Lord of the Flies


Points To Ponder

1. How does Ralph come to power, and why is it problematic?

Ralph comes to power by virtue of his ability to unite the boys on the island. He unites them by blowing the conch like a horn; all of the boys who are scattered far and wide respond to the initial order which the blast represents. The problem with Ralph’s leadership, however, is that it is not supported by philosophical, moral, or religious truth. In fact, at the start it lacks a good deal of common sense, since Ralph’s primary aim for the boys is to have fun, while the secondary aim is to be rescued. Ralph, therefore, essentially gives away his authority to Jack (and the Lord of the Flies, who tells Simon he must have fun).

Indeed, Jack, who initially represents the boyish desire to have fun, hunt, explore, and act a savage, quickly gets out of control. Ralph cannot restrain Jack with the conch (which has been his superficial means of unification) because he has not based unity upon truth but rather upon a merely practical arrangement. The truth that might have solidified Ralph’s authority can be stated thus: Rescue first, fun second. In other words, by incorrectly gauging the reality, Ralph inverts his priorities and loses the island to anarchy.

2. Why is Lord of the Flies an anti-rationalist novel?

Rationalism is the idea that human behavior is ultimately governed by rational choices. It considers spirituality to be akin to superstition. Lord of the Flies, however, reveals a disturbing element in human nature, which is human nature’s ability to descend into irrational evil. This evil is revealed as a vision to the contemplative Simon, who sees the sacrifice of the sow’s head to the “beast” as a manifestation of the evil spirit called the Lord of the Flies (the Hebrew name for Beelzebub).

The evil spirit that grows in Jack and is unrestrained in Roger is irrational and, in fact, present in all the boys. It is in Ralph who, after all, first issues the decree that the...

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Essays About Lord of the Flies