Lord of the Flies - Civilization vs Savagery

Topics: Civilization, Society, William Golding Pages: 8 (2888 words) Published: September 7, 2011
William Golding’s experience in World War II had an overwhelming effect on his view of humanity and the evils of which it was capable. After the war, Golding resumed teaching and wrote his first novel, Lord of the Flies.

Lord Of The Flies tells us the story of a handful of young schoolboys who had been marooned on an island as the plane that they were travelling, on to escape the war was shot down. The only survivors were the passengers, British schoolchildren between the ages of six and thirteen. It revolves around how the children cope without the structure of authority, civilization and the watchful eye of grown ups. Though the novel is fictional, its exploration of the idea of human evil is at least partly based on Golding’s experience with the real life violence and destruction of World War II. Free from the rules and structures of civilization and society, the boys on the island in Lord of the Flies descend into savagery. As the boys divide into groups, some behave peacefully and work together to maintain order and achieve common goals (Ralph, Piggy and Simon), while others rebel and seek only disorder and violence (Jack, Roger). In his description of the island, Golding on a allegorical level may be showing how the island could represent the world and the struggle between civilizing instinct and that of baser, more animal instincts and mindset of the boys, could depict the political ideologies and propagandas of certain countries or people. The most important theme of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between human urges towards savagery and the rule of civilization that is there to contain these animal instincts in the novel. This conflict is dramatized by the clash between Ralph and Jack, who respectively represent civilization and savagery. The differing ideologies are expressed by each boy's different attitudes towards authority and order. While Ralph uses his authority to establish rules, protect the good of the group, and enforce the moral and ethical codes of the English society the boys were raised in, Jack is interested in gaining power over the other boys to gratify his most primal impulses.

The island to begin with is populated solely by a group of young English schoolboys that were shot down over the tropical island where the novel takes place. The fact that the characters are only boys is significant as young boys are only half formed and still open to new ideas behaviors and can be easily mislead they are hovering between civilization and savagery and thus representing the novel’s central conflict. Throughout the novel, Golding’s foundation is the idea that moral and societal constraints are learned rather than innate and that human tendencies to obey rules, behave peacefully and follow orders is imposed by a system that is not in their control and have no say in it, but now it is. Young boys are a fitting illustration of this premise, for they live in a constant state of tension with regard to the rules and regulations they are expected to follow. Left to their own devices, they often behave with innate cruelty and violence.

Chapter 1:
In Chapter 1, the boys, still unsure of how to behave with no adult presence supervising surprisingly show no fear of being stranded on a deserted island with no grown ups mainly due to the fact that they are more excited than scared as they must be sick and tired of the moral restrains the elders impart on them. They largely stick to the learned behaviors of civilization and order. They attempt to recreate the structures of society on the deserted island, they elect a leader, Ralph, establish a division of labor, and set about to explore and survey the island. However even at this early stage, we see the danger that the boys’ innate uncivilized instincts pose to their surroundings this is shown when the boys make fun of Piggy firstly for the nickname he was given and secondly for his plump size.

“Your talking too much,’ said Jack Meridew. ‘Shut up,...
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