On the surface, the storyline of Lord of the Flies is very entertaining. The idea of a group of people being stranded on a deserted island amuses people even to this day (i.e. – Lost, Survivor, etc.) However, William Golding wrote this novel as an allegorical tale meaning that everything – including characters, props, and actions – is attached to something deeper. When examining this story closer, Golding includes a general theme that the true nature of man is bad. He also injects many religious and biblical parallels that can be seen throughout the book. 300 years prior, Thomas Hobbes, in his famous piece The Leviathan, claimed that the “life of man” is, “nasty, brutish, and short.”1 Hobbes and Golding have similar views of the nature of man and Lord of the Flies is a fictional story exemplifying Hobbes thoughts in the Leviathan.
Golding sets up his theme with having certain characters represent different human aspects. The protagonist of the story, Ralph, represents civilization, leadership, good, and morals. Ralph was elected by the boys to be the leader of them and uses the conch, which is a symbol for civilization and order, to conduct group meetings. He does not use violence to get what he wants and cares about everyone in the group’s general welfare. His counterpart, Jack, is the antagonist of the story. Jack represents savagery, amorality, and the drive for power. Jack loves using force and violence in order to get what he wants and only cares about his own power over the group’s needs. Jack neglects the signal fire and does not help Ralph with building shelter for the group. We see this with his drive to kill a wild pig which elevates to using violence on the other boys which leads to the death of some. Ralph’s numb...
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... him killed at the hand of all the boys.
In order for Golding to portray his main argument, he draws in the reader with a fascinating tale of school children stranded on a deserted island. In the true state of nature, when there is no structure or laws to abide by; man is amoral, brutal, and bad in general. We need structure and government in our lives and society in order to tame this nature and protect us from our fellow counterparts. With the use of representative characters and religious references Golding portrays Hobbes’ belief in the Leviathan. We must know the true nature of ourselves in order to govern ourselves better and a society full of structure and laws.
1Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (England, 1651).
22 Kings 1:2-3 (ARV)
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin Group, 1954.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. England, 1651.
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