Civilization Vs Savagery In Lord Of The Flies

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Lord of the Flies is a dystopian allegorical novel written by William Golding in 1954. It is both Golding's first and most recognized novel, it went on to become a best-seller and it was even adapted into films in 1963 and 1990. Lord of the Flies narrates a story of a group of English schoolboys castaway on a tropical island after their plane crashes after being shot down during a war. After the plane crash, the boys quickly realize they are left to their own and as there are no adults present they have to take care of themselves. In the Lord of the Flies Golding uses the characters as personifications of various degrees of civilization, savagery, or the lack of either. From this, I concluded that the main theme in Lord of the Flies is Civilization vs. Savagery. Throughout the novel, there are many examples that support this. They each manifest traits and behavior distinctive of the savage instinct and the civilizing instinct. In order to analyze the novel and its inference it is necessary to examine and classify its main characters.

Civilizing Instinct

In the novel civilization is represented mainly by Ralph and Piggy. Ralph is the novel's protagonist, a main representative of the civilizing instinct. He is established as the leader of the boys on the island. As he represents the values of civilization he is the one that tries to establish rules and continuously thinks of ways for them to survive and eventually be rescued. He is strong-willed and firmly believes that they should maintain all semblance of normalcy and wait for rescue, to the point that he does not understand the other boy's willingness to give in to savagery. He is driven by a fierce determination not to succumb to the chaos and finds strength in the hope of rescue and return to civilization. By the end of the novel, although he had his wish granted as they are being rescued, at last, he is overwhelmed by the knowledge of evil within man, as he himself tasted the thrill of giving into savage instincts when he participated in the murder of Simon, and by the knowledge that what transpired on the island cannot be taken back. This is important, because it shows, that while there is goodness in civilization, it can be in certain situations overpowered by the savage instinct. He represents the “lawful good” because he for the most part acts with honor and a sense of duty to himself and other individuals. Piggy is Ralph's second in command and he continuously provides support, information, and inventions essential to Ralph's rule. Due to his constitution, he is forced to rely on his intellect and resourcefulness and he always represents the orderly, rational aspect of civilization. He is in many ways a more precise representation of civilization, because his belief in the rules of the civilized world is fundamental to him, for exactly the reasons these rules were created – to prevent a fight for survival that disadvantages the weak. “How can you expect to be rescued if you don't put first things first and act proper?” He took off his glasses and made as if to put down the conch, but the sudden motion towards it of most of the older boys changed his mind. He tucked Savagery in The Inheritors and the Lord of the Flies by William Golding Page 16 of 41 the shell under his arm and crouched back on a rock. “Then when you get here you build a bonfire that isn't no use. Now you been and set the whole island on fire. Won't we look funny if the whole island burns up? Cooked fruit, that's what we'll have to eat, and roast pork. And that's nothing to laugh at! You said Ralph was chief and you don't give him time to think. Then when he says something you rush off, like, like -” He paused for breath, and the fire growled at them. “And that's not all. Them kids. The little 'uns. Who took any notice of 'em? Who knows how many we got?”. However not even he is impervious to the temptation of the savage instinct, and he too participates in the murder of Simon. He can be classified a “lawful neutral” as he is a character who believes strongly in rules, order, and tradition because he is well aware of the position of weaker individuals within society who respect no such things.

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The difference between these two characters lies precisely in their respective belonging to the second axis. While both of them represent a corresponding set of values, they exercise them differently. Even though Piggy's morality and adherence to rules are stronger and more deeply founded, he does not possess the power to put them into practice, while Ralph does. This is why Ralph is type-casted as “good” and Piggy as a “neutral” both within the context of the alignment system and in the mind of the reader as Piggy never reaches the hero status of Ralph despite his obvious importance and moral strength.

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Civilization Vs Savagery In Lord Of The Flies. (2021, August 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
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