This essay aims to explain why and how the move from civilized children to savagery occurred on the island in Lord of the Flies. It also looks at the reasons the term “savage” is used in the novel, as well as the abuse of authority in it. It suggests that the move to savagery is caused by one person, Jack Merridew, who acts as a catalyst for the rest of the boys on the island.
From the first chapter in the novel, it is evident that that the boys rely on rules and look for some sort of authority to follow. Piggy asks, “Where’s the man with the megaphone?” Throughout the start of the book we see this trend continuing. Still in chapter one we see that as soon as the boys begin to find one another, they immediately ask where the grown ups are, this time Piggy asks, “Aren’t there any grownups at all?” And Jack asks, “Where’s the man with the trumpet?” We also see how they assemble due to the sound of the conch and immediately listen to Ralph, as he is the one in possession of it. It is evident in the text when it says “Signs of life were visible now on the beach.” (Occurs shortly after conch was blown) and “At last Ralph ceased to blow and sat there [and] there was silence.”
We also see how the oldest boys immediately put themselves in the position of some sort of power, “Ralph raised a hand for silence.” And when Jack was asked to be captain, “With dreary obedience the choir raised their hands.” It is therefore safe to say that when the boys first meet at the beginning of the novel, they immediately create some sort of ruling system in terms of the conch and age. As there are two that feel they should be leader, they have a democratic election, much like a modern society would have. Ralph wins this election and does so under fair conditions, “Every hand outside the choir except Piggy’s was raised immediately. Then Piggy, too, raised his hand.” So we now have a tribe, which is happy, with a leader. Why then, are these rules not adhered to?
The term savage is first used on page 27 in the novel when Jack says, “we’re not savages.” and “we’ve got to do the right things.” So Jack, the one who goes on to lead the tribe of savages, actually says that they are not savages. This indicates the state of denial Jack is in and shows that the move to savagery was not one of choice, but rather of situation. Ralph, the only one who is not part of the savage tribe at the end of the novel, is also described as a savage in the book after an incident concerning the fire, which made “him savage”. We can see that, in the same way as the beast, there is that evil in every boy that is reflected somewhere through the novel. Jack acts as the catalyst (person who brings about great change) that makes the others feel that savagery is all right; he represents the instinct of savagery and no rules within all human beings.
The first time in the novel that Ralph refers to the hunters as savages is on page 61 when he asks whether they are, “Humans? Or animals? Or savages?” When Jack realizes that the others are highly fond of hunting and the idea of killing and eating their catch, he becomes more power-hungry and is hatred and jealousy for Ralph grows as he sees the way they looked “at each other in uneasy admiration” of him and he feels he should be leader. He uses their fear of the beast to manipulate them into hunting and killing by saying things like, ” We’re strong–we hunt!” and “If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat–!” This creates the mindset amongst the boys that the hunters are safe from the beast and they therefore want to become a hunter. Once they have become one and there are no longer Ralph’s rules, the savagery comes naturally until the point where Ralph can no longer identify individuals but rather “anonymous savages”.
The novel backs up my thoughts on the issue we are discussing. From the evidence at hand it is true to say that the move from civilized children to savagery occurred because the ruling system at hand was not respected and the inner evil (savage) in all kids was made acceptable by one individual who can therefore be called the catalyst in this movement.