What is Golding Telling Us About Society in ‘Lord of the Flies’? Essay Sample
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- Category: novel
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Golding is telling us that in order for society to work well, the evil within must be controlled. The only way to control this ‘inner savagery’ is to have rules and order. Golding experiments with his theory using a group of schoolboys who crash-land on an uninhabited island- with everything they need to survive. The shocking transformation of the boys from civilised pupils to murderous savages coincides with the breakdown of rules.
Golding has experimented with boys to see how they would react without adults, and also the fact that children are more easily manipulated. This means that their transformation would be quicker than adults, which is ironic because at the time the boys are on the island, World War Two has broken out. The events on the island can be seen as an allegory for what is happening outside of it, and the actions of the boys startlingly mirror what is actually happening in the world. The boys are an extended metaphor for everyone, as savagery is a part of us, but it is harnessed by rules and order.
After they have crash-landed, two characters emerge- Ralph and Piggy. Ralph is excited by the idea that there are no adults on the island so he can have fun:
‘In the middle of the scar he stood on his head and grinned at the reversed fat boy. “No grown-ups!”
However, Piggy is worried that there are no grown ups on the island, so he may be bullied. Piggy is different from the other boys because he is fat and wears glasses, things which the others exploit as the novel progresses. Piggy can be seen as a victim of the Holocaust, because he is different. Many Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and disabled people were murdered because they were different, and Piggy is an extended metaphor for them, because he is eventually killed. Piggy is the most intelligent boy on the island, and if he was leader, then maybe things would have turned out better. However, the fact that he is different detracts him from being the leader.
Piggy finds a conch and gives it to Ralph to blow. After he blows it, all the other boys on the island meet up and because Ralph blew the conch, he is elected chief. This democratic election shows that Ralph is an allegory of Winston Churchill, and he also gives stirring speeches like the great Prime Minister. Out of this election emerges another character- Jack. Jack is a character who loves being in command and control. However, he is not elected chief, but eventually gets power by force. He is an allegory of Adolf Hitler, as he snatches power and proclaims himself ‘Chief’, very much as Hitler proclaimed himself ‘Fuhrer’. He is also the one who starts breaking the rules, very much as Hitler did when he decided to destroy the Treaty of Versailles. The assemblies called by Ralph and Jack contrast, Ralph having stirring speeches to maintain control while Jack intimidating others to sustain control: ‘”Quiet!”‘. This also shows that Ralph is an extended metaphor of Churchill, giving hope, while Jack is an extended metaphor of Hitler, ruling under fear. Golding wants to show that the savagery taking part in the world at the time is because people are disobeying rules, such as when Hitler decided to invade neighbouring countries.
Ralph’s main objective is to keep the signal fire going so they can be rescued. He creates rules to ensure order is kept. In creating rules, Ralph has formed the boys into a new civilisation. Without the rules that Ralph has made, the boys would be in anarchy and become savage from the beginning. It is quite surprising that the boys impose rules and stick to them, because the first questions that come to the readers mind when they crash land on the island are “What are they going to do?” and “How are they going to survive?”. These two questions are immediately answered when Ralph makes the rules, because the boys are going to survive on the island until they are rescued, and they will survive by ensuring all rules are followed and order is kept. Their inner beasts are only exposed when rules break down; proving that Golding’s moral that in order for society to work well, the evil inside must be controlled by rules and order. The fact that the leader is voted through democracy and not dictatorship shows that the boys are going about things the right way, because the rules proclaimed would be equal for all.
Not only do rules harness the inner beasts inside us, they also enable control. Jack is the first one to say to have rules:
‘”Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks ’em-“‘
Jack is the first character to show savagery by the thought of punishing people, which is probably what he meant. He also wants rules to control what happens to those who break them, which is ironic as he is the first to break the rules.
Jack and his choir are appointed to keep the signal fire going. It is therefore, quite ironic, that the time when they decide to go and hunt instead of keeping the fire alight a ship can be seen. Without the smoke, the ship’s smoke dies off into the distance. Jack is also the one who interrupts Piggy: “You shut up!”
Jack breaks the rules because he wants power. Yet he is not punished and is not expected to be. He is a hypocrite, thinking he is above everyone else. When the fire goes out, hope is immediately lost, as the boys pinned so much on the signal fire. They decide to make more fires, but the same feeling of hope is lost.
Rules are made to ensure order and eradicate savagery. However rules are broken all the time, whether it be wearing a coat inside school or genocide. It is human nature to break rules, because we all make mistakes, want revenge and our ambition drives us to do so. This is why there is so much savagery in the world. This can all be controlled if everyone works for their need and not for their greed. This is difficult, because it is human nature to try and become the best person possible. Revenge is a human flaw, and the first sign of savagery is to want revenge. Sometimes rules and morals ensure we do not take revenge, but sometimes when we are so angry all that we have been taught gets thrown away and we expose our inner beast.
The boys’ appearances change quite a lot during the novel, as their hair gets longer and they paint their faces. The fact that Golding shows that the boys turn into tribal people as they become savage is rather prejudiced. Tribes do not fight each other, unlike what we call ‘the civilised world’. At the time that Golding wrote this novel, people who did not have technology and didn’t live in houses were seen as savages, and that’s probably why Golding used the fact that the boys looked more like savages as they became more savage. If the story was written now then maybe the boys would have weapons and would be killing each other using them, as those who kill each other are the true savages.
Ralph’s rules include that if anyone wishes to speak in assemblies, or the gathering of the boys to discuss a certain issue, then they should be holding the conch:
‘”I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.”‘
This shows that the conch represents order and civility. It also represents power, because it gives the one holding it the right to speak and be heard. By enforcing rules, Ralph has created a new civilisation. Just as a flag is a representation of a particular country, the conch is a representation of their civilisation, in which rules and organisation are a necessity. Also, Ralph does not say “next boy”, but “next person”, which implies that he treats the boys as mature adults and not immatur
e children. This shows that the boys are mature enough to run a community.
When the group splits up into Jack’s savage tribe and Ralph’s civilised community, Ralph, Piggy, Sam and Eric go to Jack’s tribe to get Piggy’s glasses back, which was stolen to make fire. The littluns are forgotten and left alone, which shows that order has changed to anarchy. Ralph’s group take the conch with them as a sign of civility and order, and how things should be. Piggy feels that the conch is the only power he has over Jack:
‘”You let me carry the conch, Ralph. I’ll show him the one thing he hasn’t got.”‘
This shows that Jack’s tribe do not have order or civility, because they do not possess the conch. When they get there, Ralph and Jack engage in a fight. Then Roger, from the top of Castle Rock, levers a huge boulder onto Piggy which kills him and destroys the conch.
‘…the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.’
With the conch gone, order and civility also vanishes. Ralph is left by himself, with Sam and Eric captured. Ralph flees.
The conch represents order and civility and when it is destroyed, all order and civility on the island is destroyed with it. The power from Ralph has gone, and he is left on his own. The conch is replaced by savagery, which consumes the entire island from that point.
The assemblies become less and less controlled. At the beginning of the novel, the assemblies are well controlled, civilised meetings with everyone obeying the rules that only Ralph, the Chief, could interrupt the others when they spoke and the only way for the others to speak was with the conch in their hands. However, as the novel progresses, the assemblies become more and more chaotic and out of control as everyone apart from Piggy speak without the conch and interrupt others. This is because there is less and less order and more and more savagery. A particular assembly of Ralph’s falls apart with the mention of the beast:
‘The careful plan of this assembly had broken down.’
The assemblies get more and more out of control as the rules get broken on a more regular basis. This signals the end of order and civility. Civilised discussions are replaced by savage arguments. Even Ralph forgets why some of the assemblies have taken place, because his uncontrollable curtain tempts him to become more and more inhuman. He is constantly reminded by Piggy that they need to be rescued. In another assembly, Jack splits apart from the group to form his own tribe:
‘”I’m not going to be part of Ralph’s lot-“‘
This signals the end of one united group, and the beginning of two divided ones- Ralph’s civilised society and Jack’s savage tribe.
The hunts are the first real sign of savagery. The first hunt that is talked about is Jack’s. He is by himself, and fails to kill. He tells Ralph:
‘The madness came into his eyes again. “I thought I might kill.”‘
Jack doesn’t want to kill to get food, but he enjoys killing. This shows that he is starting to become savage.
Almost all the boys are consumed by hunting as more takes place. The boys
come up with a chant:
‘”Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.”‘
This shows that the boys want to kill for the satisfaction associated with it, and not for the food. They talk of the blood after it. Ralph is not pleased, because the signal fire was let out. However, as more hunts take place, Ralph gets into them, and is happy that he hit a boar with his spear. When they pretend that Roger, a choir boy, is a boar, all the boys feel an urge to hurt him:
‘The desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering’
This shows that savagery is a part of everyone, and the only way to control it is to have rules. If a rule had been imposed of not to pretend that they were killing, then none of them would be tempted to hurt Roger
During the novel, the boys are haunted by a beast. It starts off when a ‘littlun’, or younger boy, misinterprets some creepers for snakes. Snakes are significant because this is the creature that tempted Eve to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Eve broke the rules by eating from the trees, and the downfall of man began. Humans began to suffer, as their inner beasts were exposed. This significant detail about snakes tells the reader that the beast will play a significant part in the novel, which it does.
No-one believes that there is a beast at first, but as the story goes on, the boys get frightened. However they have no reason for being scared so they have the beast in their minds to blame their fear on.
This beast is further misinterpreted as a dead parachutist. This is very ironic because the boys pray for an adult, to ensure order, but when the adult arrives he is dead. But Jack plays with the others’ minds telling them that if there was a beast, then he would hunt it down:
‘”Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong- we hunt. If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat-!”‘
This shows that Jack has taken the first step into becoming savage. By saying “Bollocks to the rules”, he has implied that he does not care for the rules, meaning he doesn’t care if he becomes savage. He plays with the others’ minds so he can be elected chief, guarding them from the beast. However, there is no beast that can be hunted, as Simon finds out
Simon is a representation of Jesus Christ, wanting to spread his message but killed. References to religion are once again revealed, maybe because Golding wants to show how inner evil is connected by a lack of religion. He may have been a very religious man, and as the Second World War was going on, many people were losing their faith. He may be using this story as passive propaganda for religion.
Simon has a hallucination when he confronts a pig’s head on a stick infested with flies. The pig’s head is a gift to the beast, given by Jack. The pig’s head, the Lord of the Flies, says to Simon in his hallucination that there is no beast that can be hunted, because the beast is a part of everyone:
‘”Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!…You knew didn’t you? I’m part of you?”‘
This shows that the beast is a part of everyone. It is just a question if it can be controlled. Lord of the Flies actually means devil. Jack’s beast is exposed the most, because he is the most savage. The character that can control his own inner beast the most is Piggy, maybe because he is weak and frightened and doesn’t like savagery, but he also sticks to the rules, as Simon and Ralph do, and these three characters can control their beast the most. However, Piggy and Ralph’s beasts are awakened when they take part in the killing of Simon.
Simon rushes to the rest so he can tell them that the Beast is within them and represents the darker, more savage side of human nature. While this is happening, everyone else is joining in a dance in which a boy, Roger, is a pig and the rest are pretending to kill him. Piggy and Ralph join in with the dance:
‘Piggy and Ralph under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society.’
This shows that because there is a storm coming, Ralph and Piggy join in with the dance so they can be safe with the others. Even though they want to be apart with the dance so they can feel safe, their savagery gets the better of them when the take part in the killing of Simon. The dance has a chant:
‘”Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”‘
Simon rushes to the boys to tell them the news, but is misinterpreted as the beast. He is attacked and killed: ‘The sticks fell…Only the beast lay still’.
Simon’s undelivered message that the Beast is within them and represents the darker, more savage side of human nature is found out by Ralph at then end:
‘Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart’.
Ralph and Piggy discuss Simon’s death the following morning. Ralph feels guilty while Piggy wants to erase the thought of his savagery from his mind completely. This shows that they both regret their savage actions and wish it had never happened, like committing adultery following a drunken night. They are not truly savage, but were drawn into the killing through the thought of safety by numbers.
However, towards the end of the novel, Ralph’s mind is constantly disturbed by an uncontrollable curtain, which stops him from thinking straight and makes him more primitive: ‘He paused lamely as the curtain flickered in his brain.’
This shows that Ralph starts to become savage, because he is not thinking efficiently and is becoming more animal like, or primitive. This is because he is becoming tempted to become savage because of the breakdown of order in the boys’ community. His uncontrollable curtain is like a gateway for his inner beast to escape, so when it shuts, everything he has learned about rules and order vanishes and his beast is exposed. Piggy is the character that can control his inner beast the most either because he is scared to show aggression to others or because he is strong and wants to stick to the rules. However, he still becomes savage to an extent, and if there were rules imposed to not kill, then Piggy’s beast would have escaped from its cage at that moment.
Everyone has an inner beast; it is just a question if it can be controlled. This beast can be controlled by organisation and rules. Jack creates a tribe of his own, who have no rules and organisation. Ralph’s group have rules and organisation. Jack’s tribe become savage and kill and torture members of Ralph’s group. Jack’s tribe have all awoken their inner beasts, while Ralph’s group can control theirs. The beast represents the darker, more savage side of human nature, and with rules and organisation, this beast can be controlled. However, when rules break down, everyone on the island become savage, especially after Piggy’s death and the eradication of the conch.
In conclusion, Golding is telling us that that in order for society to work well, the evil within must be controlled. The only way to control this ‘inner savagery’ is to have rules and order. The hunts and the beast represent savagery and darkness of human nature. The conch and the assemblies represent civility and order, and as the conch is mentioned less and less and the assemblies get more and more out of control, the beast within everyone awakens more and more from its sleep. At the end two groups are formed- the savage group of Jack’s and the civilised one of Ralph’s. Jack’s group are more of a tribe than a civilisation, because rules and organisation mean nothing to them. The fall of rules and organisation also means the rise of the boys inner beasts. Golding’s experiment shows us that the darkness of man’s heart can be controlled by rules and organisation. Adults are in charge of our world because they are mature enough to have rules and organisation. Without rules and organisation, man will continue to have wars and anguish.
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