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The Conflicting Societies in Lord of the Flies

 

      Throughout the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, many different conflicting societies develop.  These groups of young English schoolboys have conflicts between them for many different reasons.  Some of them are so spread apart in age that their beliefs and actions are very different.  Other groups are conflicting because they have different opinions about who the leader of the entire group should be.  The groups also argue about what their priorities should be while trapped on the island.  These conflicts continue to grow until the very end, when one group finally gains supremacy.

 

      From the very beginning it can be seen that the boys have already begun to divide into two groups.  When Ralph calls the first meeting the boys have together by summoning them with a conch shell, he decides they should vote on a leader.  A boy named Jack Merridew thinks that he should be the chief because he is "chapter chorister and head boy." (22)  Another boy nominates Ralph for leader, because he is the one that called for the meeting.  When it comes time to vote, the choir members vote for Jack, while all the other boys vote for Ralph.  After he is elected leader, Ralph tells Jack that he is in charge of his choir.  Jack tells Ralph that they will be the hunters, and Ralph agrees.  This causes the boys to be divided into one group led by Ralph, and the hunting group made up of the choir members, led by Jack Merridew.

 

      Being organized and civilized is very important to Ralph.  He decides that the group will have regular assemblies to discuss important issues.  He also decides that the person holding the conch shell, and this person alone, will be the only one aloud to talk.  At first, Ralph's ideas help the group to be more organized.  Another decision that Ralph makes is to build a fire.  This fire will be built at the top of

the mountain, so that ships passing by will be able to see it.  Ralph assures the rest of the boys that his

 

plan will work, and that they are sure to be discovered.  Shortly after the boys arrive on the island, there is a big storm.  Ralph decides that the boys need to make shelters, so they will be safe and warm at night.  He tells everyone that this is very important to their safety on the island, and that they all need to help build them.  However, everyone does not help build the shelters.  Ralph and Simon end up being the only ones working on them, while everyone else is off hunting or playing.

 

      Jack, as opposed to Ralph, seems to be more interested in the boys' present lives being fun and exciting.  He thinks more about hunting pigs for sport and food, rather than building fires and shelters for warmth and safety.  In fact, while Ralph and Simon are hard at work building shelters for everyone, Jack and his hunters are off in the jungle trying to kill a pig.  They spend all day doing this, and are unsuccessful.  This causes Ralph to get upset, because he previously told the group that their priority should be building shelters before they went off hunting.  When Ralph tells Jack this, he doesn't seem to understand.  This is not the only case in which Jack's hunting causes conflict between Ralph and Jack.  Shortly after the shelter incident, Jack and his hunter's decide to go hunting again.  This time, similar to the last, they leave an important job previously assigned to them to do so.  Ralph has assigned some of the hunters to make sure the signal fire stays burning, which means they must closely watch it at all times.  However, they decide to leave their job to participate in the excitement of the hunt.  While they are busy hunting, Ralph discovers a ship sailing by in the distance.  He looks up to the mountain to see if the fire is burning so the ship will see it, and discovers that it is not.  He is furious that Jack would let his hunters be so careless.  When Jack and the other hunters return from the hunt, they bring with them the pig which they successfully killed.  They are so thrilled that they were finally successful, that the news of the ship hardly seems to faze them.  Because of these events, the conflict between the two groups is greatly increased. 

 

During the time in which these events take place, another group of boys begins to be distinguished from the rest.  This group comes to be known as the "littluns."  The littluns' average age is

 

about six.  The lives that the littluns lead is "quite distinct, and at the same time intense." (59)  They eat for the majority of the day, and sleep and play for the remainder of it.  They are "very brown, and filthily dirty." (59)  Because they are so young, the littluns don't understand many of the actions that the older boys make.  When Ralph tells them they should help make shelters, they don't understand why it is such an important job.  For this reason, most of the littluns aren't much of a help with the shelters, fire, or much of anything else.  One day, a littlun with a mulberry-colored birthmark spoke out at an assembly.  He told the rest of the boys that he had discovered a "beastie".  He claimed that it looked like a "snake-thing", and that he saw it in the woods.  This news creates great tension among the boys.  The littluns are all scared by the frightening discovery, and the "biguns" (as the older boys are called), do not believe him.  When Jack tells the young boy that if there is a beastie he and his hunters will kill it, it makes Ralph angry.  Ralph does not believe that the beast exists, so when Jack plays along with it, he is upset with him.  This causes the tension between Ralph and Jack to grow even more. 

 

      As time goes by, Jack and his hunters become more and more savage.  They seem to be possessed by the danger and excitement that the hunt creates.  They paint their faces in order to look more daring.  They no longer have any order or civilization in their lives, and do not pay attention to the commands made by Ralph.  Many of the boys who used to be considered part of "Ralph's group" have now become part of Jack's hunters.  They no longer think about how to be rescued, but instead want to participate in the thrill of the hunt.  Many of the older boys have also started to believe in the beast since the time when the littlun claimed to see it.  Some of them even claimed to have seen it themselves.  This gives the boys another reason to become more savage.  They want to find the beast and kill it.  Even Ralph and Piggy start to become more interested in hunting than being rescued.  They have all been trapped on the island for so long, that hope of being rescued is beginning to fade away.  The cruel ways of Jack and his hunters gains supremacy over all other groups. 

     

 

 

The boys have become so savage and enchanted by killing, that they go so far as to kill one of their own kind.  One night at a feast, they start to dance and chant, "Kill the beast!  Cut his throat!  Spill his blood!" (152)  When Simon approaches the group, looking quite torn apart, the boys believe he is the beast.  They run at him, and begin to bite and tear at him until he is dead.  However, some of the boys, even though they participated in this feast, are still not completely transformed into savages.  They remain separate from Jack's tribe, with Ralph as their leader.  Jack's tribe raids Ralph's group, and steals their fire and Piggy's glasses.  When they go to confront Jack about this, Jack's tribe murders once again.  A boy named Roger rolls a giant boulder onto Piggy, and crushes him.  The only boys left with Ralph are forced to become part of Jack's tribe, so Ralph is the only one left.  Even Ralph is now beginning to forget about the civilized world, and being orderly.  All hope is gone.  Jack and his tribe have managed to turn a once educated group of English schoolboys into a pack of animal-like beasts.  To rid of the one boy who has not become a beast, Jack's tribe decides to have a man hunt.  They all get together and try to murder Ralph.  They start a great fire which takes over the whole island, trying to burn Ralph to death.  The only reason that Ralph is not killed is because a Navy ship spots the fire, and rescues the boys.

 

The novel Lord of the Flies shows how one group, when put under certain circumstances, can be completely transformed.  The group starts out as a group of schoolboys who try to work together in order to survive.  They try to use the skills they have been taught as civilized human beings to do whatever they can to be rescued.  However, things fall apart very quickly.  They lose sight of what they are trying to accomplish, and lose hope of being rescued.  The evil nature within the boys comes through, taking over their minds.  All they can think about now is hunting and killing.  Even the most responsible ones are transformed into savages, or they are murdered.       

         

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