Essay, Research Paper: Lord Of Flies

Literature: Lord of The Flies

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In his classic novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding utilizes many elements
of symbolism to help accomplish his motif, which is "man is basically
evil." Symbolism can be anything, a person, place or thing, used to portray
something beyond itself. It is used to represent or foreshadow the conclusion of
the story. As one reads this novel, he or she will begin to recognize the way
basic civilization is slowly stripped away from the boys. Let us know look
closer at the ways Golding uses this form of symbolism. From the very beginning
of the story the boys inwardly strip themselves of the remnants of the basic
civilized world. This is shown when the boys shed their clothes; their school
sweaters, then the rest of their clothes are torn off. Their hair becomes
increasingly disheveled, long, and entangled with small twigs. Since the boys
are left without any adult supervision they have to turn to their collective
unconscious. The collective unconscious was discovered by the renown
psychologist Carl Jung. Let us now look further into each individual character
in the novel, and discover how they each contribute to portray the ending of the
story. Ralph is one of the older boys on the island and remains the leader
throughout most of the novel. He is described as a pure, English lad. Such
details as his fair hair and the fact that he is wearing his school sweater
symbolizes many things. First of all the fact that he has fair hair represents
that he will be the positive force throughout the novel, as opposed to Jack who
is described as having red hair. The fact that he keeps his school sweater
symbolizes his desire to keep the island somewhat civilized. He does everything
he can to keep the boys under some kind of society. He makes laws including the
freedom of speech. Ralph becomes very popular in the beginning, however as the
novel proceeds and the society deteriorates, the popular leader is abandoned for
a strong-armed dictator; Jack Merridew. The impression that we have of Jack is
that he is a tall thin boy with a shock of red hair at the summit of a black
cloak. Jacks appearance seems to suggest evil. Unlike Ralph who stands for
common sense and a desire for normal civilized life, all Jack cares about is
hunting. Because of this opposition between Jack and Ralph, Jack is Ralph's main
antagonist. Symbolically Jack breaks away from good when he baptizes himself
with the blood of the slaughtered pig. Jack eventually breaks away from Ralph
and the others and forms his own group which will basically strive for blood.
This leads to multiple murders. With the exception of Ralph, Piggy, and a few
others, Jack lures the other boys to join him. According to the laws of Freudian
Psychology Jacks Id has taken over. Another character portrayed in Lord of the
Flies is Piggy. Piggy is the object of much mockery and is obviously a fat boy.
Piggy foresees both the need for a closely watched signal fire and for secure
shelters on the beach. Piggys spectacles are used to start the fire. Piggy could
represent knowledge or intelligence, a figure which is often depicted as a
fire-bringer. A familiar expression that can represent this is the fire of
inspiration. Even though Piggy represented all good he was often jeered at.
Simon is a Christ figure. He is quiet, almost unnoticed, yet he speaks wiser
than the others. His wander deep into the heart of the woods in chapter three,
is representative of Jesus' journey's to isolate himself to pray to his Father.
As we can clearly see, William Golding has used much symbolism to help portray
the ending of the novel, Lord of the Flies. A running theme in Lord of the Flies
is that man is savage at heart, always ultimately reverting back to an evil and
primitive nature. The cycle of man's rise to power, or righteousness, and his
inevitable fall from grace is an important point that book proves again and
again, often comparing man with characters from the Bible to give a more vivid
picture of his descent. Lord Of The Flies symbolizes this fall in different
manners, ranging from the illustration of the mentality of actual primitive man
to the reflections of a corrupt seaman in purgatory. The novel is the story of a
group of boys of different backgrounds who are marooned on an unknown island
when their plane crashes. As the boys try to organize and formulate a plan to
get rescued, they begin to separate and as a result of the dissension a band of
savage tribal hunters is formed. Eventually the "stranded boys in Lord of
the Flies almost entirely shake off civilized behavior: (Riley 1: 119). When the
confusion finally leads to a manhunt [for Ralph], the reader realizes that
despite the strong sense of British character and civility that has been
instilled in the youth throughout their lives, the boys have backpedaled and
shown the underlying savage side existent in all humans. "Golding senses
that institutions and order imposed from without are temporary, but man's
irrationality and urge for destruction are enduring" (Riley 1: 119). The
novel shows the reader how easy it is to revert back to the evil nature inherent
in man. If a group of well-conditioned school boys can ultimately wind up
committing various extreme travesties, one can imagine what adults, leaders of
society, are capable of doing under the pressures of trying to maintain world
relations. Lord of the Flies's apprehension of evil is such that it touches the
nerve of contemporary horror as no English novel of its time has done; it takes
us, through symbolism, into a world of active, proliferating evil which is seen,
one feels, as the natural condition of man and which is bound to remind the
reader of the vilest manifestations of Nazi regression (Riley 1: 120). In the
novel, Simon is a peaceful lad who tries to show the boys that there is no
monster on the island except the fears that the boys have. "Simon tries to
state the truth: there is a beast, but 'it's only us'" (Baker 11). When he
makes this revelation, he is ridiculed. This is an uncanny parallel to the
misunderstanding that Christ had to deal with throughout his life. Later in the
story, the savage hunters are chasing a pig. Once they kill the pig, they put
its head on a stick and Simon experiences an epiphany in which he "sees the
perennial fall which is the central reality of our history: the defeat of reason
and the release of... madness in souls wounded by fear" (Baker 12). As
Simon rushes to the campfire to tell the boys of his discovery, he is hit in the
side with a spear, his prophecy rejected and the word he wished to spread
ignored. Simon falls to the ground dead and is described as beautiful and pure.
The description of his death, the manner in which he died, and the cause for
which he died are remarkably similar to the circumstances of Christ's life and
ultimate demise. The major difference is that Christ died on the cross, while
Simon was speared. However, a reader familiar with the Bible recalls that Christ
was stabbed in the side with a a spear before his crucifixion. William Golding
discusses man's capacity for fear and cowardice. In the novel, the boys on the
island first encounter a natural fear of being stranded on an uncharted island
without the counsel of adults. Once the boys begin to organize and begin to feel
more adult-like themselves, the fear of monsters takes over. It is
understandable that boys ranging in ages from toddlers to young teenagers would
have fears of monsters, especially when it is taken into consideration that the
children are stranded on the island. The author wishes to show, however, that
fear is an emotion that is instinctive and active in humans from the very
beginnings of their lives. This revelation uncovers another weakness in man,
supporting the idea or belief that man is pathetic and savage at the very core
of his existence. Throughout the novel, there is a struggle for power between
two groups. This struggle illustrates man's fear of losing control, which is
another example of his selfishness and weakness. The fear of monsters is
natural; the fear of losing power is inherited. The author uses these vices to
prove the point that any type of uncontrolled fear contributes to man's
instability and will ultimately lead to his [man's] demise spiritually and
perhaps even physically. The author chooses to use an island as the setting for
the majority of the story. "The island is an important symbol in all of
Golding's works. It suggests the isolation of man in a frightening and
mysterious cosmos, and the futility of his attempt to create an ordered preserve
for himself in an otherwise patternless world" (Baker 26). The island in
the novel is the actual island; it is not simply an island, though. It is a
microcosm of life itself, the adult world, and the human struggle with his own
loneliness. "Left alone on the island of the self, man discovers the
reality of his own dark heart, and what he discovers is too abominable for him
to endure. At the highest pitch of terror he makes the only gesture he can make
-- a raw, instinctive appeal for help, for rescue" (Baker 67). Man grows
more savage at heart as he evolves because of his cowardice and his quest for
power. The novel proves this by throwing together opposing forces into a
situation that dowses them with power struggles and frightening situations. By
comparing mankind in general to Biblical characters in similar scenarios, the
novel provides images of the darker side of man. This darker side of man's
nature inevitably wins and man is proven to be a pathetic race that refuses to
accept responsibility for its shortcomings. In his first novel, William Golding
used a group of boys stranded on a tropical island to illustrate the malicious
nature of mankind. Lord of the Flies dealt with changes that the boys underwent
as they gradually adapted to the isolated freedom from society. Three main
characters depicted different effects on certain individuals under those
circumstances. Jack Merridew began as the arrogant and self-righteous leader of
a choir. The freedom of the island allowed him to further develop the darker
side of his personality as the Chief of a savage tribe. Ralph started as a
self-assured boy whose confidence in himself came from the acceptance of his
peers. He had a fair nature as he was willing to listen to Piggy. He became
increasingly dependent on Piggy's wisdom and became lost in the confusion around
him. Towards the end of the story his rejection from their society of savage
boys forced him to fend for himself. Piggy was an educated boy who had grown up
as an outcast. Due to his academic childhood, he was more mature than the others
and retained his civilized behaviour. But his experiences on the island gave him
a more realistic understanding of the cruelty possessed by some people. The
ordeals of the three boys on the island made them more aware of the evil inside
themselves and in some cases, made the false politeness that had clothed them
dissipate. However, the changes experienced by one boy differed from those
endured by another. This is attributable to the physical and mental
dissimilarities between them. Jack was first described with an ugly sense of
cruelty that made him naturally unlikeable. As leader of the choir and one of
the tallest boys on the island, Jack's physical height and authority matched his
arrogant personality. His desire to be Chief was clearly evident in his first
appearance. When the idea of having a Chief was mentioned Jack spoke out
immediately. "I ought to be chief," said Jack with simple arrogance,
"because I'm chapter chorister and head boy." _ He led his choir by
administering much discipline resulting in forced obedience from the cloaked
boys. His ill-nature was well expressed through his impoliteness of saying,
"Shut up, Fatty." at Piggy. (p. 23) However, despite his unpleasant
personality, his lack of courage and his conscience prevented him from killing
the first pig they encountered. "They knew very well why he hadn't: because
of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because
of the unbearable blood." (p. 34) Even at the meetings, Jack was able to
contain himself under the leadership of Ralph. He had even suggested the
implementation of rules to regulate themselves. This was a Jack who was proud to
be British, and who was shaped and still bound by the laws of a civilized
society. The freedom offered to him by the island allowed Jack to express the
darker sides of his personality that he hid from the ideals of his past
environment. Without adults as a superior and responsible authority, he began to
lose his fear of being punished for improper actions and behaviours. This
freedom coupled with his malicious and arrogant personality made it possible for
him to quickly degenerate into a savage. He put on paint, first to camouflage
himself from the pigs. But he discovered that the paint allowed him to hide the
forbidden thoughts in his mind that his facial expressions would otherwise
betray. "The mask was a thing on its own behind which Jack hid, liberated
from shame and self-consciousness." (p. 69) Through hunting, Jack lost his
fear of blood and of killing living animals. He reached a point where he
actually enjoyed the sensation of hunting a prey afraid of his spear and knife.
His natural desire for blood and violence was brought out by his hunting of
pigs. As Ralph became lost in his own confusion, Jack began to assert himself as
chief. The boys realizing that Jack was a stronger and more self-assured leader
gave in easily to the freedom of Jack's savagery. Placed in a position of power
and with his followers sharing his crazed hunger for violence, Jack gained
encouragement to commit the vile acts of thievery and murder. Freed from the
conditions of a regulated society, Jack gradually became more violent and the
rules and proper behaviour by which he was brought up were forgotten. The
freedom given to him unveiled his true self under the clothing worn by civilized
people to hide his darker characteristics. Ralph was introduced as a fair and
likeable boy whose self-assured mad him feel secure even on the island without
any adults. His interaction with Piggy demonstrated his pleasant nature as he
did not call him names with hateful intent as Jack had. His good physique
allowed him to be well accepted among his peers, and this gave him enough
confidence to speak out readily in public. His handsome features and the conch
as a symbol of power and order pointed him out from the crowd of boys and
proclaimed him Chief. "There was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that
marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most
obscurely, yet most powerful, there was the conch." (p. 24) From the quick
decisions he made as Chief near the beginning of the novel, it could be seen
that Ralph was well-organized. But even so, Ralph began repeatedly to long and
daydream of his civilized and regular past. Gradually, Ralph became confused and
began to lose clarity in his thoughts and speeches. "Ralph was puzzled by
the shutter that flickered in his brain. There was something he wanted to say;
then the shutter had come down." (p. 156) He started to feel lost in their
new environment as the boys, with the exception of Piggy began to change and
adapt to their freedom. As he did not lose his sense of responsibility, his
viewpoints and priorities began to differ from the savages'. He was more
influenced by Piggy than by Jack, who in a way could be viewed as a source of
evil. Even though the significance of the fire as a rescue signal was slowly
dismissed, Ralph continued to stress the importance of the fire at the
mountaintop. He also tried to reestablish the organization that had helped to
keep the island clean and free of potential fire hazards. This difference made
most of the boys less convinced of the integrity of Ralph. As his supporters
became fewer and Jack's insistence on being chief grew, his strength as a leader
diminished. But even though Ralph had retained much of his past social
conditioning, he too was not spared from the evil released by the freedom from
rules and adults. During the play-fight after their unsuccessful hunt in the
course of their search for the beast, Ralph for the first time, had an
opportunity to join the hunters and share their desire for violence. "Ralph
too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh.
The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering." (p. 126) Without rules
to limit them, they were free to make their game as real as they wanted. Ralph
did not understand the hatred Jack had for him, nor did he fully comprehend why
their small and simple society deteriorated. This confusion removed his
self-confidence and made him more dependent on Piggy's judgement, until Piggy
began prompting him on what needed to be said and done. Towards the end of the
novel, Ralph was forced into independence when he lost all his followers to
Jack's savagery, and when Piggy and the conch were smashed by Roger's boulder.
He was forced to determine how to avoid Jack's savage hunters alone. Ralph's
more responsible behaviour set him apart from the other savage boys and made it
difficult for him to accept and realize the changes they were undergoing.
Becoming lost in his exposure to their inherent evil, Ralph's confusion brought
about the deterioration of his initial self-assurance and ordered temperament,
allowing him to experience brief outbursts of his beastly self. Piggy was an
educated boy rejected by the kids of his age group on account of his being
overweight. It was his academic background and his isolation from the savage
boys that had allowed him to remain mostly unchanged from his primitive
experiences on the island. His unattractive attributes segregated him from the
other boys on the island. He was not welcomed on their first exploratory trip of
the island. "We don't want you," Jack had said to Piggy. (p. 26) Piggy
was like an observer learning from the actions of others. His status in their
society allowed him to look at the boys from an outsider's perspective. He could
learn of the hatred being brought out of the boys without having to experience
the thirst for blood that Ralph was exposed to. Although he was easily
intimidated by the other boys, especially by Jack, he did not lack the
self-confidence to protest or speak out against the indignities from the boys as
the shy former choirboy Simon did. This self-confidence differed from that of
Ralph's as it did not come from his acceptance by their peers nor did it come
from the authority and power Jack had grown accustomed to. It came from the
pride in having accumulated the wisdom that was obviously greater than that of
most of the other kids at his age. Piggy not only knew what the rules were, as
all the other boys did, but he also had the patience to at least wonder why the
rules existed. This intuition made Piggy not only more aware of why the rules
were imposed, thereby ensuring that he would abide by them even when they were
not enforced. When the boys flocked to the mountaintop to build their fire,
Piggy shouted after them, "Acting like a crowd of kids!" (p. 42) Piggy
was a very liable person who could look ahead and plan carefully of the future.
He shouted at the boys' immature recklessness, "The first thing we ought to
have made was shelters down there by the beach... Then when you get here you
build a bonfire that isn't no use. Now you been and set the whole island on
fire." (p. 50) Like Ralph, his sense of responsibility set him apart from
the other boys. The author used the image of long hair to illustrate Piggy's
sustenance of his civilized behaviour. "He was the only boy on the island
whose hair never seemed to grow." (p. 70) The author's description of his
baldness also presented an image of old age and made Piggy seem to lack the
strength of youth. The increasing injustice Piggy endured towards the end of the
novel was far greater than any that he had encountered previously. In his fit of
anger, Piggy cried out, "I don't ask for my glasses back, not as a favour.
I don't ask you to be a sport, I'll say, not because you're strong, but because
what's right's right." (p. 189) This new standard of harshness brought
tears out of him as the suffering became intolerable. For a brief moment,
Piggy's anger at the unfairness and his helplessness robbed him of his usual
logical reasoning, which returned when he was confronted with his fear of the
savages. Piggy was an intelligent boy with a good understanding of their
situation on the island. He was able to think clearly and plan ahead with
caution so that even in the freedom of their unregulated world, his wisdom and
his isolation from the savage boys kept him from giving into the evil that had
so easily consumed Jack and his followers. The resulting cruelty Jack inflicted
upon him taught Piggy how much more pain there was in the world. Lord of the
flies used changes experienced by boys on an uninhabited island to show the evil
nature of man. By using different characters the author was able to portray
various types of people found in our society. Their true selves were revealed in
the freedom from the laws and punishment of a world with adults. Under the power
and regulations of their former society, Jack's inner evil was suppressed. But
when the rules no longer existed, he was free to do what malice he desired.
Ralph had grown so used to the regularity of a civilized world, that the changes
they underwent were difficult for him to comprehend. He became confused and less
capable of thinking clearly and independently. Although he too had experienced
the urge for violence that had driven Jack and the hunters to momentary peaks of
madness, his more sensitive personality and his sense of obligation saved him
from complete savagery. These two traits also helped to keep Piggy from becoming
primitive in behaviour. He was made an outcast by his undesirable physique and
his superior intelligence. This isolation and wisdom also helped Piggy to retain
his civilized behaviour. As well, he was made painfully more aware of the great
amount of injustice in the world. From these three characters, it could be seen
that under the same circumstances, different individuals can develop in
different ways depending on the factors within themselves and how they
interacted with each other. Their personalities and what they knew can determine
how they would interpret and adapt to a new environment such as the tropical
island. Not everyone has so much malevolence hidden inside themselves as to
become complete savages when released from the boundaries of our society. Some
people will, because of the ways they were conditioned, remember and abide by
the rules they had depended on for social organization and security.

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