Question: How do the novel ‘Lord of the Flies and the film Fight Club employs techniques to illustrate the dispute between the human instincts leaning toward savagery and the rules implemented to contain it by civilization?
Author William Golding and director David Fincher largely convey the conflict between innate human instincts of savagery and the civilized disciplines maintained by society in the novel Lord of the Flies and the film Fight Club respectively. Although the setting of the two texts and the modes in which they convey this notion differ to an extent, the overarching theme of civilization versus savagery is pervasive throughout both. Lord of the Flies is a fictional novel written by William Golding and takes place during the event of a war in which a group of British schoolboys are deserted on an uninhabited island after a disastrous plane crash. The novel follows the struggles of the young boys as they attempt to maintain order by developing their own civilization which ironically ensues to their gradual succumbing to their savage instincts; deluded by the fear of a figment ‘beast’ which is embodied by the Lord of the Flies. Meanwhile, Fight Club is directed by David Fincher and is set in an unnamed city inside the mind of an unnamed protagonist who suffers from chronic insomnia. The protagonist encounters a man by the name of Tyler Durden, who is later found to be an alter ego fabricated by his schizophrenia, with whom he creates the ‘Fight Club’; an underground association with the purpose of gratifying men’s masculinity through fighting others. The film progresses as a flashback showcasing a transition from the protagonist’s monotonous life governed by consumerism to his leisurely lifestyle after forming the Fight Club; an outlet for his savage tendencies. The use of dialogue in the two texts conveys the notion that chaos is created through the misuse of savage instincts that are unleashed when an individual diverges from the order maintained by civilized society. Fincher also employs cinematography and personification in Fight Club, while Golding makes use of metaphors in Lord of the Flies to illustrate how innate savage instincts overtake the minds of individuals. Symbolism is another technique applied in the two texts and demonstrates the increase in the prevalence of savagery throughout both.
Through the implementation of dialogue in their respective texts, Golding and Fincher have created an emphasis on the proposition that an individual’s deviation from civilization will result in the misuse of savage instincts, causing chaos and entropy. The unnamed protagonist from Fight Club is comparable to Jack from Lord of the Flies as the two are able to suppress their savage tendencies initially, although as a result of differing rationales. Early in the plot of Lord of the Flies, Golding illustrates that providing methods of subdual for savage tendencies is an essential function of society. Jack’s inceptive proclivity towards hunting pigs exhibits this idea as his hostility is redirected into a productive task; providing the group with necessary food through his judgment shaped by civilization. Fincher on the other hand, distinctly indicates that consumerism and conformity are the main oppressive influences that heavily impede the outbreaks of savagery within society. The protagonist’s influence under civilization even after the creation of the Fight Club is a clear illustration of this point and is communicated by the protagonist himself through the use of dialogue “Nobody takes this more seriously than me, that condo was my life, okay? I loved every stick of furniture in that place. That was not just a bunch of stuff that got destroyed, it was me!” [0:57:14] implying that his judgment is still guided by his former heavily consumerism-driven lifestyle. Jack’s early decision-making is of a comparable fashion to Fight Club’s protagonist when he is unable to kill the piglet as it would be considered an immoral act in the eyes of society; “They knew very well why he hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood.” (Golding, p. 41). Both texts, therefore, convey that exposure to civilized society, whether it be influenced by consumerism in Fight Club or heavily based on establishing order on the island in Lord of the Flies, allows for individuals to mitigate their initial savage instincts through their judgment formulated by the rights and wrongs within society.
The novel and the film’s take on the concept of civilization versus savagery diverges as the plot progresses. In Lord of the Flies, Golding suggests that the repercussions of savagery are a conspicuous endorsement for civilized society; for it is when Jack contravenes the efficacy of civilized judgment after being isolated from civilization on the island, that the unfolding of his vicious characteristics occurs. For instance, Jack’s deviation from civilization is demonstrated when he is finally able to kill a piglet “Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. [...] Jack stood up, holding out his hands ‘Look.’ He giggled and flicked them while the boys laughed at his reeking palms.” (Golding, p. 168). It is evident through this dialogue that Jack is not driven to kill the pig by his civilized judgment of providing food for the group, but rather for the thrill of the hunt; viewing his bloody hands as validation of his masculinity as was the Fight Club for the unnamed protagonist.
In contrast to Golding’s clear encouragement of the civilized ways of society, Fincher demonstrates the notion - “excess of anything is bad” in Fight Club, as initially consumerism suppresses the protagonist until his masculinity and sense of self become challenged; leading to the creation of his rebellious alter ego – Tyler Durden. However, as the protagonist begins to reject the validity of societal beliefs, Tyler’s uninhibited violent tendencies correspond to Jack’s vicious rebellion against Ralph’s authority over the group in Lord of the Flies, and cause him to initiate an epidemic of rebellions against society known as ‘Project Mayhem’. Tyler’s master plan was to cause explosions in buildings of credit card companies, thinking “it’ll create total chaos” [1:01:41], hence implying that his overarching goal is to convert all of society to the ways of savagery as opposed to the initial goal of the Fight Club; allowing the protagonist to realize the negative impacts of the emasculating and oppressive aspects of civilization. Although the two texts diverge their respective ideas of civilization versus savagery, Golding and Fincher both impart the overarching idea that an increase in savagery within society causes major disruptions within civilization.
Through the use of cinematography, metaphors, and personification, Fincher and Golding demonstrate how savagery is an inherent human characteristic; overtaking individuals’ minds from within. Golding suggests that savage instincts gradually overtake judgment in the absence of civilization as is evident from the deterioration of Ralph’s democratic society and inversely equivalent upspring of Jack’s savage hunters in Lord of the Flies. Meanwhile, in Fight Club, Fincher proposes that excessive societal oppression unleashes the once inhibited savagery within individuals such as the protagonist, engendering to the proliferation of his psychotic episodes and the creation of Tyler Durden. ‘The Lord of the Flies’, otherwise known as ‘the beast is a figment of imagination fermented by the boys’ unguided minds in the absence of civilization and is a metaphor for the thirst for violence and inclination towards savagery that resides within the minds of all individuals as an inherent primal human instinct. The fear of the beast causes the boys to essentially worship and obey its “commands”, becoming increasingly inclined towards acts of savagery involving hunting and sacrifice. Tyler Durden is a similar figure to the beast from the Lord of the Flies as he is a personification of the protagonist’s suppressed savage instincts. In Fight Club, however, the cause of Tyler’s creation is not the protagonist’s deviation from civilization, but instead, his psychosis induced by oppressive consumerism and conformity within society as evinced through Fincher’s employment of cinematography in the film. For example, Tyler’s arrival into the protagonist’s life is abnormal as shots of him flash into random scenes during the early film for a short duration before his character is even introduced to the audience, indicating that he is a result of the protagonist’s schizophrenia. In accordance with this concept, the fallacy of the Lord of the Flies is evident during the scene where Simon converses with the beast who states “There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me and I am the Beast. [...] Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! [...] You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?” (Golding, p. 177). Through these lines, it can be perceived that Simon is in fact experiencing a delusion and instead speaking to one of his inner personas, who attempts to convince him to embrace savagery by taking the form of the Lord of the Flies. Throughout the two texts, Golding and Fincher how the boys in Lord of the Flies and the protagonist in Fight Club experience an altered sense of reality when exposed to excessive savagery, resulting in the deterioration of the world around them.
Both Lord of the Flies and Fight Club use the technique of symbolism to convey the deterioration of civilization and hence the uprising of savagery. In Lord of the Flies, Golding has implemented the conch shell, while Fincher employs Tyler’s soap as the main symbol within the two texts to signify the increasing prevalence of savagery within the two texts, although in a contrasting manner. The conch shell in Lord of the Flies symbolizes the presence of democracy and civil structure on the island and its importance is expressed near the beginning of the novel where it is described as invaluable “—a conch; ever so expensive. I bet if you wanted to buy one, you’d have to pay pounds and pounds and pounds—” (Golding, p. 21). Although the conch allows the boys to initially establish a form of civilized society of their own, as the contentions between Jack and Ralph aggravate causing Jack to stray towards his savage instincts, Jack begins to repudiate the significance of the conch shell, and its symbolism - civilization itself when he states “We don’t need the conch anymore. We know who ought to say things. [...] It’s time some people knew they’ve got to keep quiet and leave deciding things to the rest of us.” (Golding, p. 18). Jack’s denial of the civil structure maintained by Ralph ensues to the beginning of his violent rebellion.
Unlike the conch in Lord of the Flies, the soap Tyler produces in Fight Club is symbolic of his rebellion against society as he illegally uses human fat removed through liposuction as the main ingredient in the soaps which are sold back to rich people who undergo the procedure; selling the fat they paid to remove back to themselves. Although the significance of the two symbols differs largely in their respective texts, by using human fat in his soaps, Tyler is rebelling against the ethical beliefs of modern society and acting as an abnormal vigilante in a similar manner to Jack in Lord of the Flies who ultimately causes the conch to shatter during the scene of Piggy’s death. The destruction of the conch is indicative of the absolute overrule of civilization and upsurge of savagery on the island, which is evident as Jack attempts to murder Ralph, “Viciously, with full intention, he hurled the spear at Ralph. The point tore the skin and flesh over Ralph’s ribs, then sheared off and fell into the water” (Golding, p. 223), which demonstrates the extent of appalling violence committed by Jack who is now free from the constraints of civilized judgment; becoming the new leader on the island. A comparable theme is present in Fight Club as Tyler uses the same ingredients from his soaps as a part of Project Mayhem to detonate the multi-story skyscrapers in the film’s final scene in contrast to his initial harmless rebellion. This contrast symbolizes Fight Club’s transition from a mere outlet for savage instincts to Project Mayhem; essentially an oppressive society where its members are forced to discard their identities. Thus, through the use of symbolism, Fincher and Golding illustrate that rebellion against civilization originating from savagery ultimately devolves into a similar tyrannical society as that which is initially disputed.
In summation, the novel Lord of the Flies and the film Fight Club explore the dispute between human instincts leaning toward savagery and the rules implemented to contain it by civilization with the aid of several literary and film techniques. Dialogue is used by Golding and Fincher in their respective texts to communicate the havoc caused by the misuse of savage instincts as societal influences become diminished. Furthermore, Golding uses metaphors, meanwhile, Fincher employs cinematography and personification to demonstrate the deterioration of civilization and rise of savagery. Through the use of these techniques, Fight Club and Lord of the Flies illustrate the theme of civilization versus savagery in ways that have been compared and contrasted.