Lord Of The Flies And World War II: A Battle Between Civility And Savagery

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World War II is known to everyone as the last large-scale world war. This war revealed humanity's darkest and most frightening side. The war had two opposing sides: The Axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, the United States, Soviet Union, and China) (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). These two groups had very different paths to power, with one path being morally unjust and the other being morally correct. The Axis’ group’s immoral longing for power seems to tie in perfectly to a book loved by many, Lord of the Flies. This book is full of many horrifying universal truths about our society today, which correlate to the lack of morality present throughout World War II. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies explores similar horrors to that of World War II through themes of terror, savagery, and the devastation that comes with power.

A plethora of themes related to terror is present in both Lord of the Flies and World War II. World War II, or war in general, is a very terrifying experience. Whether you are a soldier fighting for what you believe is right, or just an innocent civilian living within a warzone, things can get pretty terrifying. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies shows us plenty of examples of terror throughout this intense story. The first significant instance of terror is when Jack began to distance himself from his good-boy demeanor. The reader can sense this when Golding stated: “He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling” (66). With the comparison of his laughter to that of a snarl, Jack is being compared to an animal, which displays how he has become terrifying and someone who insights fear in others. Similarly, the Nazi party became a terrifying character when they decided to kill 11 million innocent people. They succeeded in doing this by scare tactics. It was a common technique used by the Nazis as well as most of the other countries participating in the war. They used scare tactics to keep Jewish people working in the death camps and concentration camps. They also would shoot or severely punish those who couldn’t keep up with their work (History.com Editors). Although the Germans had a big part in this deadly war, Japan also had a very significant attack of terror towards the United States. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor intending to instill fear in the United States (History.com Editors), just like how Jack tries to appear more intimidating to generate a sense of fear in his peers. In response to Japan's attack, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. These acts of murder caused Japan to surrender and lose the war. Another theme of bloodshed is Piggy’s death. The terror starts to set in when Golding wrote, “Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed” (201). With this simile, Golding is describing Piggy’s death as one of the pigs Jack and his hunters killed. While Piggy was struggling to get the attention of the rest of his peers Jack's hunters released a huge boulder and it smashed into Piggy causing his untimely death. The finality of his death was witnessed by all of his fellow “friends” on the island. This terrorism all the people of the island witnessed is very similar to the terrible events people witnessed in World War II. During the war, acts of bloodshed is a commonly recurring theme. Whether it be the untimely deaths of many innocent civilians or the deaths of many comrades and enemies, everyone witnesses some sort of terrorism.

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Lord of the Flies explores very significant themes of savagery that are also present in World War II. The overall recurring theme in Golding’s book is civilization versus savagery. As the boys spend more time away from home and more time in the wild they began to adapt to the wildlife around them causing them to become more “savage-like”. In Golding's novel, the reader can see that the characters are obsessed with the idea of killing the island’s Beast. This is seen particularly when they chant, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” (Golding 168.) They scream this while they are killing Simon who they mistake for this Beast. What Simon had realized before he was savagely attacked was that this Beast they are searching for lives within themselves. This “Beast” symbolizes the instinct of savagery that exists within all humans. They fear this “beast” because they know it lives within them. After killing the “Beast” the boys know the extent of what they had just done but, choose to believe it was the right thing. The savagery of the boys correlates to the savagery in World War II. At War, to survive, you must separate yourself from your feelings. The soldiers are killing people just because they are ordered to. This instinct of savagery is prominent in War as well. Not only were the boys savage but, they would almost act animal-like, which is another form of savagery. In chapter 12, Golding wrote, “Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up” (217). Golding’s use of a simile, “like a cat”, described perfectly how savage the boys had become: the island had turned the boys into animals. He also snarled when he was acting which is a sound associated with animals. In addition to all of this, towards the end of the book, Ralph refers to Jack’s hunters as “savages”. All this evidence points towards how much influence this idea of being alone and having to survive by all means possible is - which inevitably takes a toll on these boys in a savage-esque way. Similarly, in World War II, the Nazis would dehumanize the Jewish populous by killing them in grotesque and animalistic ways. For example, they were put in gas chambers to “shower” but, they would just shower them in deadly chemicals that asphyxiated them. Also, they forced them to dig massive ditches along which they lined them up and shoot them down (The Editors of Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum). This sense of being savage and animalistic connects to how Ralph was harming his “friends”. Finally, though possibly a coincidental discovery, there is a connection between World War II and the book where Ralph and Piggy refused to eat pork, Jewish people are known for refusing to eat pig meat as well as a part of their religious beliefs. Also, the Nazi party would often call their captive Jews “Judensou”, which roughly translates to “pig”, using it in their political propaganda as a way to dehumanize the Jews even more and make fun of them (Coester). With all of this in mind, it can be connected to savagery since the Nazis began to dehumanize the Jews just like the hunter boys began to dehumanize Piggy by calling him a pig, making it significantly easier to inevitably kill both the Jews and Piggy. Knowing that this book was made after World War II, it seems that perhaps these details were not simply coincidences, but details incorporated specifically for these connections to be made.

Oftentimes, the power that people gain correlates with devastation and this is no different within both Lord of the Flies and World War II. In Lord of the Flies specifically, the reader can see that Henry becomes “absorbed beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things. He talked to them urging them, ordering them” (Golding 64). He was taking control of his fellow littluns and this is a perfect example of the devastation that comes with power. He seemed to become less happy and realized how terrible he had become. Exercising power over others is a huge theme that occurs in war as well as in the book. In war leaders/politicians become obsessed with power and will do anything to obtain more. This was prominent in World War II when Hitler rose to fame in Germany as a politician and leader of the Nazi Party. After obtaining the position of Chancellor of Germany he was obsessed with control and wouldn’t stop at that (Bullock). He decided to invade and control other countries such as Poland, Austria, France, as well as eight others (Knighton). This search for power and destruction is what began a very deadly and gruesome war.

Throughout William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, it is evident that common themes that are present in World War II, specifically those of terror, savagery, and the devastation that comes with power, are also present within the novel itself. Explored through the various characters of the book and their journey on the island, these themes become obvious the more the boys are starved and are forced to survive in whatever way they can. In World War II, these themes are evident in that wars, in general, are oftentimes conflicts that are at the expense of many people’s lives. In these wars, there are always victims that become dehumanized and there are always people that allow the illusion of power get to their heads, allowing them to be capable of performing an innumerable amount of malicious deeds.

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Lord Of The Flies And World War II: A Battle Between Civility And Savagery. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-and-world-war-ii-a-battle-between-civility-and-savagery/
“Lord Of The Flies And World War II: A Battle Between Civility And Savagery.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-and-world-war-ii-a-battle-between-civility-and-savagery/
Lord Of The Flies And World War II: A Battle Between Civility And Savagery. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-and-world-war-ii-a-battle-between-civility-and-savagery/> [Accessed 19 Apr. 2024].
Lord Of The Flies And World War II: A Battle Between Civility And Savagery [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Apr 19]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-and-world-war-ii-a-battle-between-civility-and-savagery/
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