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Humans, by nature, are genuinely good people who show compassion and concern for others, right? Well true, if we all lived in a utopian land. Unfortunately, humans are, in fact, evil and easily corrupted by others. In William Golding’s 1954 published Lord of the Flies, the boy’s on the island learn that a peaceful civilization is easily destroyed without cooperation or agreement. The frustration manifested itself, making a transformation of the boys into meat hungry, hunters, who even try to hunt the other boys who don’t follow the pack. Golding analyzes the flaws of human society, directly related to human nature.
Lord of the Flies is a novel written in the unknown future of 1954. Amidst a world of atomic warfare, a handful of boys find themselves deserted, and stranded on a coral, boat-shaped island. Ralph, the protagonist perceived it to be a paradise full of riches that could support a society. Taking a closer look, this “paradise” is crawling with bugs, fruit induced diarrhea, sharp thorns, and “skull like” coconuts. Also, horrendous storms destroy the serene landscapes, and uproot trees. In addition, certain places on the island signify different characters. The beach near the lagoon is where Piggy and Ralph first talk and find the conch, as well as hold their meetings. Not far away is the fruit orchard where the boys can eat, and inland from the lagoon is the jungle with pig trails and, which the "littluns" fear. The beast that haunts the children is a significant feature of the jungle. Yet, the beast is just a mental and physical manifestation of the boys’ own psyche. The jungle is also Simon's hiding place where he finds the pig's head that Jack mounted on a stake. The island has a mountain that Ralph, Simon, and Jack climb to ignite a rescue fire, which the boys must keep alive. Lastly, there is the castle on the island, where the first search for the beast is made, and soon becomes Jack's headquarters, after the group slits. The paradise island, an important feature in Golding’s story, represents a site of “hell on earth” and a struggle to survive for the boys as they let the fear of the beast grow inside of them.
Although the main protagonist and antagonist of the novel can be seen as “Ralph and Jack”, the other boys play a significant role in the novel, as well.
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Jack, the English choirboy, is more concerned hunting and killing. Jack is jealous when he is not elected as a leader and kind of a bully, often attacking Piggy, making fun of his “assmar” (Jack’s word for asthma). He challenges Ralph and starts his own tribe. Everyone joins him except Piggy and Ralph. Now in his primitive state, face painted, and hunters beside him, Jack discards all control of restricted behavior as he hounds the forest looking for pigs. As fear grows in his hunters of the threat of a “Beast”, Jack realizes he must keep their minds clean of fear, and immediately calls for another pig hunt. It is in this hunt that his hunters encounter another human, and unknowingly kill him. This human was Simon.
Simon is the quiet, shy, spiritual boy in the group. Being an epileptic he constantly visits the forest to contemplate nature and life. Simon is one of the most important characters because the story revolves around fear, and he is the only one who confronts his fear “of the beast” during one of his seizures. He realizes that the Lord of the Flies is the real beast, the evil in man. The beast on the mountain is nothing to fear, just death itself. Simon holds certain spiritual powers and becomes a Christ figure that tries to bring salvation to the boys. Yet, they refuse to hear him and Simon meets the same fate as Piggy.
Piggy is the overweight, myopic English boy, who is ridiculed by all the boys including Ralph. Piggy is blind and wears glasses, that’s help start the fire, which eventually rescues the boys. He warns the boys about their foolish behavior. He believes in order and authority and is a good advisor to Ralph, staying with him when Jack splits the group. Piggy is quite intellectual and has strong beliefs in scientific explanations and rational solutions to problems. He gathered all the boys together by making Ralph blow the conch; a symbol of justice and fairness. Yet, Piggy is still naïve, and believes you don’t fear the dark once you’re an adult. He keeps away from evil. In the story, Piggy’s glasses are broken, symbolically pointing to the breaking up of civilized society. He becomes completely blind, when his glasses are stolen and therefore isn’t able to dodge the boulder that kills him. The conch, a symbol of order and authority is crushed with him. His death represents the law of the jungle prevailing over civilization and is an end to innocence.
Golding had created a story none like any other, and one of the most unique aspects of his writing, is his simplicity. Golding, also creates moments of suspense and tension with short, choppy sentences that can be read quickly. He uses imagery to describe the events of Piggy’s death and Simon’s encounter with the Lord of the Flies. In the beginning, where the boys are searching the island, he describes it with light, color, and blissful imagery. The second description, however, tells of the boy’s searching for the beast, creating moods of gloom, fear, and isolation in the description. The conch and glasses are symbols of civilization, and with them breaking it shows evil over goodness. We can see foreshadowing when the first fire on the mountain top rages out of control killing then first victim and foreshadowing that life, like the fire, will rage out of control.
The central themes of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow commands, value the good of the many over the instinct to fulfill one’s immediate desires, act violently to gain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. He represents the conflict between the two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, who represents order and leadership, and Jack, who represents savagery and the desire for power. Golding shows how different people feel the influences of the instincts of civilization and savagery to different degrees. Piggy, for instance, has no savage feelings, while Roger seems barely capable of comprehending the rules of civilization.
Lord of the Flies is a novel that exhibits both, the good-hearted nature of humans, along with man’s evil flaws. Many argue that man is inherently evil. I on the other hand like to believe that we are all inherently good, until we are tempted with something to make us evil, like lots of money, fast cars, or just the feeling of being important.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Puttman Publishing Group, 1954.