Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
Civilization vs. Savagery
The central concern of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. This conflict might be expressed in a number of ways: civilization vs. savagery, order vs. chaos, reason vs. impulse, law vs. anarchy, or the broader heading of good vs. evil. Throughout the novel, Golding associates the instinct of civilization with good and the instinct of savagery with evil.
The conflict between the two instincts is the driving force of the novel, explored through the dissolution of the young English boys’ civilized, moral, disciplined behavior as they accustom themselves to a wild, brutal, barbaric life in the jungle. Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel, which means that Golding conveys many of his main ideas and themes through symbolic characters and objects. He represents the conflict between civilization and savagery in the conflict between the novel’s two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, who represents order and leadership; and Jack, the antagonist, who represents savagery and the desire for power.
As the novel progresses, Golding shows how different people feel the influences of the instincts of civilization and savagery to different degrees. Piggy, for instance, has no savage feelings, while Roger seems barely capable of comprehending the rules of civilization. Generally, however, Golding implies that the instinct of savagery is far more primal and fundamental to the human psyche than the instinct of civilization. Golding sees moral behavior, in many cases, as something that civilization forces upon the individual rather than a natural expression of human individuality. When left to their own devices, Golding implies, people naturally revert to cruelty, savagery, and barbarism. This idea of innate human evil is central to Lord of the Flies, and finds expression in several important symbols, most notably the beast and the sow’s head on the stake. Among all the characters, only Simon seems to possess anything like a natural, innate goodness.
Loss of Innocence
As the boys on the island progress from well-behaved, orderly children longing for rescue to cruel, bloodthirsty hunters who have no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence that they possessed at the beginning of the novel. The painted savages in Chapter 12 who have hunted, tortured, and killed animals and human beings are a far cry from the guileless children swimming in the lagoon in Chapter 3. But Golding does not portray this loss of innocence as something that is done to the children; rather, it results naturally from their increasing openness to the innate evil and savagery that has always existed within them. Golding implies that civilization can mitigate but never wipe out the innate evil that exists within all human beings. The forest glade in which Simon sits in Chapter 3 symbolizes this loss of innocence. At first, it is a place of natural beauty and peace, but when Simon returns later in the novel, he discovers the bloody sow’s head impaled upon a stake in the middle of the clearing. The bloody offering to the beast has disrupted the paradise that existed before—a powerful symbol of innate human evil disrupting childhood innocence.
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Lord of the Flies Theme Essay (the Root of All Evil)Get Your
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Priyanka Dutt Mr. Webb English 9HP May 6th, 2012 The Origin of Evil In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a group of English boys are trapped on an island without any adults which may seem like paradise. In the book a group of boys who have never met before, have been stranded on an island after their plane crashes. They try to find others and try to choose a leader which results in a group of savage hunters to be formed. Eventually their days on the island make them forget civilized behavior and when the confusion leads to a manhunt, the reader can see that the boys show the concealed side of savagery.
Though there is fear in the boys about the island and what lies beyond it, the fear spreads through everyone and it takes charge of the boys’ lives and their fear destroys them, making them evil and someone entirely different. The novel shows that people are fierce at heart and sooner or later they are going to go back to the nature of evil that exists in humans. The boys from The Lord of the Flies are not set to act in an evil way, but the impulsive evil within them cause them to act in such a way.
The two instincts good vs. bad are the driving force of the conflict in the book. For example, good versus evil is shown through Ralph and Jack. Ralph wants organization and leadership and Jack represents savagery that wants power and shows the desire for it. As the book continues, it is represented that savagery is more significant than the instinct of civilization. It is shown that when civilization is gone and one is left alone on their own, people instinctively turn to evil, cruelty, and savagery.
When the signal fire that was meant to attract attention used to be rescued has spread across the island, burning everything, Piggy says, “you got your small fire all right” (41) and for the first time they all become conscious of their ability for destruction. The boys have become from well-behaved boys to bloodthirsty hunters who have lost their innocence and forgetful of civilization they once lived in. Piggy’s death also represents the inner evil within someone and the loss of civilization. Jack who is desperate to be the leader and wanting to spread his evil ways around the tribe orders Roger to kill Piggy.
Jack sees Piggy as an intimidation to his goals of being leader and spreading evil through the group. He knows that in order for him to have control over the other boys in his group, he must get rid of Piggy since he was a reputable figure to the boys and a positive influence on almost everyone on the island. “The rock struck Piggy” (167) and killing him and along with it, the conch broke as well. The word “struck” symbolizes how desperate Jack was to remove Piggy out of the way. By removing Piggy, all moral and civilized influence was gone that was on the children.
The conch also represents that without it, there is no more solidness on the island. Piggy was always like a motherly figure taking care of the “littluns” and even though Piggy did not know it, he was a good influence on Ralph by keeping him from giving in to his inner evil. Not only does Jack have evil inside of him, but everyone on the island especially Jack’s choir group. While Jack’s group is celebrating their achievement, Simon comes back down from the mountain with his encounter with talking to the Lord of the Flies which is the dead pig’s head stuck on top of the stick.
The Lord of the Flies talks to him and says, “I’m part of you” (132) and that is when Simon realizes that the children themselves are the beast and what they really are afraid of is actually the evil that is living inside of them. After his discovery of who the beast really is, he decides that “the news must reach the others” (137). As he comes down from the mountain he is mistaken as the “beast” and killed by Jack’s group. They bite, kick, and tear at him to stop Simon, eventually killing him in the process.
After the boys realize what they have done, they make excuses for their actions when they really knew what they were doing under the feelings of fear and excitement. Especially Jack was aware of their actions. He also saw Simon as a threat to his goals as being leader just like he saw Piggy. Jack wants to use evil as a way to keep everyone under his thumb and lead the group. Human nature is something that can defeat society. Evil and greed are qualities of corruption and most people do not want to make a better society but do better for their own benefit and needs.
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Evil can strongly influence one’s actions and steer them in a different direction. It can work in many ways since it is a characteristic that is in everyone. Good and evil always conflict each other and not both can win. For example the conch shell represents good and the pig’s head being evil and one of them had to give such as the conch shell when it broke into many pieces. Overall, evil is stronger than good because the head had the boys controlled by fear and it does not take long for someone good to switch and be on the evil side. It is only the person who has the power choose this change.
Author: Wallace Hartsell
Lord of the Flies Theme Essay (the Root of All Evil)
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