"Lord of the Flies" William Golding Scenes
In an essay about his novel “Lord of the Flies”, William Golding wrote: “The boys try to construct a civilisation on the island; but it breaks down in blood and terror because the boys are suffering from the terrible disease of being human”. Discuss your own response to the novel in light of this statement.
When the boys all arrive on the island, due to their plane crashing while on the way to be evacuated, they find themselves in beautiful surroundings, a place which appears to be completely uninhabited with only them, no girls or adults.
While on the island they attempt to establish a society among themselves. Quite early on in the novel the reader is introduced to the three main characters of Golding’s novel, Ralph, Jack and Piggy, and immediately we are struck with their contrasting personalities, which shape the way things turn out on the island from the very beginning.
As soon as they’re on the island Piggy and Ralph discover the conch, a shell that becomes both the boys’ only symbol of hope and democracy.
When they first discover it in the sea, and finally retrieve it, it is Piggy, who first suggests the idea of using it to call a meeting,
“We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting.”
This is the first attempt to organise things on the island. Once a meeting is called we see straight away the contrast in the two boys of which contention for leadership will hang. Jack Merridew appears to be stronger, more outspoken, determined and his strict ruling is seen when ruling over his choir, as head chorister. Demonstrating his authority to the rest of the group as if presenting them with a warning, showing them that people will obey him, even it was unenthusiastic, monotonous obedience, and that he has that power over this small group of choir boys. His society of which we later see, is not one of democracy, unlike Ralph’s, but a dictatorship, held together by fear. Demonstrating Ralph’s nature and ideas,
“Seems we ought to have a chief to decide things”
He continues to pursue his original ideas of getting some kind of order within the group, but immediately, after hearing the mention of chief, Jack Merridew takes it upon himself to assume that he should be chief. This complete arrogance and assumption displayed by Jack creates the first tension between Jack and Ralph, although Jack seems to have forgotten they are no longer in a normal, civilised environment of home, but stranded on a desert island, in the need to be rescued. In order to make a fair decision, it is a vote which decides who will be chief on the island, although Jack seems the obvious leader, it is Ralph’s authoritative silence and the fact that he has the conch, which seems to win him the title of chief. Despite Jacks obvious embarrassment of being declined the right to be chief,
“Jack’s face disappeared under a blush of mortification.”
Ralph through his kind-heartedness and generosity feels it necessary to offer Jack something,
“The choir belongs to you of course.”
This perhaps in a peace offering, or rather to prevent later disruption of peace due to Jacks obvious annoyance at not being chief. Jack decides that his responsibility of the choir will become hunters. We see that later this is one of the greatest weapons that Jack uses in order gain more people into his society or “tribe”, by the fact that he has that power to determine whether they get meat or not.
Ralph begins to think what needs to be done on the island, and starts to set tasks and rules. Now apparent to the reader that Ralph the new chief of the group has begin to set up some sort of society, one which is fair, orderly and democratic – a civilisation, an attempt to mimic the society which he, and the rest of the group were brought up in and so used to.
“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English…”
This is a good indication of Ralph’s society, the one he wants to try and create as well as the one he came from. In order to form this society they are in need of more rules and lots of organisation. Ralph decides that the most important thing on the island would be the fire which they should keep burning at all time, in order for them to have any chance of being rescued, because naturally a rescue is of paramount importance, for all of them,
“We’ve got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day there may be a ship…”
The idea of having a fire burning constantly, is of course a very good idea, but as a lot of the ideas which follow this one, everyone is eager to help initially, but after the excitement and ‘glamour’ wear off, so does interest in the task at hand and the number of people contributing to helping dwindle down to almost nothing,
“When the meeting was over they’d work for five minutes then wander off or go hunting.”
This is a prime example of how things deteriorate within society due to the lack of interest and commitment, but we as human beings, are of course the first to complain to others when something is not done. This is demonstrated through the boys, and in the end its Ralph, Piggy, Sam and Eric who are left to complete the jobs. The failure to keep the fire going is another example,
“You let the fire out”
This lost them the chance they had of an early rescue, because Jack thought it more necessary to kill a pig over being rescued. One could say that they were so caught up in the moment, at the prospect of having a relatively decent meal, or at least an alternative to fruit, that they did not notice the ship, and forgot to keep the fire going or that they were drawn into partaking in the ritual of killing the pig. Ralph obviously furious at this diminishment of responsibility, a task that is not hard, yet of such great importance was neglected. One could say that the remainder of the rules Ralph sets up in a desperate attempt to create a society of which he leads as a result of democratic voting, slowing diminishes from here onwards, even if it is in the simplest of tasks. Quite obviously if all members of the group worked together, things would happen much more quickly and efficiently because on the island some things can not be done single-handedly,
“How could I, all by myself?”
This is another good example of how people sometimes cannot do everything by themselves and require help from others, but as Piggy said, he was unable to gather all the names of the younger children all by himself, so yet again what started off as a sensible idea, failed because of lack of help. I think that this is a good representation of how society needs to work all together in order to achieve things, and that people are unable to achieve this, when they are left to do it by themselves, but because of our natural instinct as human beings, we lose interest in what we are meant to be doing, and more often than not to our own detriment. I think that this is one of the things that Golding is trying to demonstrate to us. But because the two strongest boys on the island – Jack and Ralph, failed to work together and reach an agreement, it lead to a break up involving blood and terror, and eventually a split into two different civilisations.
There are further rules that are made on the island in order to create some sort of civilisation on the grounds of basic cleanliness and hygiene, one of which was that the boys would go to the toilet on the rocks, another was that fresh water would be stored in coconut shells, so it was always available. Both these rules seem to disintegrate over a short period of time, however I think one of the most significant signs that their society is breaking down, due to natural human instinct and behaviour, is the building of the shelters.
I think the whole process in which this happens, alone represents what is going on throughout the island. When the idea is first suggested everyone joins in with enthusiasm, but slowly the building of the shelters breaks down and there seems to be more important things to do on the island as the boys lose interest, therefore the number of people who are building decreases and with it the level of work and standard of the shelters.
“We all built the first one, four of us the second one, and me ‘n’ Simon built the last one over there”
Although at the end of the day, there were only a couple of the boys helping to build the shelters, it is clear that every one of the boys needed to have the shelters, not physically but emotionally, they need somewhere to call ‘home’, to provide them as human beings, that natural desire to feel secure and safe.
“So we need shelters as a sort of – ” ” Home”
This need for security stems from their self – created fear of this beast, that supposedly inhabits the island, and their need to protect themselves from it.
As if stepping onto a slippery slope this outlines their rapid downfall, this is seen when Jack evidently forms a ‘tribe’ like group of hunters. This escalates into dancing, singing ritual like songs, and the killing of pigs on the island. Perhaps the most gruesome of the killing of the pigs is when the boys ruthlessly attack a mothering sow and her piglets. A picture of complete innocence, vulnerability and maternal bliss that is unnecessarily disrupted.
“the great bladder of her belly was fringed with a row of piglets that slept or burrowed or squeaked”
The reader is presented with such a horrific and violent picture of the blood and terror, that we forget that we are dealing with little boys, the sheer terror displayed by this susceptible and undeserving mother with her offspring, make it very clear how things begin to break up in such a manner,
“the terrified squealing became a high – pitched scream”
We question what the motives were to do this, but even as Ralph said shortly after, he himself took part in the role – playing game, by which Robert pretended to be a pig. This activity passes over the boundaries of a game, and Robert is in visible pain, but still the boy’s stab at him with spears.
“The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering”
This simple quote could explain why both these terribly abnormal and shocking things take place. It is because human beings are drawn into the sheer excitement of the ‘moment’ and seem to be pulled along with what everyone else is doing; much like what occurs in gang attacks in today’s society. There is a lot of doubt surrounding whether people in the gang would have attacked their same victim if they had been alone. This also applies to the boys.
Even the nicest of the group – Ralph is pulled in and feels the need to join in with the game, despite his original hesitant attitude. This displays to us human beings’ natural instinct to explore and also the weakness within us and our lack of ability to ‘stand alone’, and that every one of us have this desire to search and explore as well as lack of mental strength but alone the desire to hurt, and how we would pursue this desire, if given the opportunity. We see the boys’ thrill in killing the sow, in the blood on their hands, and the total exhilaration,
“He giggled and flinked them, while the boys laughed at his reeking palms”
This is a disturbing image of the boys taking complete joy in killing her, and even certain sexual connotations which could be linked to their actions,
“wedded to her in lust”
This is not how human beings are meant to act but Golding tries to show us the disturbing truth. Golding is showing us the results of this terrible disease that we all suffer from, which is being human. He is trying to demonstrate to us what terrible things human beings do and are capable of. We see it displayed in every day life, in a psychopathic killer for example, whose actions often have sexual links to what he or she does. Even though we see this in everyday life, people are made to see it in this microcosm on the island more clearly, and a question is asked on the island, one that society does not often ask, perhaps because we are too afraid of what the answer might be,
“What makes things break up like they do?”
Piggy does ask this question, because he starts to realise things on the island are beginning to deteriorate. Through this microcosm we are reminded of what is going on in the outside world and that there is a war going on outside, it is clear that when the Naval officer comes to rescue them, that human beings are so blind to what is happening around us, we don’t recognise what we are doing,
“I should have thought that a pack of British boys… – would have been able to put up a better show than that…”
The Naval officer says this as well as ignorantly, jokingly asks whether people have died, unaware that people have actually died. So the horror starts to emerge. It is ironic that the officer says this, as he does not recognise that he himself, as a British adult is in the same position as these boys and that he too is fighting a war.
That the ship that he has come to rescue them in is a battle ship and the reason that these boys were stranded on this island is because their plane was shot down and the maimed remains of their pilot lie on top of the hill, because of the war that he is partaking in. This is why this novel is seen as a fable, because Golding is trying to illustrate to the reader how we don’t see what we are doing to fellow human beings, as well as the world that we live in, and this is because we are human, and sadly we cannot help it.
When Simon, the quieter member of the group, goes off by himself, almost as a type of mediation and a search for peace, as an escape from the chaos, which surrounds him. When alone Simon hallucinates, and in this trance, during an imaginary conversation with ‘Lord of the Flies’, demonstrates how close to the truth he comes. He begins to see what’s going on; on the island and that it is only themselves they have to fear. All the terror, which haunts every one of them on the island, is of their own making. It shows there is no beast, the only evil there is, is in humans and the only threat to a beautiful world is humans.
“You knew didn’t you? I’m part of you. Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go. Why things are what they are.”
By writing this, Golding is trying to show the reader that, because we’re human, it is only ourselves we have to fear, because of our natural instinct as human beings, we create what we fear; we alone destroy the world in which we live. All human beings naturally have the power to destruct, and we are the only ones who can stop it.
I think that this is what he is trying to say, and has shown it through the boys, through the way that their own civilisation breaks up in blood and terror. In this blood and terror, a war begins to develop between the two societies, which divide the boys. The one is the original democratic society of which Ralph still tries desperately to remain loyal to. The other, which has now developed, is that of Jacks society, which is ruled by fear and threat. He uses his hunting power against them by bribing them with the fact that he is the one that provides them with meat but, as well as providing it, he also has the power, to deny them of it,
“Jack meant to refuse meat as an assertion of power…”
Jack unfairly teases the boys with the power he has over them, but eventually he always seems to give it to them. By doing this, the boys respect him, but he also expects them to remain forever grateful for his offering. Bribing them to become a member of his society,
“Who’ll join my tribe and have fun?”
Jack is offering fun and excitement, while Ralph is still trying to remind them of and grasp at their old democratic society. Sadly the rest of the boys do not possess enough courage to stand up for their rights and for what they believe in, they cowardly decided to leave Ralph’s group, again possibly due to the weakness of human nature, to go and ‘work’ for Jack. I use the word ‘work’ because in a way this is what the boys find themselves doing- working for this god like figure, which Jack and created for himself.
“the chief has spoken”
He is almost worshipped by the boys, and now there is even some sort of taboo surrounding the word ‘Jack’. This unbelievable, yet real, worshipping of Jack is hard to grasp, yet it is because he is the giver of meat. Once again displaying how weak we as human beings are. Even though Ralph doesn’t join Jacks tribe, he does find himself eating the meat. He is embarrassed by this fact, although he is only exercising his human nature,
“He meant to refuse meat but his past diet of fruit and nuts…gave him too little resistance.”
He loses his will-power when meat is involved because of his hunger, his ideals and morals, seem to fall by the way side for a short amount of time- much like any other human being would do, and he is embarrassed by the fact that he has eaten the meat.
This need for food could have been one of the reasons that Piggy and Ralph were involved in killing Simon. But I think the main reason was their natural need for security and safety within a group, after they were left alone, following the departure of the rest of the boys, to follow Jack, they were alone, away from home, overtaken with fear. This fear led them to Jacks part of the island, because they wanted company, they didn’t want to be alone,
“Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society”
Being human beings they craved refuge and protection even if it was in a mad frenzy of a society. Once there, they found themselves being drawn in and evidently taking part in the killing of one of the kindest boys on the island. This is ironic because this was the boy who was going to save them, to tell them everything was going to be all right and that there was no beast,
“It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill.”
Golding links the killing of Simon to the crucifixion of Jesus because he too was killed by the very people he was trying to help. But the boys never find out what Simon was going to tell them, because they killed him. This is an example of how even the nicest people can be drawn in, and lead to do unlawful things when under different circumstances, or faced with fear and I think this is what Golding is trying to say. Ralph and Piggy, are quite obviously kind people, but were lead to partake in the killing of Simon, because being in the group nourished their need for security, and as human beings they needed to have this. Another prime example of how cruel human beings can be, and how every person possess this ability to be cruel to other human beings, is when Ralph even though he the kind, generous one tells the rest of the group Piggy’s nickname,
“He’s not fatty – his real names Piggy”
Ralph betrays Piggy by telling the rest of the group what his nickname is, after he specifically asked him not to tell anyone. This accentuates how their civilisation has broken up in blood and terror and I think this is why Piggy and Ralph go into a period of denial because they start to see what is happening, but they don’t want to face the truth. Piggy struggles to face reality, making excuses for what happened, and trying to rationalise the situation,
“We was scared! Anything might have happened.”
He’s trying to pretend they weren’t part of it that it never happened. This is so like what happens in today’s society, through denial, as a symptom of this disease of being human they try to eradicate what they have done, in the hope that if they ignore it will not affect them. But unfortunately it does, and Ralph faces the horrible realisation of what’s happened and consequently fear reigns.
This fear that Ralph starts to fear increases and subsequently turns into complete terror, after his friend Piggy is killed, being the last remaining member of his society, is reduced to an animal.
“they’re going to hunt you tomorrow”
Ralph is warned by Sam and Eric in secret, and hears how Jack and is tribe are planning to kill him in the same manner they did the sow,
“Roger sharpened a stick at both ends.”
Ralph is terrified, but struggles to understand what they are actually going to do it him, would they really do it? This complete terror is a result of his own people – human beings. He has lost everything that gave him structure and security, including Piggy and now all his can do is concentrate on hiding.
“he wondered if a pig would agree”
Ironically in order to survive he is forced to think like a pig, cornered in a desperate attempt to hide as he is hunted down by savages. It is hard to believe that human beings could cause such terror and inflict it on other human beings. This demonstrates to us, how, when things deteriorate, people lose control and when this happens they do have the ability to do such horrific things. This accentuates to the reader just how drastic the break up in their civilisation is and that how the severity of evil rapidly increases over a relatively short period of time.
This drastic deterioration is seen just previously to when Ralph himself is hunted, when the boys with whom he co-habits viciously kill Piggy. With Piggy’s death comes the complete and utter destruction of the conch, the last symbol of hope, democracy and rules
“the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.”
This devastation of the conch symbolises the breaking of the comfortable link with any kind of civilisation they might have had and, home. After Piggy’s death Ralph comes to the same realisation that Simon had come to, that it is only themselves they have to fear, that this false creature which put the fear into all of them, does not exist and that humans create their own terror – this is because they are suffering from that terrible disease which seems to possess everyone of us, no matter how old that person is, these boys are only young children who still grasp at old memories of home,
“When you went to bed there was a bowl of cornflakes with sugar and cream.”
This is a simple reminder that how ever savage these boys appear to be, they are still children and I think this is why the Naval officer finds it so hard to come to terms with what has happened among them, on the island. The feelings of the officer are also echoed by the reader, as we are all human beings it is hard to accept these t terrible things occur as a result of our human instincts.
I think that Golding is trying to tell people and to show them, to make them see what human beings really are. This is why it is a fable because William Golding is trying to demonstrate to the world through this microcosm on the island what is happening after seeing it first hand, fighting in the war himself he saw the blood and terror, the killing and devastation human beings are capable of and because of this it has left him with very significant feelings and exclamations towards the end of his novel;
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of mans heart and the fall through the air of the true wise friend called Piggy.”
Illustrating how everyone suffers merely as a result of themselves, we only have ourselves to blame and that there is evil, which possesses every human being. It’s a terrible disease, which has hold of every single one of us.
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