William Golding’s first novel Lord of The Flies is ultimately a novel about the inherent evil that plagues us all, and the wickedness that thrives in the darkness of man’s heart.
Lord of the Flies can be broken into three parts. The first being the arrival on the island, the assembly, the establishment of rules and regulations, the election of Ralph as chief, the Coral Island like perceptions "flower and fruit grew together on the same tree" and the hope of rescue.
The story begins on a Pacific Island where an unknown amount of English school boys aged between six and twelve have been left stranded, after their plane was shot down. They are in the midst of an atomic war, and although Golding does not elaborate we perceive that much of the world has been destroyed and the children were in the process of being evacuated. With all adults on board dead, the children are at first over joyed at their new found freedom. It is on the beach that we first meet two of our main characters, Ralph and Piggy. Ralph, a tall boy who is "built like a boxer" and Piggy who is overweight, wears glasses and has asthma. The two boys then come across the conch which Piggy instructs Ralph to use and they call a meeting. This is where we meet the sullen dominant head choir boy, Jack Merridew who is described as being "ugly without silliness." Ralph is then elected chief much to Jack’s disgust and under his guidance they all agree to keep the fire burning as a signal, and obey the sounds of the conch. Piggy and Ralph set about to build shelters while Jack and the choir boys are given the role of hunter’s and also volunteer to watch the fire and act as a lookout.
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Everything contained in this part of the book is to do with childhood innocence and confined within law and rule. They still feel the constraints of society and the forbidden is still evident. Roger throws stones to miss Henry because he feels that round the innocent child "was the protection of parents and school and policeman and the law".
The second part takes on the first parts threats as reality. With the arrival of the dead airman brings change and fear to the boys. Watching the fire and maintaining the shelters becomes tedious and its is obvious that hunting is the real attraction. Because of this a ship passes and the signal fire is left to burn out. The group is slowly broken up by a superstitious terror known as the "beastie". Jack eventually goes off by himself in an act of tyranny and one by one the novel tells of how the boys desert Ralph and Piggy. Jack’s tribe takes control and with their painted faces and strict disciplinarian ways Jack, driven by fear and superstition of the beast becomes increasingly tyrannical. Destruction is everywhere and its is now that the real beastie becomes clearer. It is not a beastie or a snake but mans own nature. Simons insight of this is in the end confined to himself and he pays the price for this insight with his own life when he is killed in a frenzy of tribal dance. SimonТs death highlights the true evil that has been created on the island and with the dead airmen symbol no longer needed it and Simons body is carried out to sea in a mystical high wind.
In the third part of the book the meaning and consequences of evil are explored and a moral anarchy is let loose by Simon’s murder. Every rule, regulation and moralistic obligation is destroyed because no longer can anyone remember when things were other wise. Piggy and the conch are destroyed by Jack’s sadistic accomplice Roger. And instructed by Jack and Roger the boys hunt Ralph down across the island with the intent to sacrifice him to the beast. The forest is set on fire and it is with some irony that if not for the smoke that engulfed the island then the cruiser and the Officer would not have arrived to ultimately save Ralph’s life and restore order. The naval officer is amused by the children who needed "a bath, a hair cut, a nose wipe and a good deal of ointment." And in visions there time on the island as being "Fun and games" and a "Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island." It is with double irony that the naval officer rounds the children up and places them in another war, a war that is parallel to the children’s society and one which there is no savior. With this Gloding finally restores our view to the "external scene" the picture of our world.
Lord of The Flies analyses the disintegration of a group and it is through symbolism that Golding exposes the desperate wickedness and callous evil in society and the "end of innocence and the darkness of mans heart." The story is evidently grim and not in the least optimistic. It is this consistent negative view of Golding’s world that we become familiar with and why this novel is so different to Ballyntyne’s Coral Island. Although Golding has acknowledged "a pretty big connection" between the two they are vastly different. The main characters in each book share the same names, Ralph and Jack. But Ballyntyne’s castaways experience little difficulty adjusting to their new surroundings. While Coral Island does show evil, it comes in the form of the Pirates and natives. With the English school boys behaving "proper" throughout. Compare this to the corruption of Golding’s English boys and what you get is two different tales of life on a shipwrecked Island. One where the badies and goodies are easily distinguished and one where the two merge and are evident in everyone including Ralph.
As Phillip Drew contemplated the broken order in Lord of the Flies Сoccurs because the qualities of intelligence, address, bravery, decency, organization and insight are divided among Piggy, Jack, Simon and Ralph." This leads us to conclude that each of the characters represent only one side of human personality and are an embodiment of conflicting personalities or instincts that exists inside every individual. It is through this isolation on the island in which Golding seeks to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the human personality.
At the time Golding wrote this novel he had experienced two world wars and Hitler’s destruction of the Jewish race. Golding had seen first hand the evil in which man could carry out and it is because of these experiences that may have lead to Golding’s pessimistic view of society and the human condition. Newsreels of that era show Adolf Hitler addressing sports stadiums full of frenzied supporters, all chanting in unison with their leader. These scenes can be compared to the assemblies of Jack Merridew, who we see whipping his tribe into a frenzy, all lifting their spears in unison and hanging on his every word. Both leaders appealed to their followers on an emotional level rather then rational, and like Hitler plays on his supporters fears of the unknown- the Jews- Jack plays on the fears of the unknown beastie. As one American reviewer put it "Golding’s analogy of World War II is obvious." Ralph’s indecision to take a stand against Jack parallels England’s then lack of physical stance against Germany until it was to late. Ralph encounters this same problem. By the time Ralph eventually throws a few punches at Jack in a fit of temper the power is already totally in Jack’s control.
Golding uses his characters to covey certain parts of society and with this microscope we see symbolism used to create a second meaning behind everything. Jack represents the savagery and anarchy of society, Roger is evidence of Satan and pure evil a character who is the parallel to Ralph’s Piggy who instead maintains wisdom, intelligence and clear sightedness. Roger has no need for power enjoys being Jack’s henchman and delights in savagery and evilness his climax being his brutal murder of Piggy. Ralph along with Piggy represent the struggle for democracy and order. Simon represents purity and contains no evil. Piggy’s glasses represent the state of social order on the island.
Although Ralph is seen as an example of democracy and order he himself suffers in the end of the dehumanization of the others. He is not immune to the pressures of conflict from Jack. Through out the novel Ralph reveals traces of the irrational. After wounding a pig he admits "that hunting was good after all" and when a hunter comes to steal Piggy’s glasses he lashes out with a "passionate hysteria". While fighting with Jack he must be reminded to why he is fighting, and in the final stage of Ralph’s deterioration from man to animal, when being hunted by Jack and the tribe he attacks one of his hunters: "Ralph launched himself like a cat: stabbed, snarling with the spear, and the savage doubled up." Ralph’s William Blake like transition from innocence to experience to eventual experienced innocence, at the arrival of the Naval officer proves that even in the noblest of humans evil will subsequently rise to the surface once the rules of civilization are depleted.
The theory of Blakes in which innocence turns to experience which end in experienced innocence is a theory that fits so well with Golding’s English school boys. At the start they are excited school boys talking of "mummy" and "daddy", and choir boys who once sung like angels. They then turn into wild savages murdering each other and pigs in a mindless blood shed. But in the end of the novel at the arrival of the Naval officer the boys are reduced to exactly what they are, boys. Jack once the brutal sadistic leader is now nothing more then "a little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist" The spears are no longer spears and the tribe no longer triumphant in stead they are nothing more then a "semi circle of little boys, their bodies streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands" It is this arrival of the outside world that gives the boys the right to once again cry and takes the great weight of responsibility off their shoulders.
Lord of the Flies gives the suggestion that evil is not unique to little boys standing in an abnormal situation but implicit in nearly every detail our our daily life in the civilized world as well. But as Phillip Drew questioned "if we were to take on Golding’s view of society and the individual is man perfectible through the institutions of law ad religion, or is he damned because he is born evil?" But no matter what our conclusion may be Golding must be celebrated for raising the question and bringing the issue to our attention.
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