Lord Of The Flies By William Golding

Lord of the Fly by William Golding. Examine the symbolism and major themes of the famous novel.

William Golding's Lord Of The Flies is not just an adventure story about a group of boys stranded on a desert island. It is, in all actuality, a model for the complexities of human behavior. The implication, or the "moral of the story" so to speak is that the absence of structure and discipline leads to pleasure, which in turn leads to anarchy, which is spawned from humankind's innate savagery. In other words, be a good citizen and follow the rules or deal with the consequences. Throughout the novel, the polar forces of good and evil are intricately woven between the characters, as well as within them. Ralph inherently represents goodness while Jack appears to be intrinsically evil. However this division not only manifests itself in struggles between the two boys and their respective followers, but also between the conflicting halves of their individual personalities.

Ralph was confident in his abilities to perform as a leader, yet it was clear from the beginning that Jack felt he was better suited for the job. Regardless, Ralph's fair appearance and gentle nature, in contrast to the darkness and often masked representation of Jack's character, made him the natural choice. Using the conch as a symbol of his power, he took on the role of Chief with pride and enthusiasm.

"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)

Unfortunately Ralph lacked the "spark" of creativity that seemed to dominate his friend Piggy's brain. Ralph therefore relied on Piggy as his mentor, despite the fact that Piggy was one of the most disliked members of the island's pseudo-society. While Ralph found Piggy's advice to be invaluable, the other boys began to see Ralph as Piggy's puppet, which caused great dissension among the two groups. "He's like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief".(p. 139)

With Piggy's assistance, Ralph was able to make decisions quickly and efficiently during the early stages of the novel, yet he continued to be distracted by his heart's unending longing for a return to civilization. He began to feel isolated from the rest of the boys, with the exception of Piggy, partly because of his leadership role but mostly because of the rest of the boys' growing propensity towards violence. While at first it seemed unlikely that any of the boys would even have the courage or the callousness to kill a pig, before long it became chillingly obvious that more than one of these boys was in all probability capable of killing another human being. The night Simon was murdered, there was no longer a question.

By this point in the novel, the evil side of Jack had taken over, and the majority of the boys had retreated from Ralph's rule and converted to "the dark side". Ralph's confusion over the deterioration of the society he had strived so hard to maintain had crushed his confidence and severely diminished his leadership position. Metaphorically speaking, the power of evil had finally vanquished the power of good.

As the ritual dance commenced on the stormy night that first revealed the true savage nature of the boys, Ralph and Piggy joined the circle, in part as a way of feeling a sense of belonging, but mostly as a means of discovering how not to feel at all. The incessant chanting and wild, savage movements fueled the boys' evil nature and their innate desire to kill. When Simon innocently interrupted the ritual to announce his epiphany, he was greeted with the hungry thirst for blood that human beings like to believe only exists in other animals. Though the boys later tried to comfort themselves by calling their horrendous act "a case of mistaken identity" (they thought Simon was the beast), the guilt of their actions ate away at them like flies on the severed head of a swine. Not surprisingly, the event and the emotional scars it left behind had profoundly disparate effects on the boys' behavior.

When Ralph painfully recalled the memory of Simon in the following chapter, he expressed deep remorse. Piggy was in the center of the spectrum, simply refusing to acknowledge that such an atrocity ever took place. Jack tasted the fruit of evil and it only made him hunger for more. And he was not alone in his savage desires. After killing Piggy the hunters decided to make Ralph their next target. The plan was to hunt him like prey and slay him with all of the wrath and revulsion that had spread like a cancer throughout their hearts, their bodies and their souls.

The freedom that the island held out to Jack with open hands had allowed him to explore the darker side of his nature. This exploration was an adventure he had previously been afraid to undertake due to the restraints of civilized society. Yet the lack of supervision he was now experiencing, coupled with his natural tendencies towards selfishness and arrogance, made Jack's transition from a normal boy to a savage killer frighteningly believable. Ralph, on the other handed, though sometimes tempted to join the evil ranks of his defectors, was able to withstand the temptations of "peer pressure" and just say no to violence. The question we as readers must ask ourselves upon reading this classic work is, does good ever truly win the war against evil, or are its victories as short-lived as its battles? If Lord of the Flies truly models how significantly lack of restrictions can influence human behavior, then we as a society need to do some serious soul searching as to what values we are cultivating within ourselves and consequently instilling upon our nation's children.

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