To What Extent Does a Marxist Reading of Lord of the Flies Lead to a Fuller Understanding of the Novel?

Topics: Social class, Marxism, Karl Marx Pages: 5 (1886 words) Published: May 16, 2013
To what extent does a Marxist reading of ‘Lord of the Flies’ lead to a fuller understanding of the novel? ‘Lord of the Flies’ is based almost entirely on Golding’s view that evil is an inherent force in every man, “man produces evil as a bee produces honey”. Golding acquired this belief while he was a soldier in the Second World War. From that point on, he became extremely pessimistic about human nature, calling it “the disease of being human”. This belief is shown very clearly, as he puts ‘innocent’ children on a deserted island, free of all corruption; free of an external threat, therefore with no need of an army; abundant in food and supplies, therefore with no need to steal. Therefore, what evil was left could only come from the inside and indeed, despite the boys’ mimicry of the social organization that they think would reflect the adult world realistically it turned into savagery and bloody violence. By leaving a group of English schoolboys to fend for themselves on a remote jungle island, Golding creates a kind of human nature laboratory in order to examine what happens when the constraints of civilization vanish and raw human nature takes over. In ‘Lord of the Flies’, Golding argues that human nature, free from the constraints of society, draws people away from reason toward savagery. However, it could be argued that there is a hidden, implicit meaning behind the novel, one which Marxist theory could help us understand. The ‘treasure chest’ theory states that no one can know a book and its characters better than the author him/herself. This is because the reader arguably cannot take out of the ‘chest’ more than the author originally put in. This is a view, however, that even William Golding himself had come to reject eventually, stating that “I no longer believe that the author has a sort of patria potestas over his brainchildren. Once they are printed they have reached their majority and the author has no more authority over them, knows no more about them, perhaps knows less about them than the critic who comes fresh to them, and sees them not as the author hoped they would be, but as they are.” Golding strongly opposed Marxism, stating that, “The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable”, which is arguably very controversial, raising the question if the economic base actually affected the ethical nature of an individual. In my opinion, it does not, but rather the Marxist theory serves a purpose of understanding ‘Lord of the Flies’ not only as a book about several children surviving on a remote island, but a microcosm of the world of the time: the struggles of society when there is no order present, the struggles with the concept of alienation, and the struggles between the different groups of people in society. One method which Marxist critics use is to differentiate between the ‘overt’ and ‘covert’ meanings of a text. In ‘Lord of the Flies’, the ‘overt’ meaning, which most likely Golding intended the book to have, could be as a complete allegory of power meaning that the characters and objects in the novel are infused with symbolic significance that convey the novel’s central themes and ideas. The novel was first published in 1954, and its ideology is deeply rooted to the Cold War, with Ralph being a representation of the Liberal Democracies of the West, and Jack Merridew representing the totalitarian communism of the East. It could be argued that Piggy, with his spectacles is a symbol for reason, law and order. Ralph is the embodiment of Democracy as he clearly represents democracy through his qualities of being fair, sensible and considerate to the other boys. He was also elected as the leader of the group, and his power and authority are symbolised by the conch. Ralph sought always to maintain the meetings which somewhat resemble parliamentary procedures, to respect freedom of speech...
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