Free Essay On The Savage Schoolboys OF The Lord OF The Flies
William Golding’s seminal 1960 novel The Lord of the Flies, featuring a group of schoolboys who wash ashore on a deserted island only to form their own primitive civilization, functions on a highly allegorical level by illustrating mankind’s inherent savagery in spite of the desire for order and society. The main characters – Ralph, Piggy, and Jack – represent a triumvirate of forces that contribute to this overall theme through their interactions and dynamics, their fates and problems demonstrating the fall of civilization due to the pull of the primitive.
Ralph, at his core, represents the more equal, egalitarian aspects of law and order. Ralph’s idea of leadership involves being democratically elected and chosen by the people – he has "the directness of genuine leadership" (Golding 21-22). Ralph is decisive and authoritative, telling people what to do and formulating strategies with his advisors (including Piggy) to keep the group alive and work towards a rescue. Ralph represents the appeal of order and authority in a civilization – the organized nature of having a benevolent leader tell you what to do. His eventual deposing as the leader of the tribe showcases, for Golding, the lack of power authority provides when one’s followers stop respecting that authority in favor of chaos.
Piggy’s role in the civilization of The Lord of the Flies is to emphasize the need for empirical and intellectual reason to maintain civilization. While he does not have the strength or charisma for leadership (Piggy himself is fat and shy), he is extremely smart and can reason things out well enough. Piggy represents the most adult presence on the island, constantly trying to appeal to the kids, only to be rebuffed because of his dorkiness and outsider status. He can influence events through Ralph, however, showing the effectiveness of this combination of authority and intelligence working together to make a civilization function.
Jack, meanwhile, is the fly in the ointment – the id who wants to run with the idea that mankind is meant for violence and to fulfill its primal instincts. Being one of the older children, and used to bossing people around, Jack sees the appeal in remaining in charge; since he is similarly authoritative to Ralph, but misuses it to incite his own faction to operate independently of Ralph. As he learns the value of bloodlust and violence, however, Jack loses his grip on civilization in order to seek the allure of chaos and savagery. Jack represents the constant pull of mankind to try to get what they want through violence; his fall from civility to violence parallels the inevitable fall of civilization into self-interested violence for its own sake.
With all three of these main characters, Golding supports the themes and allegory of The Lord of the Flies by showing the dynamics of power and civilization, and how they can fall apart given the appropriate tensions. Just as everyone fights for power and authority over the conch, so does mankind constantly wrestle with its urge to take what is theirs, or work with others to form a more reasoned, peaceful civilization. When the naval officer turns away from Ralph at the end of the book, Golding tells us that this particular civilization has failed, and cannot be salvaged. Ralph, Jack and Piggy, in their highly symbolic representation of the competing and interacting factors of authority, violence and intellect that must be reconciled if a stable society is to be made.
Golding, William. The Lord of the Flies. Boston: Faber & Faber, 1958.
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