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

Literature: Lord of The Flies

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Lord of the Flies By: Travis Jones-O'Rourke 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
disappear. However, the changes experienced by one boy differed from those
endured by another. This is attributable to the physical and mental differences
between them. Jack was first described with having an air 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 in 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 were repressed by 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 behaviour. This freedom along 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 show: "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 manner made 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 made him stand out from the crowd of boys and led to his being proclaimed
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 for 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 those of 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 civilized personality, 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
east, 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 realize and
accept the changes they were undergoing. 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 seperated 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 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 evil 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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