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Lord of the Flies - Civilization Vs. Savagery

Essay by   •  August 9, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,687 Words (7 Pages)  •  4,494 Views

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Symbolism and allegories are used frequently in novels. They offer the book a deeper meaning, something deeper than the words themselves. William Golding uses symbolism throughout his book, the Lord of the Flies, and created a brilliant allegory in which he presents the struggle between civilization and savagery. Some symbols - such as the conch, Piggy's glasses, and the Lord of the Flies - represent the struggle between civilization and savagery, as well as the battle between good and evil, while the characters - Ralph, Jack, Simon, and Roger - represent a political struggle in William Golding's allegory Lord of the Flies.

The meaning of the overall story constantly refers to the struggle between civilization and savagery, or good vs. evil. Golding once stated the theme of the novel as, "an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature" (Bufkin 1). In other words, human society is based on human nature, so human flaws also become society flaws. Continuing on, he reveals the moral of the story, which is "that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable" (Bufkin 1). Meaning that society depends on a person's morals rather than a government, no matter how fair and decent it may be. Even with rules and morals, any civilization, given the right circumstances, can revert back to savagery as demonstrated in this story.

Ralph, the kids' appointed chief, tries to establish rules to keep order among them, but as the kids regress to primal behavior, chaos and disorder take hold on the island. Ralph creates rules to help keep things under control. At first, Jack agrees with Ralph's decision, saying, "We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything" (Golding 40). Yet, as the kids spend more time on the island, they become more animal-like, Jack especially. As Jack leads his hunters on increasingly more hunts, they begin to express more primitive behavior. They painted their faces, sharpened their spears, and when they made a kill, they all chanted "Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Beat him in!" (Golding 114). Jack and his hunters started to neglect their other responsibilities, like keeping the signal fire going. Ralph tries to reestablish order, calling meetings to address the problems that need fixing, but his efforts fail. Jack, who once agreed with rules, opposes them now, yelling, "Bollocks to the rules!" (Golding 91). Only after Piggy's death, after all the other kids left Ralph for Jack's tribe, does order truly vanish, leaving in its place chaos and fear as the tribe hunt Ralph. It was only after the naval officer appeared on the beach did order resume, and all that was left were a bunch of small kids painted with colored clay holding sharp sticks.

The conch has a very important role in this story, as it represents order and reason, and the voice of authority (Bufkin 2). The conch was used to call meetings, which were held so that rules where created and problems were addressed. At meetings, only the person holding the conch may speak, and only Ralph could interrupt the person holding the conch. In the beginning, this worked, and the meetings ran smoothly, but then Jack started to create chaos. He would break the rules and talk out of turn. The conch began to lose its power. At this point, it didn't matter who held the conch; it was a free for all at the meeting. No one, not even Ralph with the conch, could control the crowd of kids. Eventually, Jack and the hunters left, and later, most of the other kids had joined them. Ralph and Piggy confronted the tribe after Jack stole Piggy's glasses in order to make fire. At this confrontation, Piggy died and the conch was broken. The breaking of the conch represents the breaking of order and reason, as well as the breaking of civilization, as savagery took complete control of the island, leading to the tribes hunt for Ralph.

Piggy's glasses also held an important part, for they represented reason. It is only right for the glasses to be worn by the smartest kid there, which in this case is Piggy. He always took a scientific and reasonable approach to their problems. The glasses could also represent knowledge, as it was used to light the signal fire. As long as order existed, so did reason, but when order began to fade, reason did the same. The confrontation where Jack smacks Piggy, causing one of the lens on his glasses to break, represents the weakening of reason and the beginning of chaos, which does not take a complete hold of the island until Piggy's death.

The Lord of the Flies is

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