Essay, Research Paper: Lord Of The Flies By William Golding

Literature: Lord of The Flies

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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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