symbolism that represent far more than a group of English schoolboys who are stranded on an island and required to continue on without adult supervision or outside civilization. Throughout the novel, William Golding demonstrates both the civilized and primitive essential natures of which mankind possesses. Golding uses the characters, symbols, and setting to explain these two faces of human nature. The novel itself is an allegory of society, the island symbolizing a microcosm of the world and the boys representing society as a whole. The ordeals of Ralph, Jack, Simon, and Piggy display the aspects that lurk within them and change them to reveal their true inner selves. Golding draws deep assumptions for humanity and uses the characters of Ralph, Jack, Piggy, and Simon as aspects in society in order to the elemental structure of society.
Ralph, our protagonist, from the very beginning is easily distinguished by his leadership qualities. Ralph symbolizes a moral, democratic leader in our society. Firstly, he was “the being that had blown that [the conch]” (Golding 19) and was therefore set apart because of the conch, the ultimate symbol of law and order. Secondly, his observation skills are evident from the very first sentence he says: “’[t]his is an island [t]hat’s a reef out in the sea [p]erhaps there aren’t any grownups anywhere’” (5-6). An ability history has shown to be crucial for leadership. In addition, another guidance factor he possesses is his capability to think rationally. While the littluns were senseless from panic and even when some of the biguns began to doubt their fundamentals, Ralph’s head remained intact on his shoulders and offered reassurance to the anxious group, “’[y]ou couldn’t have a beastie a snake-thing on an island this size’ Ralph explained kindly ‘[y]ou only get them in big countries like Africa or India’” (31). His civility and intelligence also surpasses that of the other boys, with an exception of perhaps Piggy, and he uses it for the groups benefit. Like any good leader we may have now, Ralph thrives for the community’s sake. He constantly reminds the boys of the signal fire,”‘[c]an’t they see? [c]an’t they understand? [w]ithout the smoke signal we’ll die here? [l]ook at that!’“(129), not once becoming discouraged in spite of the others’ indifference. He attempts to revive the boys’ civility with: “’because the rules are the only thing we’ve got’”(84) but his attempts are futile. Regardless of the other boys progressing barbarism, he remains civil. Ralph plays the role of the democratic leader in the novel relevant to our own society. He cares for what the people, in this case the littluns and biguns, have to say and gives them the opportunity to speak using the conch. His character reinforces Golding’s theme of savagery versus civility, evil versus good.
Jack, our antagonist, on the other hand is the complete contradiction of civilized, democratic Ralph. He is the evil force driving the novel forward. Jack would be a terrorist leader if he were to come into society. To begin with, he targets one’s weaknesses and uses them to his advantage. From the very beginning of the book Jack humiliates Piggy with a short yet effective remark of “’[s]hut up Fatty’”(18), Piggy’s obvious flaw. He will make sure people are with him by joining a group and accompanying the strong people, like Roger for example, and manipulating the weak. He only remained with Ralph, his comrade, long enough to learn his points of weaknesses by which to attack him with then betray him in his lust for power. In addition, Jack offers the boys “fun” in the sense of “’hunting…and for pretending to be a tribe and putting on war-paint’”(137, things the boys found enjoyable at that point on the island. In contrast, many terrorist groups seduce people to join...
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