Golding is telling us that without rules and organisation, civilisation cannot exist and that there is a beast in everyone, it is just a question if it can be controlled. His message is conveyed by the action of boys as they transform from civilised schoolboys into murderous savages.
At the beginning of the novel, a group of schoolboys crash-land on an uninhabited island. Golding has experimented with boys to see how they would react without adults, and also the fact that children are more easily manipulated. They are an allegory for everyone, as savagery is a part of us, but it is harnessed by rules and order. Golding wants to show how easily savagery can take over once rules have been broken. He has placed them on an uninhabited island with food and water. 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 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. 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.
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.
During the novel, the boys are haunted by a beast. It starts off when a ‘littlun’, or younger boy, misinterprets some creepers for snakes. 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. 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. 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 has an 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. 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 killing 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, his beast takes over. 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.
Everyone has an inner beast; it is just a question if it can be controlled. This beast can be controlled by organisation and rules, or the goodness of heart. 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.
At the beginning of the novel, Piggy finds a conch. He gives it to Ralph to blow, so everyone can be brought to one place by the sound. Ralph is elected chief, as he blew the conch. He forms rules to ensure order is kept. His 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. 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 immature children. This shows that the boys are mature enough to run a community.
As the novel progresses, the conch is mentioned less and less. This is because savagery is mentioned more and more. As the others become more savage, Ralph, Piggy and Simon obey the rules and don’t become as savage. However Ralph is tempted to become savage on a number of occasions when he forgets that they need to be rescued. Both Ralph and Piggy take part in the savage killing of Simon.
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 on his own, 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. It 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.
In conclusion, Golding is telling us that without rules and organisation, civilisation cannot exist and that there is a beast in everyone, it is just a question if it can be controlled. This beast can be controlled by rules and organisation. It represents 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 descend into its primitive, savage days.