Essay on Setting in 'Lord of the Flies'

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How the Setting Affects the Boys

In William Golding’s novel for students, “The Lord of The Flies,” The setting affects the boys in multiple different ways. Many of these ways can include fear, vulnerability and authority elaborating on the effects it will have on the boys later on in the novel. The topic of fear includes the thoughts of the beastie, as well as other topics, much like Authority. Authority takes a toll on the boys, as many of the events have to deal with some sort of authority. Events within this novel show plenty of evidence about the three previous points, as well as the fear and emotions shed by the young adolescent boys throughout, following the character development between Jack and Ralph, as well as many of the other boys, such as Simon and Piggy, and nonetheless the ‘littluns’ who are learning the different points and the difference between their two leaders, while all experiencing fear, power ridden leaders, and vulnerability.

The idea of Fear on the island amongst the setting makes the boys a very open target, Not only does the beastie scare them into the reality they are in currently. This so called beastie keeps the boys in check and keeps them scared, therefore they will see everything from a different view, as they don’t have adults on the island to prove them that the beastie does not exist on the island. While Ralph asks for a sign from the world that there are still grownups, a sign does emerge from the sky as a parachuter and becomes this so-called beast that everyone fears in this society (Babb 3). By searching the novel a bit to find other ideas about fear, it brings up the fact on how little Percival was telling the other boys about this so called beast that he had seen coming out of the ocean, which caused a small amount of panic amongst the little boys that were on the island (“Lord”, Novels, v. 36). Without the idea of fear, the boys would not understand the reality of the situation they are in currently at the time of the setting in the novel, in which could be so many different possibilities, especially when Piggy mentions the atom bomb.

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Going forward into the novel, another point of fear shown within the boys because of the setting is savagery, in which all but one of the boys remain civil throughout the novel, and the rest of them have reverted into a state of feral and savage in which they will not be able to return, unless they are brought back into a civilization which will change them. One of the indications of the turn to savagery is when Jack turns the feast into a cult-like ritual dance, eventually leading to Simon’s murder (Babb 3). During the ritual-like dance, one of the older boys Simon had been in contact with the pig head on a stick that Jack’s tribe left as an offering to the beast, in which it had told Simon “I am the beast”, “I’m part of you” and “Why things are what they are,” which elaborates the cruelty, irrationality, and the fear in every one of the boys on that island. (Babb 8). Many of the young boys mentioned within the novel show their change into savagery by putting on this war paint that Jack had put on his face in earlier chapters to differ himself from others as a hunter, and this is their depiction of savagery amongst every other character in the novel. These boys with the face paint started to act like savages and very much more, also being armed with sticks sharpened on one end to be used as spears, and one of the major threats towards Ralph is that there is a stick sharpened on both ends, which is a simple and very harsh implication that Ralph’s head will be cut off, placed on one end of the stick, and that stick would be shoved into the ground, much like how the stick with the sow’s head is planted into the ground (“Lord”, Novels, v. 36).

Another one of the various topics that are thrown out into the reader’s mind is weaknesses, which some of the boys throughout the novel show by their actions and how they are amongst the group of boys stranded on this island. The boys are stuck on this island with no adults, and only themselves and other boys that most of them do not know when their plane crashes on this unknown island in an attempt to escape the nuclear war occurring in Europe at the time of the setting in the novel. Piggy is also the only boy who understands the situation they are in clearly, and tries to tell the other boys that they might be there for a while without adults on the island, in response to Piggy’s statement, Ralph responds by telling the other boys that it is their island, and it is a good island. When the beastie gets brought up in one of the various meetings, the fear that is sparked creates a sense of weakness because the boys believe they might be attacked by this so-called beast (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2). The boys start to let their fear become their weakness and the littluns and others begin to have nightmares throughout the novel, which is also some form of weakness, as the boys do not understand the situation. “They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others as if-’ ‘as if it wasn’t a good island’” (Golding 52).

The second point that is brought up, which affects the setting is the types of authority the boys have amongst themselves on this island. One of the very prominent topics that elaborates on the point of authority is the conch. At the beginning of the novel, Piggy and Ralph roam the island a bit to find the rest of the boys who were on the plane when it crashed. Piggy brought up the idea of finding an item to call the other boys towards them, in the conch was introduced to the novel as an important symbol of authority. Piggy elaborates to Ralph on how to blow on the conch, which then helps Ralph and Piggy call the other boys on the island towards them for the first initial meeting amongst all of the boys stranded on the island. While Ralph starts to talk during the meeting, he has to create some sort of rules to keep the island as civilized as he possibly can, which is going to turn out quite difficult, so his go-to rule for authority is that whoever has the conch has the right to speak. “‘And another thing. We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have ‘hands up’ like at school.’ he held the conch before his face and glanced round the mouth ‘Then I’ll give him the conch.’ ‘conch?’ ‘That’s what this shell’s called. I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking” (Golding 33).

Ralph, as a leader understands what he has to do for the boys under his rule, but he has the help of Piggy to think rationally and to think about the more important things that need to be done on this island. When the boys first arrived on the island, the boys held a democracy to find out who should be chief of the civil group and take care of everybody. After a vote and with the winner, Ralph, being chief, it was set that Ralph would be responsible for the civilization that they would have to create on the island without any adults. Ralph continues to leave the choir boys under the rule of Jack Merridew because Jack wants to be chief yet he doesn’t get enough votes, so Jack decides to make his choir boys hunters to gather their food. With Ralph leading Piggy, Piggy seems to be one of the individuals who realizes that the shelters are equally as important as the fire for the long-term survival the boys would have to be going through, and Piggy makes that point clear to the others which Simon seems to be the only individual that helped Ralph build shelters (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2).

Jack may be the leader of the choir boys, which gives him a sense of authority amongst his boys, yet Jack decides to take his authority a little too far while under Ralph’s leadership and tries to one-up Ralph in ruling his little group. Ralph made Jack the leader of the choir boys due to him getting votes in the votes to be chief, in which Jack got to choose what he wanted his boys to be, and Jack chose that the choir boys would be hunters (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2). Throughout the novel, you can see the separation between Jack’s tribe and the old civilization that Ralph had put together, one of the main ways of being able to see this is the feast in which Jack tries to recruit those who are still left with Ralph to join him, and not only that, but he marks Ralph to be killed. Jack’s form of ruling his tribe is with violence and cruelty and he plays on his tribe member’s fears, telling them that he can protect them (“Lord”, Novels, v. 36). It is quite clear throughout the novel how the two leaders in the novel, Jack and Ralph, rule with their type of authority. As Jack rules his tribe with cruelty and violence, Ralph tries to rule his small remaining group, before he is the only one left and marked to be killed, with reason.

One of the last points that the setting affects the boys with is their vulnerability on the island, as they are all alone on the island with no adults. Ralph understands that where the plane has landed is an island, after exploring a little, and Piggy elaborates quite a bit that they might be stuck there for quite some time, and that nobody will know that the boys are on the island. In the reality of the situation, there was no alert for the remaining adults that these boys were stranded on the island, due to the situation in which the adults were said to be all dead. “‘They’re all dead,’ said Piggy ‘an; this is an island. Nobody doesn’t know we’re here. Your dad doesn’t know, nobody don’t know-’” (Golding 14). No adults survive the plane crash while evacuating Europe to Australia due to the nuclear war occurring, which descends into disorder, chaos, and inner and outer evil (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2).

Throughout the novel the boys start to realize that there is no way of being able to leave the island unless rescued by the surviving adults, therefore Ralph makes a plan to be rescued. Ralph’s plan consisted of making a signal fire to signal to passing ships if there were any, in which Ralph would have rotating shifts for fire watch, to keep the fire burning and not die. Way before the boys realized that to be saved the smoke must be seen, the boys got excited and proceeded to overfeed the fire, causing fire to spread across the mountain, actually killing one of the littluns, said to be the boy with the mulberry birthmark. Piggy decides to call them out on how they seemed to be acting like kids in a serious moment and remind the older kids what their responsibility is, which is when the boys begin to realize they are missing a person, which is the boy with the birthmark. Ralph’s main motive was to be rescued as soon as he could be, yet Jack was the one who insisted on hunting and other unnecessary actions (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2).

At the end of the novel, in which everyone had transferred over to Jack’s tribe, Ralph is the only individual who remains trying to hold onto the civilization that is wired into his brain, yet he too has a sense of savagery in him now, as he is fighting for his life to stay alive and not have his head put on a stick sharpened on both sides. Ralph is corned all to one, and even Sam and Eric are against him, not like they had a choice anyway, as they were taken and probably brutally whipped publicly in front of the other tribe members if they did not cooperate with Jack. Sam and Eric serve as a lookout for Jack’s tribe and are supposed to alert the tribe if they see Ralph approaching, yet they do not, because they are forced to participate. The twins decide to warn Ralph about what Jack and Roger have planned for him, which probably sends Ralph into a state of a small amount of fear, now that he knows he is marked for a kill. Ralph tells the twins where he was going to hide, but not soon later the truth gets out of the twins and Ralph is on the move. The fire creeps up on Ralph and the savages as this showdown occurs and just at the moment when the savages are about to capture Ralph, Ralph runs into an adult naval officer, who had seen the smoke from the out-of-control fire that was burning down the island (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2).

In conclusion, the setting affects the boys tremendously in many different ways. In “Lord of the Flies” the savagery versus civilization, as well as leadership and many of the other themes take a toll in the novel, much as topics on how the setting affects the boys. Throughout the novel, a vision of the boys changes, as it is seen how they grew from start to finish, clean and fine-haired, to nasty and long-haired, as well as their regression to their primal instincts and their inner beliefs, which the beastie was a major character in that aspect of the novel. The beastie and all of the topics teach the boys how to live without an adult and show them how civilization can turn into savagery and the fear becomes vulnerability. If the boys did not crash land on the island, they would not understand the innocence that was lost at the end of the novel, yet to the naval officer, this was all just some fun and games (“Lord”, Novels, v. 2).

Work Cited

    1. Lord of the Flies.' Novels for Students, edited by Diane Telgen, vol. 2, Gale, 1997, pp. 174-195. Gale eBooks, Accessed 8 Jan. 2020.
    2. Lord of the Flies.' Novels for Students, edited by Sara Constantakis, vol. 36, Gale, 2011, pp. 177-196. Gale eBooks, Accessed 13 Jan. 2020.
    3. Babb, Howard S. “Lord of the Flies.” Lord of the Flies - William Golding, Facts On File, 1997. History Research Center, Accessed 15 Jan. 2020
    4. Golding, William, and Edmund L. Epstein. Lord of the Flies: A Novel. New York: Perigee, 1954.    
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