Corruption vs. Civilization in Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies is not simply a book about outward conflict between individuals. It is, rather, a novel about one’s inner being. When the formerly-civilized British boys of Golding’s novel are stranded on a desert island and must fight for survival, many of them surrender to the “Beast.” Yet, contrary to the beliefs of the boys in the novel, the “Beast”, or the Lord of the Flies, is not “something you could hunt and kill” (164). Instead, it is a spirit that dwells inside of a soul, slowly reducing one into complete and utter savagery. Therefore, the real conflict on the island–as shown through the character of Ralph–is inside each boy’s mind. To symbolize this battle, Golding particulary uses the motifs of the pig dance, the conch, and the masks.By dancing and singing to celebrate the brutal murdering of a pig, the boys enter into a society, or even a cult, that emphasizes brutality and sadism. The first time the boys perform this ritual, Golding describes their actions as “relieved and excited…making pig-dying noises and shouting” (81). Clearly, the boys feel a rush of exhilaration and ecstasy when they can escape their civilized manner and become a member of this vicious sacrament. These feelings serve only to propel them deeper into this cult, as one can see through their future “pig dances”. Later in the novel, Golding describes Ralph’s feelings during the next pig dance: “The desire to squeeze and hurt was overwhelming” (130). Even one of the most civilized boys on the island can still be overcome with this savage “desire”. The reader can see that the young boys are drifting further away from their civilized norms. By one of the last “pig dances” mentioned in the novel, it is obvious that the experience has become much more atrocious and brutal: “There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws” (175). It is in the midst of this “pig dance” that the boys mistake little Simon for the beast. They viciously stab him with their spears before he even has a chance to share with them the news of the Beast that he has just gleaned, killing him in the first death on the island. Thus, through the ritual of the “pig dances”, the reader is able to interpret Goldings’ theme that a man without civilization is savage and corrupt. Another clear symbol Golding employs is that of the conch, representing social order and development. For example, the first person to hold the conch is Ralph. Ralph also ends up being the leader of the group for the majority of the story. In fact, it is only when the conch is broken near the end of the novel that Ralph completely loses his influence over the boys, as if it were contained in the shell and escaped when it shattered. During the first meeting with the conch, the boys are eager to embark on an adventure of living as young civilized British boys on this deserted island: “We’ll have rules!…Lots of Rules! Then when anyone breaks ’em-…” (33). Clearly, the boys are used to a system of order, most likely stemming from their private schools, and feel more comfortable functioning when order is in place. Near the middle of the novel, however, the system begins to disintegrate. Jack threatens to create his own tribe, which Ralph and Piggy know will only lead to more havoc. They have no choice but to confront the said “savages.” Ralph and Piggy demand that they first give Piggy’s specs back after stealing them in the night, and second, that all the boys stick together, as it is possible they all might be there for the rest of their lives. Later, Ralph gives Piggy the honor of carrying the conch to their fort, and “Piggy sought in his mind for words to convey his passionate willingness to carry the conch against all odds” (198). The reader can see that the conch has a power over Piggy, and he feels humbled by the privilege to carry if for a few minutes. However, his joy quickly disappears. Roger begins to throw rocks down at Piggy. Then he rolled the great rock: “The rock struck Piggy…the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist” (209). From this point on, Ralph sees that he is now fighting against his own kind; he is alone, with no one on his side. Thus begins his fight for survival, one of the many that took place on that island. Through the symbolism of the conch, Golding is able to portray to the reader the belief that order and civilization must be present for citizens to maintain kindness, loyalty, and lives worth living. A third symbol integral to Golding’s novel is that of the “mask.” Whenever one of the boys creates a mask on their face using pigs’ blood and other substances, he becomes a completely different creature altogether–one that marvels in the infliction of pain and fear upon others. For example, when Jack first discovers the power of the mask, Golding writes, “his laughter become a bloodthirsty snarling…the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness…the mask compelled them” (68). Often, the boys will talk about the “painted savages” with fear and awe in their voices. Ralph even comments that he’d “like to put on war-paint and be a savage” (162). Thus, all the boys on the island are affected by the painted masks, even if they personally refuse to participate in the experience. One of the most profound examples of the influence of the masks is Golding’s description of Jacks thoughts: “…the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness…the mask compelled them” (69). Through the mask, Golding shows that their need for civilization is so great that they will resort to the most brutal solutions to satisfy their needs. In sum, by using motifs such as the pig dance, the pigs head, and the mask, Golding is able to portray the theme that without civilization and order, man is susceptible to giving in to the forces that will transform him into a complete and utter savage. Golding might also be trying to show, through Biblical references like the island originally resembling the Garden of Eden and the character of Simon symbolizing the Savior, or Jesus Christ, that there is something more than just what man has inside of him that is required to defeat these internal forces. These motifs show the drastic change that occurred in many of the boys without being disciplined and commanded what to do. When one is outside of their comfort zone, one is vulnerable to being influenced by the thing inside them that tempts them to turn to savagery and disorder; this thing is the Lord of the Flies. Although the book was written nearly four decades ago, its theme reminds us that, even today, we must fight against the same forces.

A Beacon in the Abyss

A Beacon in the Abyss The voice of reason in this modern morality play, the physically flawed, socially inept Piggy serves as a confidant in The Lord of the Flies, providing Ralph with a balancing presence while embodying the principles of intelligence, technology, and progress. This story, like the morality plays of the Middle Ages, possesses characters created to represent different facets of human nature; Piggy, with his deep well of practical knowledge and keen sense of living, takes the role of intelligence and reason. However, unlike morality plays of old, Piggy presents a much more complex, multidimensional character, as he also exists to balance the malleable mind of Ralph, essentially competing in a mental tug-of-war with his polar opposite, Jack. As Ralph holds the most responsibility for the direction of the group after he gains leadership, Piggy’s presence and tutelage prevent Ralph from succumbing to the hunger that consumes Jack. Where he receives ridicule and contempt from nearly all of his peers for his pitiable debilitations and gauche social skills, Piggy garners sympathy from the reader, starkly contrasting the revolting savagery of Jack. Piggy, with all of his shortcomings, represents the choice between embracing knowledge and embracing savagery; essentially, Piggy personifies the difference between what is right and what is easy. As the two boys initially find themselves alone together after the crash, Piggy’s influence on Ralph takes hold almost immediately, as evidenced by the celerity with which they solve the problems in front of them. While Ralph opts to stand his head in the middle of the scar as a response to such an overwhelming situation, Piggy remains calm, giving advice until Ralph decides to act upon it. Even when Ralph teases him Piggy “grinned reluctantly, pleased despite himself at even this much recognition”, depicting the general ignorance with which patience and knowledge are usually regarded. Unlike the way in which the boys bicker at later meetings, Piggy never pushes Ralph forcefully to see things his way, but assumes that the right ideas will prevail. Within minutes, Ralph finds the conch and follows Piggy’s instructions, blowing into it and gathering the boys together, illustrating the power of a focused mind. Instead of dwelling on the problems and anxiety at hand, Piggy helps Ralph look toward a solution, achieving it with ease. Overweight and asthmatic, Piggy lacks the physical stature he needs to accomplish any of his own plans, while Ralph, able-bodied and levelheaded but not inventive, needs Piggy’s aid in forging a path. Together, the two make a cohesive whole. However, as Ralph represents the will or ego in this morality tale, he can easily follow his hunger, his primal instincts, and his appetite. His mind hard-wired by his old society, Ralph betrays Piggy’s trust to get a laugh by revealing his nickname, and shows that he initially has both qualities of Piggy and Jack within him. In turn, Piggy’s influence on Ralph becomes greatly diminished upon the arrival of the other boys, namely Jack and his choir. Jack, with his insatiable thirst for the hunt, foils Piggy as the representation of Ralph’s id, or appetite. Jack’s intentions spring from the primal instincts, the savage, primitive behavior that dwells deep within the mind of man. Despite a brief power struggle, Jack and Ralph appear to get along well with one another, giving all the more weight to Piggy’s burden of balancing Ralph’s will as leader. Deftly crafting the physical character of Piggy, Golding paints the picture of a pathetic young boy, friendless and nameless yet bursting with information and good intent, forming a target for the readers’ compassion. Jack, tall and exuding confidence and with a domineering disposition, forms Piggy’s physical opposite, evoking fear and contempt with his threatening appearance. Piggy, described as fleshy and pale, characterizes purity and cleanliness in comparison to Jack, sitting “painted and garlanded…like an idol”, a Sinai shaman among heathens. Sympathies lying with Piggy, the reader inevitably pulls for the underdog, the weak but intelligent challenger, to prevail. In the social microcosm that forms on the island, Piggy resonates as the only voice promoting a viable social structure. Understanding the hopelessness of their situation, Piggy thinks selflessly, seeking to create a manifest of names and to establish some hierarchal order for the good of the younger children. Unlike many of the other boys, Piggy opts for the proactive plan for rescue-lighting a signal fire-as opposed to waiting for adults to come. Piggy’s sense of realism lasts unwaveringly until his murder, buffeted only by the constant despair of his predicament. As the meetings occur and actions are proposed, the rift between the selflessness of Piggy and the hunger of Jack deepens. Piggy’s suggestions to build shelters, and again to take down names remain wholly in the interest of the group, while conversely; Jack only demands that he be able to hunt, to satiate the hole within him. Jack, his emaciated soul writhing in hunger, demands to kill and eat a pig, the dirtiest of meats, showing none but the most selfish tendencies. With a monomaniacal obsession with the hunt, Jack sinks further into the dark abyss of savagery, hardly able to pry his mind form the kill. In contrast, Piggy’s good girth symbolizes his wealth of knowledge, so much so that he physically bursts at the seams. Piggy’s Hephaestus-like good will and physical debilitation make him the perfect counterpart to Jack’s bloodthirsty Ares. Piggy, while the quintessence of knowledge and reason, also serves as an important foil to Ralph’s other chief influence. As Piggy symbolizes intelligence and the ability to reason, certain aspects of his character gain much significance throughout his time on the island. As the only means to ignite a fire on the island, Piggy’s glasses exist as the most important resource to the children, as evidenced by Jack’s eventual theft. The glasses, like Piggy himself, are fragile, and must be cared for in order for them to perform. Piggy’s intelligence, unbeknownst to the boys on the island, also represents a valuable resource. However, the path of intelligence is much harder for Ralph to follow than that of the hunt, as staying with Piggy alienates both of them even more from the growing majority of the boys. Thus, after the division of the two island factions, Ralph faces a fundamental choice. Follow Piggy, on the path to enlightenment, or sink down to Jack and join the hunt. Intelligence, if to be won, must be worked for: Piggy, unappealing and handicapped without his glasses, demands attention and care, and will make life harder for Ralph. Conversely, Ralph could easily submit to the temptation of joining Jack, and throwing physic to the wind, abandoning reason and embracing madness. Piggy’s plight forces a choice upon Ralph, between what is right and what is easy. Regardless, though Ralph remains with Piggy, the island nonetheless falls to shambles around them, conferring Piggy’s inherent inability to command respect. As in the actual world, action and fast results often find favor over patience and reason. Even Ralph and Piggy together cannot manage to govern effectively using intelligence and practical thinking. In comparison, Jack rules using fear as his weapon. Employing propaganda to build up the threat of the beast, Jack uses the boys’ fear of the unknown to keep them bound to him, for they find safety in his dominant machismo. Although Piggy knows the beast does not exist, the boys would rather temporarily assuage their fears than take the time to dispel them. As in the actual world, action and fast results often find favor over patience and reason. The culmination of the events on the island projects a frightening image, as savagery and evil so easily overcome the efforts of reason. Piggy’s tragic failure galvanizes readers in their contempt of Jack, but Piggy is nonetheless killed by Samneric’s boulder, the stone pushed by the twins who had such a short time before lived and sided with Piggy. The death of Piggy presents the biggest indicator of the importance of reason. When Piggy can no longer influence Ralph, the island falls apart within a day, illustrating the disrupted balance between reason and appetite. Jack, so devolved he resembles little more than an animal, attempts to consume everything. Similarly, Piggy’s absence emphasizes the need for practical thinking, and organized society. Jack’s camp is a smoldering cesspit, populated by children so filthy they border on unrecognizable. Piggy serves as a beacon of intelligence and reason as he advises Ralph, contrasting the savagery and idolatry of the hunters, while drawing readers to him with his pitiable form and lucid thought.

A Grim Ending

Lord of the Flies ends on a bleak note in order to emphasize the recurring theme throughout the novel: the idea that every human contains the beast within him/herself. By making the finale of the book so depressing, Golding illustrates the transfiguration of the boys at the same time that he recalls to mind the incidents that were caused by the change.The grim ending of Golding’s book is needed to clearly convey the evolution that has been observed in all the boys. By ending the book on the tone that it first began with, realization of the boys’immediate transgressions of British society begins to surface. When the boys first appear, they have the “obedience” (18) that has been trained into them, as obvious as the “uniforms” (18) that they wear as a badge of conformity. For them, uniforms represent “superiority” (21). It seems to be more than a coincidence that the rescuing officer comes in a neat outfit, complete with a “cap” (200) and “epaulettes” (200). This brings back memories of the fine group that Jack’s capped choir first appeared as. By using parallel examples, Golding is able to translate the boys’appearances to others, a good way of making the reader realize that the island can be interpreted as a world unhindered by law. It can be noted that, after a short period of time, the boys are almost completely “naked” (48). The boys are stripping away their morals. When Golding brings out the well-dressed officer, the change that has occurred in the boys is more noticeable. There is now a standard of comparison which shows the boys to be completely inadequate. When observing other similarities between the boys and the officers, there comes the terrifying enlightenment that the beast is everywhere, not just on one isolated island. The end of the book also communicates how far the boys have strayed from British rules. At first the boys still stick to the “hands up” (33) system of talking. This is the only instance where the boys do what would be expected of them. The officer thinks that British boys should have been able to put up a “better show” (202), once again a good reminder of how the boys first reacted to freedom, shouting of how much “fun” (35) they will have. In their “fun and games” (200), the boys managed to recklessly take three lives. By studying any number of characters, it is easy to trace the degeneration of socially adept boys into barbaric savages. Roger is a prime example of disregard for any rules. He starts off as a boy afraid to hit a smaller child with a rock, remembering the “taboo” (62) protecting the child. Later, Roger kills Piggy with a “monstrous” (180) boulder and doesn’t seem to regret it in the least. British government disappears. Another good example would be Percival Wemys Madison, who at first reverted to reciting the information about his house that was “rooted” (86) in his mind when he was scared. This data is completely forgotten by him when the officer comes; Percival can no longer remember the “incantation” (201) that used to be so elementary to him. The comforting disguise of discipline appears in the officer when Ralph calls out for “mercy” (200), a poignant reminder of what the boys used to be. In this way, the author makes the seemingly cheerful picture of rescue change to a frightening reality of no possible escape from the beast. It is a wonderful way to make any reader realize that the boys are reentering the world that they just destroyed and left behind. It also implies that, unless the uniformed and armed hunters of the real world are careful, the world could easily be devastated. This discouraging ending shifts the story of the boys’inner feelings to the larger scale of the world.The conclusion is a culmination of the sadness of the past and the things that have been discovered throughout the book, such as the true nature of humans, so of course it must be bleak to be potent. At the end of the book, Ralph reflects on the awful things that have happened, a very effective way to show the beast. He cries for the “darkness” (202) of man’s heart. This display’s Ralph’s knowledge that the beast is in everyone, that it is actually indulgence, lack of control, corruption, perversion, lust for blood, envy, and other awful traits. Golding uses the ending of the book to remind readers of the horrible things that have already occurred. The first uncontrollable fire, the fire that took the boy with the mulberry mark, is remembered. That fire was really when the beast emerged through characteristic indulgence. Recapitulation has the result of making the reader come to the awareness that the beast couldn’t be repressed after it had been allowed to emerge. Simon was the character who really understood what the beast was, although Ralph was starting to come to realization at the very end of the novel. Simon knew he couldn’t fight it, so he instead gave in to it. When he looked at the Lord of the Flies, he felt overwhelming “recognition” (138). After he finally admitted that the beast existed, he began to beat with a new “pulse” (138), and he became the Lord of the Flies. He was also eaten by the ” mouth” of the beast, a mouth formed by the circle of boys. Obviously, giving in to the beast didn’t save Simon. By looking at Ralph, it is observable that fighting didn’t get rid of the beast. When Ralph saw the “grinning” (185) pig’s head, he immediately smashed it, thinking that that would destroy it. Instead, the grin only grew to “six feet” (185). Neither becoming a friend or an enemy of the beast had any affect. Simon knew that the beast wasn’t something that one can “hunt and kill” (143). In this knowledge he is almost completely correct; there is nothing to be done to save a person from the beast, because the beast is undeniably a part of every person. By putting in one small concluding paragraph, William Golding uncovered the nature of people while also revealing the extent of pain and misery on the island.

An Inborn Condemnation: Mankind’s Potential for Evil

Despite the progression of civilization and society’s attempts to suppress man’s darker side, moral depravity proves both indestructible and inescapable; contrary to culturally embraced views of humanistic tendencies towards goodness, each individual is susceptible to his base, innate instincts. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, seemingly innocent schoolboys evolve into bloodthirsty savages as the latent evil within them emerges. Their regression into savagery is ironically paralleled by an intensifying fear of evil, and it culminates in several brutal slays as well as a frenzied manhunt. The graphic consequence of the boys’ unrestrained barbarity, emphasized by the backdrop of an external war, exigently explores mankind’s potential for evil.Dismissing the detonation of an atom bomb and the possible deaths of their parents as merely an “unusual problem” (14), the schoolboys selfishly indulge in their lush jungle environs. The overwhelming “glamour [which] spread[s] over them” (25) momentarily eclipses their awakening need for domination. At first, the boys express this necessity through the seemingly innocuous heaving of rocks and the belittling of Piggy, who is physically inferior. Had these actions occurred in the boys’ English homeland, they would have been accepted as ordinary,childish behavior. However, under the guise of innocent excitement, the boys derive an unimaginably “violent pleasure” (18) from “exercising control over living things” (61).Ominously, their craving for power is a presage for the blood that is to be shed. This blood which had initially been so “unbearable” (31) is now lusted after; it compels Jack and his followers to hunt, because it seduces them with the promise of killing. Challenged by Ralph’s strong advocation for responsibility and order, Jack feels ashamed by his relentless compulsion to “track down [quarry] and kill” ( 51). Consequently, he uses the need of meat to rationalize his savage behavior, although there is an abundance of fresh fruit. The need for this excuse is obviated when Jack starts to apply a mask of paint in order to liberate himself from “shame and self-consciousness” (64). Moreover, this self-deception enables him to become an “awesome stranger” (63), capable of wholly abandoning any sense of morality or ethics.Further blinded by the illusion that their supposedly superior English heritage precludes savagery, the boys ignore the perverse qualities of their actions. Nevertheless, they become terrified as they increasingly feel the blight of their own evil upon the island. Attempting to attribute the decay of sanity and civilization to external sources, they fail to look inwards. When Simon correctly proposes that the beast is “maybe. . . only [themselves]” (89), the others scornfully dismiss him as “batty” (52) and his suggestion as invalid; they refuse to acknowledge Simon because they are neither capable nor willing to believe the frightening truth that the evil arises from within themselves. As a result, the boys manifest their fear in a dead parachutist whose appearance they grotesquely distort. Ironically, this source of fear comes from the majestic adult world to which they have so long aspired.Ralph continues to look towards the adults as the boys’ sole hope of rescue, unaware that they “[know] nothing of him and [are] in ruins” (62); the adults are trapped in the slaughter of their own war. Only Simon understands the universally “heroic and sick” (103) condition of mankind as well as the paradoxical nature of the beast. He recognizes that the only thing to be feared is the potential for evil in everyone, and that the blamed source is merely a “harmless [yet] horrible” (147) corpse. Simon assumes the role of savior as he attempts to liberate the others from their all-conquering fear by delivering the truth. Tragically, he is seen as a “big and horrid” (85) beast as he weakly stumbles into the midst of the boys’ wild frenzy. With bestial atrocity, Simon is ruthlessly “struck, bit, [and] tor[n] [apart]” (153) by the boys who have set themselves up as paragons of virtue.Even Ralph, the upholder of civilization and hope, succumbs to the temptation of killing. His participation in Simon’s murder reasserts the “undefinable connection between himself and Jack” (184), because both are bound by their identical, innermost natures – mankind’s universal potential for evil. Ralph fully realizes this after reaching his epiphany. Ironically, this enlightenment is a condemnation rather than a liberation, because the knowledge of evil will forever remain as a scar upon his mind.Now that Ralph truly understands the “darkness of man’s heart” (202), he will recognize it in all its forms and disguises, falling heir to Simon’s role of the bearer of truth and condemnation. The constant possibility that he may succumb to internal evil may instill Ralph with an further sense of anxiety and despair. This torment marks “the end of [his] innocence” (202), and Ralph will never be able to return to his former state of carefree happiness. Only death, the end to each individual’s experience of the human condition ­ the same death that liberated Simon and Piggy ­ can free Ralph from the enlightenment and curse of his insight.

Death and Social Collapse in Lord of the Flies

Oscar Hammling has said, “We die ourselves every time we kill in others something that deserved to live.” Man’s relationship with death from the hour of his birth and his inherent concern for himself above others are themes often used in literary works to depict mankind’s mental, spiritual, and social weaknesses. Death is a prominent motif in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and specific events throughout the novel are important in the development of the story and in expressing the tragedy that ultimately results from manifestations of evil in mankind. The demises of the mulberry-marked boy, the sow, Simon, Piggy, and the attempted murder of Ralph are among the most important events used by Golding as catalysts in the expansion of the plot.The death of the mulberry-marked boy is the first of several events that ultimately leads to the destruction of society in the novel. He is the first of the boys to introduce the beast and is also the first to die. His death results from irresponsible actions on the part of the other boys and foreshadows evil to come. The boy’s untimely end serves as a reminder of guilt for Ralph, who does not even notice that the child is missing until Piggy notifies everyone. Ralph also feels remorse because of his earlier ridicule and humiliation of the boy. The mulberry-marked boy’s demise signifies a weakening of the newly formed societal structure on the island and predicts further instability.The sow’s death is instrumental in several ways. First of all, it demonstrates Roger’s true self; he is an evil, uncompassionate individual who simply enjoys inflicting pain in others. The pig’s death also indicates a further weakening of the structure of civilization on the island. Meat is not necessary for the boys’ survival, yet Jack and his hunters become obsessed with killing pigs. They enjoy having the power of life and death over another living creature and sadistically torture the sow while they slaughter her. This pleasure in malevolence further epitomizes Golding’s idea that evil exists in everyone. The sow symbolizes motherhood and nurturing, and the boys’ murder of her signifies their acquisition of savage and barbaric characteristics and their lessening concern for life. The boys’ insufficient exposure to society prevents adequate comprehension of the power of death; it simply comes naturally to them. Jack is the primary symbol of the longing for power. “He [seeks], charitable in his happiness, to include them in the thing that [has] happened. His mind [is] crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that Ö come[s] to them when they [close] in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they [have] outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long, satisfying drink.” Jack’s feelings toward the kill as satisfying and enjoyable facilitate the evolution of plot and theme in the novel. Again, evil gradually appears.Simon is the silent, solid listener and the symbol of hope in the boys’ island society. He recognizes the decline that is occurring with increasing velocity in the social structure and in the peaceful beauty of the island. Simon is one of the few on the island with the capability to understand the danger in such degeneration. The decline of Jack and the choirboys from angels to torturing hunters is similar to the fall of Lucifer; because Simon, one of Jack’s original choirboys, does not “fall” with them, he remains an angel in a civilization of sinners. His death, almost martyr-like, signifies a tremendous deterioration of humanity and the disappearance of hope for the boys.Piggy’s death illustrates the complete collapse of humane society on the island. He is a scholar, secretly responsible for everyone’s survival on the island and he counsels Ralph in all matters. When the boys kill Piggy, they basically destroy their only hope for extended survival on the island. His death further typifies the destruction of social order and the increasing influence of evil. Roger kills Piggy purely for entertainment, once again illustrating wickedness in humanity. The attempted murder of Ralph, a direct result of the complete collapse in societal structure on the island, exemplifies the loss of reasoning and rational thinking. The fact that the boys hunt him with the intention to kill him and place his head on a stake is the final illustration of the evil that has overcome the island like a cloud of volcanic ash, eating away at humanity like acid. William Golding further enhances his theme by his portrayal of death and the crumbling structure of civilization on the island. The correlation between malevolence and complete social collapse is evident in the paired symbolic and literal uses of death and evil in the boys’ isolated community; indeed, each of the deaths in the novel is instrumental in the author’s depiction of inborn evil and effectively acts as a catalyst in the chain of events culminating in the complete destruction of society on the island.

A Tainted View of Society

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is “An unfashionable aberration, a throwback to earlier, simpler forms of literature in which symbolic, fablelike elements predominate over psychological or social realism” (Magill 1126). Lord of the Flies, a novel in which a group of English school boys are stranded on an island and struggle to survive, is a supposed portrayal of humanity in general. Lord of the Flies presents an unrealistic and false projection of humanity due to Golding’s distorted, personal view of society, tainted by his life experiences and opinions.The beginnings of Golding’s inability to objectively portray humanity starts with Golding’s childhood. As a child Golding lived a lonely life, interacting only with his mother, father, and nanny. Lacking peers with whom to play, Golding enveloped himself in books. These books became his companions and took the place of social interaction, forming a deep and lasting influence. It is widely held in psychological fields that a child’s personality and resulting world views are largely formed in early childhood (Longstreth 441). Consequently, his books became ingrained into his mind-set as they influenced both his personality and his perceptions. By reading stories romanticizing adventure, such as The Swiss Family Robinson, The Coral Island, and Robinson Crusoe, Golding formed the concept at a young age that these books presented reality (Bernard 122). Golding read them as factual reports, unable as a child to recognize them as the entertainment and fable-like stories their authors intended them to be. Golding’s favorite authors, H.G Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, overexaggerated their characters and their behavior in order to create sensationalism. This literary technique, very prominent in Golding’s own Lord of the Flies, diminishes the ability of Lord of the Flies to present a serious idea. This mistaken reality, one of implausible, outlandish adventures, that Golding absorbed from children’s literature he so loved, which heavily influenced his writing. Lord of the Flies is too bizarre and fantastic. The chances of an airplane full of boys crashing on a deserted island and turning into barbarians, killing each other, is completely unrealistic. Elementary aged boys would not hunt down a pig and sacrifice its head on a stick like Jack and the other boys did. Lord of the Flies fails to be a believable plight from which humanity can be accurately depicted because of Golding’s early influences.Golding’s childhood’s favorites further impacted Lord of the Flies by setting the tone and style for his writing. Golding’s admiration for fantasy-based adventure tales works shone clearly in his own writings through the form of imitation. Parallels can be drawn between H.G. Wells, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Golding’s own Lord of the Flies. Both Swift and Golding present humans as savage and greedy with an obsession with the foul and impure (Dunning 120). Both books feature escapism and survivalism, appealing to the fantastic side of human nature. The strongest influence is seen through Ballantyne’s The Coral Island, whose main characters, Ralph and Jack, find them selves stranded on a island (Scott-Kilvert 68). Golding puts no effort into masking his identical scenario as his own main characters, Ralph and Jack, are also stranded on an island. While admiration and respect for another author is acceptable, even respectable, it severely limits Golding’s expression of his own ideas as he tries to imitate that which is too simplistic for his goal. Using characters so simplistic and flat as pre-pubescent boys leaves no opportunity for character development or clear, strong personalities. Golding is led astray as he attempts to pay tribute to his favorite childhood authors through Lord of the Flies, which is written on an elementary reading level. However, this further contaminates his writing as the style he mimics is not a good tool for exemplifing mankind. Golding’s life experiences with children’s literature distorted his writing style to that is which is inappropriate and ineffective for his message.Through Lord of the Flies, man is presented as being ultimately evil, a perception Golding developed after his involvement in World War II. He enrolled as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy of England for five years, actively serving on several ships and manning a rocket- launcher. These experiences changed his view of humanity and became one of the most influential factors on his writing. Lord of the Flies was written nine years after Golding’s dismissal from the Navy, but the war remained fresh in his mind. The slaughter of man and violence in the name of nationalism shaped Golding’s perceptions, darkening his view of man. Golding stated that “I believe that man suffers from an appalling ignorance of his own nature” (Magill 1130). This fatalistic and savage outlook can be seen in the novel when Simon is killed to the chant of “Kill the Beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” (Golding 152). Golding came to this conclusion because of what he witnessed in the war. He later said that “World War II was the turning point for me. I began to see what people were capable of doing” (Magill 1130) This then was Golding’s motivation behind Lord of the Flies. While war is indeed violent and horrific, something that would scar any man, it cannot be used as the primary indicator of man’s true nature. Man is too complex and conclusions cannot be drawn from a singular dimension such as war. Therefore, the negative portrayal of humanity through Lord of the Flies is inaccurate because it is based on Golding’s perceptions, formed through a horrific yet limited event in his life which he used to project the complete and entire picture of humanity. Further limiting Golding’s view of man was his exposure to just that, man. First and most obvious, Golding only used boys as characters in his projection of society, taking away any credence Lord of the Flies might have. In the very beginning of the book, when the boys are pulling themselves together, Piggy asks, “Aren’t there any grownups at all?” to which Ralph responds “I don’t think so.” As Ralph and Piggy assess their situaiton, the absence of girls is not even noted. Instead they are but are instead concerned only about the lack of adults. Humanity in no way can be comprehensively and accurately portrayed without the presence of women. Golding’s writing typifies male-dominated patriarchal literature as he only portrays society through boys. Golding’s life, which was predominantly filled with male influences, led to his flawed gender biased perceptions. Growing up, Golding preferred his father and so the beginnings of male domination. His mother’s suffragist works and her fight for women was obviously ignored by Golding as he further oppressed woman with his so called social commentary (Magill 1127). Other male influences include his five years in the navy and his career as an English teacher at a boys school. His work at the school is by far the largest ink blot of testosterone on Golding’s paper that represents his view of man. One critic belittles Lord of the Flies so much as to say that “The boys never come alive as real boys. They are simply the projected annoyances of a disgruntled English school master” (Riley 126). He did in fact use his observations as a teacher to shape the characters with their languages and mannerisms (Scott-Kilvert 68). Golding did not portray society with his novel but instead portrayed his experiences with young school boys. The lack of any women in the book, with all male characters greatly reduces any credibility Lord of the Flies might have held. He reduces humanity to a one dimensional, id-driven child, which is in no way an accurate representation, but instead biased and chauvinistic. Furthermore, Golding’s Lord of the Flies cannot be held as a classic due to its limited appeal and necessary knowledge of Judeo-Christianity. Lord of the Flies takes on the form of Judeo-Christian morality in which humanity is held back by original sin (Riley 198). Golding adopts sin-based theology, that man is incipiently evil, and that left to his own devices, will return to immorality. Innate sin is proven as the boys, untouched by society and left by themselves to develop, become more and more evil as the book progresses. The very acceptance and truth of his statements rely upon the acceptance of traditional Christianity as represented through many metaphors. For instance, the character Simon is a Christ figure, because he is a visionary, loving, carries the message of truth, but is killed by his peers. During one scene, Simon has a conversation with a slaughtered pig’s head on a stick, the Lord of the Flies. “Lord of the Flies” originates from the Hebrew word Ba al zevuv, or Satan, into which the Greeks adopted Beelzebub which is the lord of filth and dung (Leeming 159). Therefore, to understand the deeper meaning behind the converstion between Christ and Satan, or Simon and the pig, one must subscribe to orthodox Christianity as well as have at least a basic knowledge of Hebrew. Demonstrating a classic struggle of the war torn, Golding stated, “Man is a falling being, he is gripped by original sin” (Scott-Kilvert 68). In order to fully understand some of the classic themes in Lord of the Flies, one must have a full understanding of Christianity, an unreasonable expectation for an author to place on an audience if he wishes to impact more then a select few. In Lord of the Flies, Golding is not accurately portraying society as a whole because he is too specific in religious formatting. Golding further pollutes his view of society with his obsession with ancient civilizations and culture. In the novel, as the Ralph and Piggy attempt to find the other boys, Ralph blows on a conch to summon them, a ritual used by primitive man. One of the most influential factors on his writing was learning ancient Greek (Scott-Kilvert 66). Golding had a background in Greek and Latin literature, with an interest in Egyptian lifestyles. Golding first developed his appreciation for Greek literature as a child, as he read the works of Homer and delved into the Odyssey adventures (Bernard, 120). He related the Egyptian use of symbolism and mystery through darkness, which is a prominent theme in Lord of the Flies (Scott-Kilvert, 65). In college, Golding studied English literature avoiding anything modern. Golding loved primitive subjects and ancient writing styles, which can be seen in his own work. Golding also took up the Greek ignorance of logic and science, leading to the use of imagination and fantasy over provable real evidence of human nature. “No general conclusions about the human condition can properly be drawn from Lord of the Flies. Golding has started with a private theory about Man and has then provided some imaginary and highly selective evidence to support it” (Riley 196) Golding’s obsession with that of the past went too far as he once said that he thought of himself as being Egyptian, a wholly ludicrous idea which further perpetuates the ridiculousness of accepting one man’s twisted view of society (Scott-Kilvert 65). While acceptable as a tribute, primitive subjects and Greek life can no longer be used to represent society as they do not allow for man to learn or adapt in anyway since the Greek time period. Greek and Egyptian society must be disregarded as any basis of reality and are not an accurate source from which to draw societal perceptions, as Golding did.Every event in one’s life is like a drop of water on a lens of life. Golding’s lens, his perceptions, are clouded and muddied by his life experiences, distorting his view of mankind. His lens is blurred by his fascination with children’s adventure stories and ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures, disallowing him to see outside the realm of the imaginary and the extinct. Furthermore, his perceptions are narrowed and contaminated with his use of Christianity as a model, as well as his war experiences which limit the range of which Golding could understand human nature. Golding’s lens is thouroughly encrusted with the crud of his male-dominated, fantasy based life. Golding, while providing entertaining children’s literature, in no way wrote a classic portrayal of humanity through Lord of the Flies.

Water, Water, Everywhere

In the novel Lord of the Flies, William Golding explores the savagery and bloodlust in humanity. Written right after the end of World War II, this narrative depicts roughly 40 children as they try to stay alive on a desert island in the middle of a new war. As the story progresses, the children turn to violence and fear to solve their problems, and in the midst of all the chaos and death, there is always the presence of water, like a beast lurking in the shadows. On the other hand, water enlightens and preservers life around the island, like a motherly figure. In Lord of the Flies, the prevalent water imagery expresses the theme that duality exists in everyone and everything.

Water, like humanity, can quickly change from a placid and nurturing force to an agent of destruction. As Ralph and Jack, two 14-year-old boys who lead the rest of the boys, look for the beast, they stumble across a lagoon. They search for the beast in order to find and kill it to ensure the comfort and safety of the other kids. Golding says, “Then the sleeping leviathan breathed out the waters rose, the weed streamed, and the water boiled over the table rock with a roar. There was no sense of the passage of waves’ only this minute-long fall and rise and fall,” (Golding, 105). By describing the lagoon as a “sleeping leviathan”, Golding shows the immense power contained in the water. Leviathan is an ancient sea monster, and just like any monster, it has the ability to change the entire landscape in a minute. The sleeping leviathan represents everyday society as we go through our daily lives. The breathing in and out of water serves as a metaphor for the beginning and end of each day. Golding writes, “There was no sense of the passage of waves,” just like we lose our sense of the passage of time as we go throughout our day. The “minute-long fall and rise” shows the repetition of societal life. On the other hand, this sleeping leviathan can wake up and suddenly let out its anger, just as humanity lets out its anger during national or international crisis. In the middle of the night, Simon, a 12-year old kid, finds out that the beast is a pig head on a stick. He decides to run and tell the others, but they mistaken him as the beast and brutally rip him apart. Immediately afterwards, rain starts destroying the island. Golding says, “Then the clouds opened and let down the rain like a waterfall. The water bounded from the mountaintop, tore leaves and branches from the trees, poured like a cold shower over the struggling heap on the sand,” (Golding, 153). The rain represents the anger and destruction brought on by the children as they kill Simon. The rain is so powerful that it “tore leaves and branches from the trees”. In contrast to the sleeping giant, this leviathan is fully awake. Ironically, the children cause the immense rain to fall because they slaughter Simon. Their anger leads to their own demise and death. These actions relate to World War 2 because the Nazis’ anger and hatred only lead to the destruction of their empire in the end. The Allies of the war are the raindrops that break the life of the island, similar to the bombings in Germany. Golding suggests that when something as bad as the death of innocent life happens, moral society will take a stand and fight for its rights.

Water calls into contrast a grievous death, and a shocking death, similar to those of World War II. As the other children walk away from the scene of the crime, Simon lies dead on the beach. Golding describes the movement of his body like a funeral progression. He writes, “…the advancing clearness was full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes… The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop…Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon’s dead body moved out toward the open sea,” (Golding, 154). Golding describes Simon’s death similar to death of a war hero. Additionally, the “moonbeam-bodied creatures” represent the honoring of this hero; they honor him by taking him back to the sea, identical to the funeral progression of a war hero as other soldiers put the hero in a casket. On the other hand, the creatures cannot show their anger during this ceremony and must contain their anger in their “fiery eyes.” While Simon’s death symbolizes a funeral, Piggy’s death shows the quick and surprising death on the battlefield. After Jack takes control of the rest of the children, Ralph decides to confront him and reestablish peace. However, in doing so, Jack becomes angry and throws a rock at Ralph. Jack misses, but he hits Piggy instead. Golding says, “Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea…Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone,” (Golding, 181). The “long, slow sigh” of the sea represents the immediate grief felt as Piggy dies. Also, unlike Simon’s death where there were creatures to help him, Piggy just gets swept away. This quick death symbolizes the death on the battlefield; during World War II, many soldiers were similarly killed and quickly forgotten, because there were too many to count.

Water becomes the struggle between the future and the present. As Ralph, walks across the beaches of the island, he thinks to himself. Golding writes, “Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment. He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one’s waking life was spent watching one’s feet,” (Golding, 76). Just like the continuous change of the ocean, Ralph must change his outlook on life in order to survive on the island. He sees his own future in the sand as it shifts back and forth by the tidal waves. Ralph also realizes the unpredictability of life and how, since it is always changing, is impossible to anticipate. Additionally, the “improvisation” of each path symbolizes the quick adjustments he must make. Just like improvisation in art or music, he cannot prepare for the distant future, and can only adapt to the present. This statement also explains why Golding believes so much time is, “spent watching one’s feet.” By spending so much time looking down at one’s own feet, Golding suggests that people can only prepare for the present because the future is constantly changing. Ralph represents our everyday journey through life, and each path ahead is the future. Moreover, the waves illustrate the unexpected shifts in each path ahead.

Within everything, there is a balance. In times of war, this balance can quickly shift to one side as countries cry out for hope and soldiers pile up. Golding expresses the fluidity of war, and, like the tides, the constant changes of the war. However, he still illustrates the consistent adjustments we make in our everyday lives. Water not only symbolizes the duality of life, but it also shows its fluid and ever-changing nature.

The Symbolic Use of Color in Lord of the Flies

In Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the symbolic use of color conveys the innocence and the evil on the island, as well as each of the boys’ personalities. The contrasting light and dark colors in the book symbolize the goodness and evil, the lighter colors symbolizing the boys’ innocence and morals, the darker colors representing the darkness on the island and in the boys’ minds and hearts. The color of the boy’s skin and hair also symbolizes their different personalities; Ralph’s fair hair represented his calm personality, while Jack’s bright red hair represented his fiery and bloodthirsty personality.

Throughout the novel, there are many examples of light colors representing innocence and goodness among the boys. When Ralph and Piggy first discover the conch, it is described as being light in color: “In color the shell was deep cream, touched here and there with fading pink” (p. 11). The conch brought order and civilization by calling the boys together (p. 12), and by allowing the boy holding it a chance to speak without interruption (p. 31). This civility brought rules and order which the boys abided by, and allowed them to demonstrate the goodness and morals that they had before they crashed on the island. The naturally occurring lightness of the island also represented innocence and goodness, in particular the yellow sun and white sand. When the sun was up, the boys lost their fear, as they believed that the beast disappeared in the daylight: “He says in the morning it turned into them things like ropes in the trees and hung in the branches” (p. 35). The pale colors represent the goodness of the island, allowing the boys to feel relief and security when they were showing. Another example of this revolves around the chapter Beast from Water, as the white sand was what protected the boys from the water and the darkness. “The tide was coming in and there was only a narrow strip of firm beach between the water and the white, stumbling stuff near the palm terrace” (p. 81). This shows that as the fear and darkness of night neared, the white sand disappeared, taking with it the boys’ goodness and innocence.

The theme of savagery, evil, and darkness is a reoccurring element of Lord of the Flies, and are symbolized through the use of dark colors. The dark, blackness of each night brought fear to each of the boys, as they believed the night was when the beast came. “He says the beastie came in the dark” (p. 35). When the darkness of night was diminished by the lightness of the morning, the boy’s lost this fear. The change of colors that came with the change of weather also symbolized the darkness and savagery that each of the boys possessed. The beginning of the chapter that Simon was murdered in began with “Over the island the build-up of clouds continued” (p. 160). It then said “Colors drained from water and trees and pink surfaces of rock, and the white and brown clouds brooded” (p. 160). This shows that the lighter colors like blue, green and pink were drained, and that the darker colors such as brown began to form, which symbolizes the decrease of innocence and increase of savagery that was associated with the act that the boys were about to commit. As the time got closer to the murder, the weather darkened and became blacker as a storm approached; “There was a blink of bright light beyond the forest and the thunder exploded again so that a littlun began to whine” (p. 167). Finally, the contrast between the white colored smoke of the boys rescue symbol and the black smoke that was designed to kill Ralph is an example of the boy’s change from innocence to evil. When the boys made their fire that was designed to be a rescue signal, it was said that “A billow of white and yellow smoke reeked up” (p. 179). At the deepest moment of the boys’ descent to savagery, they designed a fire to murder Ralph. This fire was different, and was described as black: “His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island…” (p. 224). The darkening of color symbolizes the darkening of each of the boys’ hearts.

The different colors of each boy’s hair represented their different attributes and personalities. In the first line of the book, Ralph is described as having fair hair: “The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock…” (p. 1). This is very similar to his personality, as he proved himself to be fair, as he came up with the suggestion of using the conch to allow every single boy the chance to speak (p. 31), innocent, as he showed many thoughts and attributes that proved he was only a young (p. 6), and possibly had the most goodness out of all of the boys, as he ended up being the only boy on the island who wasn’t a savage. Jack, on the other hand, had bright red hair; “Inside the floating cloak he was tall, thin and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap” (p. 16). Red is also the color of blood, therefore symbolizing the bloodthirstiness of Jack, which can especially be seen when he becomes obsessed with hunting (p. 74). It is also the color of anger, and Jack proves himself to be very angry to the point where he became violent and hit Piggy (p. 75). Finally, Roger had black hair, and although it was not as obvious as Jack, he possessed the same evil and darkness. This can be proved when he intentionally killed Piggy by pulling the lever that released the bolder (p. 200), and by murdering Piggy, he proved himself to be the darkest of all of the boys on the island.

The different colors in Lord of the Flies are symbolic to the different personalities and attributes of each of the boys, and the different shades of color represent the contrast of the goodness and darkness of the island and the boys. The dark colors represent the evilness of the boys, and is seen through the darkness of the night sky, the bad weather, and the black smoke, and the light colors represent the goodness of the boys and the island, and is demonstrated through the creamy-white conch, the golden sun and the white sands that protected the boys from the fear of the beast. Color, for all these reasons, proves to be an important and reoccurring theme in Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

Ralph: Was He a Good Leader?

As First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be,” applies to many leaders and one of them is Ralph. In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a herd of school boys are stranded on an unknown island. There is no adult supervision and the boys are left to fend for themselves. Ralph is chosen as leader and rules come to be formed. However, this civilization doesn’t last long and the group disperses, most following Jack into savagery while a few stay with Ralph. Indeed, Ralph wasn’t a great leader who could take people where they don’t want to go but ought to be. If Ralph had possessed better leadership qualities, taken his thinking into action, and placed himself in the other boys’ shoes and considered what the boys would want, the civilization entrusted to him wouldn’t have broken down.

An important point is that Ralph didn’t bring himself to consider the other boys’ thoughts before saying things that would affect the social well-being of the island. Boys at the ages of about 6 through 12 would want fun and pleasure, and at the same time they need some boundary to their fun and some organization; nonetheless, Ralph didn’t seem to be able to do take such a perspective into account. In the book on page 45, Piggy exclaims, “You said Ralph was chief and you don’t give him time to think. Then when he says something you rush off…” Ralph didn’t stop to think before he went off mentioning the fire before everything was settled down. Obviously young boys would get excited at the thought of building a fire. “A fire! Make a fire!” was their initial response. The fire was not the only time this kind of action happened. In chapter fourJack apologizes for letting the fire out but Ralph doesn’t accept it and this results in Jack and the hunters becoming mad and annoyed. “That was a dirty trick,” Ralph says in response, still not giving in. Jack was able to win over a lot of the boys because he knew what they wanted. A good leader should be able to put themselves in their peoples’ shoes and brood about what they want before making the call. Ralph, simply put, did not do this.

Next, the chief of this island (Ralph) couldn’t bring himself to translate his plans into action. He would think and talk, but nothing would ever really happen. “And another thing-” “Too many things,” a memorable phrase on page 81, shows that Ralph would go on and on talking. You get to see that even the boys are tired of Ralph’s constant chatter about how to live the life of paradise as a life of boredom. And, you get to see later that none of Ralph’s rules would matter anymore later on when Jack rebels. “But you’ve talked and talked!” Jack profoundly states on page 81. Young boys are not patient, as one should naturally expect of the young and disoriented, but Ralph didn’t seem to know this. They have a short attention span. In addition his rules weren’t really well explained to the boys. If it was well explained then the boys wouldn’t have had such a problem with the laws. In other words Ralph was slow.

Another argument is that Ralph didn’t possess the leadership qualities that he should have had to lead a wayward bunch of boys. You get to see this breakdown in the beginning, when the boys and Ralph had same views they got along. However, when their views started changing they were all over the place. Ralph even admits it himself on page 82: “Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy.” If Ralph had possessed the leadership qualities that he should have had, then when they had opposing views he could have been able to let the boys see from his side of the view. Going back to the quote a good leader takes his or her people, once more, to where they don’t want to go but need to go. Ralph wasn’t able to do this.

Although one could argue that Ralph could’ve been a better leader the civilization didn’t only collapse because of Ralph. Jack Merridew and the “beastie” also took a part in this too: “They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if- as if it wasn’t a good island,” Ralph observed. He was talking about how the “beastie” was affecting the littluns. The littluns’ fear passed onto most of the boys and this caused a lot of problems. The “beastie” represented the dark, evil side of the human nature. There was also another factor, Jack Merridew. He changed so much at his time on the island. He turned into a savage and caused most of the boys to follow him to savagery which also lead to the downfall of the civilization and order. However if Ralph was a better leader he could’ve put a stop to it. He could’ve put a stop to all this. He could have comforted the littluns from their fears of the beastie and caused Jack to stop from turning into a mad barbarian, but he didn’t.

Ralph, despite his qualities of thoughtfulness and compassion, wasn’t a strong leader; if he had been the civilization of the island wouldn’t have died out. Ralph did not have the leadership essence, did not take his thinking to action, and he didn’t place himself in his people’s shoes and ponder what they want and what they need. His failure of empathy was, ultimately, a failure of leadership.

The Littluns: Analysis of “Lord of the Flies”

What do you think of when someone says “children?” Sweet, innocent, and naive are just some of the adjectives that today’s society has placed on the common image of society’s own youngest members. Yet in Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the children who are stranded on an island after their plane has crashed turn into murderous, hateful humans. There is, however, a group of children on the island who seem to not be at fault for any of the horrible things that happened on this island: the littluns. These were the smallest children on the island; the littluns do commit some of the horrendous things that occur in the novel, but they (unlike some of their bigger companions) do not know any better. Although the role that they play in the novel is small, their impact on the reader and their relation to symbolism is big. The littluns represent the innocence of young children, and also function as stand-ins for the normal everyday people of the world.

An example of the complexity of the littluns involves their childish ways. Kids are supposed to always be playing and almost always trying to be mischievous; as adults see them, children are pure and always seem to be happy. However, this nature seems to completely change throughout the course of the novel. At the beginning, the littluns are cheerful and follow the path that Ralph has made. They release all of their inhibitions and look at their change of circumstances as a fun and exciting adventure with no adults. Throughout the novel, the island changes from a civilized paradise into a chaotic hell. There are fights, murders, and all sorts of disturbance and discord. However, one thing that never changes is that the littluns continue to play. What changes with their playing, though, was that it started to lose its purpose. Golding indicates that the youngsters were playing aimlessly, just because that was the only thing that they could think of doing; it was a habit that they were accustomed to. Examining this, one can come to the conclusion that the island has had a deep and negative effect on the littluns. They have lost their festive and happy spirits, as well as their innocence, even if their play persists in its external form.

The littluns’ innocence was primarily lost because of the fear and emotional damage that they suffered. An example of this alteration was the first encounter of the beastie. The boy who recounts the story is, “(a) shrimp of a boy, about six years old, and one side of his face was blotted out by a mulberry-colored birthmark … he bored into the grass with one toe … the small boy twisted further into himself” (35). The boy described here is quite obviously very scared and shy because of what he has seen. Later, we learn that the boy has mysteriously disappeared. Although the precise reaction is not stated in the book, one can assume that this event shook all of the littluns, who are probably now more fearful than ever. Another example of the vulnerability of the littluns is Percival, a character in the novel who has suffered extreme psychological damage. In the middle of the story, he is seen on the sand constantly repeating his full name and addressing himself. This is an attempt to prepare himself for the day in which someone will come and save him, although it is not healthy that he is constantly saying the same thing to himself. When help finally arrives, he is in utter disbelief and completely forgets what he was practicing all along.

This group of relatively young boys also represents a bigger idea; the idea of normal civilized people. The littluns are heavily influenced by the biguns (Jack, Ralph, Piggy, etc.), and when the bigguns descend into chaos or do not provide a sense of stability, their younger companions also descend into chaos. The littluns do whatever the bigguns tell them to. The biggest decision they made was whether to choose Ralph or Jack as their leader, in a process somewhat like a democratic election. Jack provided a more fun and adventurous plan, while Ralph provided a safe and secure plan. For most of the littluns, Jack’s ideas were more appealing and thus they chose to be led by Jack. This decision turned out to be a huge advantage for Jack, giving his group more manpower and “soldiers.” The leaders have to be able to understand the needs of the people, and in this case the littluns; despite Jack’s victory, Ralph quite obviously understood what they were thinking. At a meeting he said, “Well, they’re frightened… Have you been awake at night?…they talk and scream” (52). He sees the problem and is trying to work out a solution. Yet Jack is much more selfish and puts his needs before the needs of the groups. When Ralph brings up this topic, all he can say is “As if it wasn’t a good island” (52) and “They’re batty” (52). His ways of confronting the issues are through denying them and downplaying their importance. Much like citizens today, the littluns need a leader, and that leader can either help them or destroy them.

It is evident that the littluns went from being innocent to victims becoming of the the worst of human nature. They were kept in fear, which psychologically scarred them. They were no longer the same kids who arrived on the island; in the end they had a much darker view of the real world. Human need their leaders, and these leaders must be willing to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of the group. The same fears are ever-present in the real world. With every new leader we choose, we may remain the civilization that we have always been, or take a turn for a darker and scarier society.