Law Vs. Anarchy in "Lord of the Flies"

Law Vs. Anarchy in "Lord of the Flies"

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William Golding's allegorical Lord of the Flies portrays the struggle of a group of British boarding-school boys who are marooned on an island in the tropics. They quickly band together and form a democratic system to govern themselves. The job of chief is quickly given to Ralph, which infuriates Jack, who already possesses the qualities of a skilled leader. Jack's anger increases, and he continually pushes the boundaries of his role in the group. Eventually, when the boys refuse to relieve Ralph of his position, Jack declares himself the leader of a new tribe, beginning the deterioration of the democratic society and the birth of a new autocratic tribe. Although a democracy with rescue in mind is the obvious choice for civilized British boys, Jack's savage, heathen society prevails as the boys' regression from civilization shows that evil is stronger than good.

At the outset of the novel, Ralph forms a democratic society that functions smoothly, as the boys' instinct is still to behave according to the moral responsibilities of their upbringing and to live by rules. ."..there was a space around Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life" (62). Roger, although barely able to comprehend civility, still lives by the rules imposed upon him from birth, which helps to keep the democracy together. Also, Jack still shows a great deal of civility at the beginning of the story. "Ralph, I'll split up the choir--my hunters, that is--into groups, and we'll be responsible for keeping the fire going--" (42). Because at this point he is relatively content with his role as leader of the hunters, he contributes to the group by offering to keep the fire going.

However, when the boys' obsession with meat becomes foremost in their thought, the society formed by Ralph is challenged and begins to deteriorate. "Things are breaking up. I don't understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then--" (82). Because the boys' attention is focused on obtaining meat, they are no longer happy taking orders from Ralph. They do not want to bother with the upkeep of the fire, and would rather focus their energy on hunting instead of getting rescued. Although Jack feels fulfilled in his role as leader by providing meat, his gaffe is taking the choir boys away from the fire.

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"There was a ship. We might have gone home."..Jack went very red as he hacked and pulled on the pig. "We needed everyone... we need meat" (70). The boys are discovering that hunting provides more entertainment than building a fire ever could.

Jack's newly formed tribe succeeds because the boys find that hunting and playing games is more fun than rules and keeping a fire going. "I'm not going to play with you any longer. Not with you--...Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too." "I seen them [the boys] stealing off....the same way as he did himself..." (127). When Jack leaves the group, he asks the other boys to join him in his hunting. They too begin to realize that playing and hunting is much more enjoyable than laboring over a fire. But although Jack is the chief of this new tribe, he longs for total power, and as a result, develops into a brutal character.

As Jack becomes increasingly wild, barbaric, and cruel, the other boys begin to fear him. Adept at manipulating the other boys, he uses their fear of the beast to keep them in his power. "Tell us about the snake-thing. Now he says it was a beastie. A snake-thing. Ever so big. He saw it" (35). Although the boys joined Jack's tribe for protection from the beast, Jack plays on the boys' fear and begins to controls them in a dictatorial fashion. "'Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" (138). He is compelled to do this because his megalomaniac passion for complete control of the island overpowers his instinct to be civilized. The boys' fear of the beast is great, as evidenced in the scene when Samneric spot the beast. "It was furry...The beast moved too--There were eyes--teeth--claws--... The beast followed us" (100). Because Jack is so skilled at frightening them, and because they live under immense stress, the boys are jumpy and their imaginations are exceptionally vivid. This factor allows Jack to keep the boys in his control. "They [Jack's tribe] spread out nervously in the forest...He giggled and flicked them while the boys laughed nervously at his reeking palms" (133). The members of Jack's tribe live in fear of Jack, their totalitarian leader, unlike Ralph's dissolving tribe where democracy kept everyone equal. Although they long for their old life, "[We should be] looking like we used to, washed and hair brushed..." (155) the boys hunt alongside Jack to quell the fear he has instilled in them.

Although Jack's tribe is more compelling for boys tired of receiving orders and maintaining a fire, Ralph's party is the moral superior of the two; as well as potentially making rescue possible while it existed, the egalitarian civilization kept the island from chaos. Jack's tribe triumphs over Ralph's representative democracy because the boys are no longer governed by the rules and morals of civilization. The boys, influenced by Jack, became more and more primal, pandering to the most primitive of human behaviors and allowing corruption to prevail, leading to the eventual failure of the whole system.
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