Lord of the flies was first published in 1954. It has never gone out of print, it has been among the best-selling novels in both Britain and USA, it has been studied in schools and universities all over the world.
Lord of the Flies is in part an allegory of the Cold War, as in 1940, it was William Golding’s turning point in his life. He joined the royal navy and his World War II experiences, Golding has said, “I began to see what people were capable of doing. Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.” His experience in the war showed the evil of man.
A theme is a comprehensive idea that goes through a literary text in one or some parts, it makes up the main points, that the author aims to be reached to his readers, which may be stated directly or indirectly. Here in this research, I’m going to discuss these themes in details:
- Human nature
- Civilization Vs. Savagery
- Loss of Innocence
- Absence of Social norms
- Absence of Law
- End of Rationalism
- Struggle to build Civilization
The second part of the research that I’m going to write down, are the main characters. It is known that the characters are integral to the narrative, they play an important role in the development of social norms and themes, they also create the suspense of the story. The characters in Lord of the Flies by William Golding are mostly children, isolated on an island.
I. Main themes
William Golding in his novel wants to highlight a statement that he believes in, that man is evil by nature. By living a group of small boys isolated on a tropic island, without any societal guidance, without anyone to tell them what to do and what not to do. Golding argues that human nature, free from the restriction of society, draws people gradually to become savages. And that was very clear in chapter eight when Simon imagined that lord of the flies, which the name given to the saw’s head was talking to him. It was a confrontation between the absolute good which represent in Simon who is naturally good, he hates nobody, and the absolute bad which represent in the lord of the flies, when the lord of the flies told Simon that he is a part from him. Golden here wants to underline that evil is something essential, nature, something we are born with, it is inside each other. When there is no societal rule, evil is free, released. Once there is no punishment, we will behave naturally and naturally we are evil.
Civilization Vs. savagery:
The major concern of the novel is the competing desires that exists will all human beings: the instinct to act peacefully, live by rules follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against each one desires to act violently, to obtain supremacy over others. Golding represents the struggle between the civilization and savagery through the novel’s two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, the leader of the group, who represents human beings’ civilization instinct; and Jack, the antagonist, the leader of the hinters, who represents savagery and the desire of power.
Loss of Innocence:
The boys on the island progress from civilized, orderly children and well-behaved, they naturally loss the sense of innocence that they possessed ah the beginning of the novel. Here Golding doesn’t want to portray or highlight this loss of innocence as something that is done because the children’s behavior; rather, he wants to call attention that it is a naturally results, because of the increasing openness to the innate evil and savagery that has always existed within them.
Moreover, that was clear when they were using the conch-shell which represents order and civilization, that when anyone holds it have the right to speak but gradually it loses its power and influence in chapter 2.
Absence of Social Norms:
The central concern of the novel, that Golding wants to underline on, that there is a social norms and traditions that force people to obey the laws and rules. When there is an absence social of norms and tradition, people show their own nature, and naturally they are evil. We can link this to chapter 4, when Roger, the sadistic, cruel older boy, who likes very much to brutalize other kids. As in this chapter (page 68) he picked up a stone and threw it at Henry (one of the little boys) and here Golding used some words to let us reach what he believes as well, that man produces evil as a bee produces honey and he is only afraid from the punishment, societal guidance and the law. As he described that Roger “throw the stone to mess” which means that he aware not to hurt Henry, he only wanted to scare him. Other words which meant a lot, “he dares not to threw”, which means that he still tied with civilization. As well as “the taboo of the old life” which highlights that he still tied of the taboo of the old life (civilization), and we can make it clearer, that he is tied to civilization, not loving it. As it is not out of humanity, it is out of fear. Roger was afraid from the punishment of Henry’s parents, and if it is not Henry’s parents, the school, if it is not the school, the police.
Absence of Law:
When the children were isolated on the island, they are left on their own. They do not have any social setup with traditions and rules. However, Ralph and Piggy try to set up a civilized society through the help of the conch. But unfortunately, due to the absence of responsible adult supervision and guidance, they soon turned towards violence and become savages. The strong group of hunters that is leader by Jack, see that there are no laws and punishing authority. so, they form a separate strong group and try to break their rules. Once the rules are broken, they are free to do whatever they want, even if this could let them hurt others. Unfortunately, Piggy is killed in this chaos. Lack of a leader makes them savages, and they try to kill Ralph too. This shows that absence of laws creates chaos and disorder that leads to killing the innocents and the weak.
End of Rationalism:
Lord of the flies shows that thinking rationally is a good virtue but it is difficult to practice. Piggy who represents the scientific, rational side of civilization. But unfortunately, Jack succeed in killing Piggy and we can say with piggy’s death, the rational thinking among the children comes to the end. Also, the imaginary beast that frightens all the boys, which is irrational thinking. Only Simon reaches the realization that there is no physical beast, it is only inside each human being. He is behaving beyond his age and the only naturally good character in the island.
Struggle to build civilization:
The struggle to build civilization is the main conflict of Lord of the Flies, and that was clear in Ralph who represents human beings’ civilizing instinct, Piggy who represents the rational side of civilization and Jack (the novel’s antagonist). Ralph and Piggy believe that structure and rules are the greatest priorities, while Jack believes hunting, violence, and fun should be preferred over safety, planning for the future, and protection. And there was a conversation between Jack and Ralph in chapter 3 (page 55) that shows the beginning of the struggle between civilization which represents Ralph and savagery which represents Jack. Both of them started to have their own difference, that happened when Ralph was complaining and talking about their meeting in an ironic way as he starting to criticize them because they hate meeting. They talk very well and they don’t do their task. While his talking to Jack, he told him “we haven’t got any yet”, he meant that jack was doing nothing, as they need shelters beside food as well. Golding here wants to highlight the antagonism that had begun between Ralph and Jack, it was clear by telling “some hidden passion in Ralph’s voice” which means that Ralph got nervous, he refused their carelessness and how irresponsible they are. The two boys (Ralph and Jack) started to be enemies rather than friends or colleagues, started to have antagonism. https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/flies/themes/
I. Main Characters
Ralph is the novel’s protagonist, the 12-years old English boy who is elected leader of the group because of his calmness and rational thinking. Ralph is the one who represents human being civilizing instinct. While most of the other boys in the island, are concerned with playing, having fun as well as not doing their task. Most of them are carelessness and irresponsible. While Ralph all the time thinking of ways to maximize their chances of being rescued. Therefore, Ralph’s power and influence over the boys are secure at the beginning of the novel. But unfortunately, the boys gradually turn to be savages instincts over the course of the novel. For this reason, Ralph’s position decreases while Jack’s rises. In the end, most of the boys except Piggy leave Ralph’s group for Jack’s. Ralph’s main wish is to be rescued and returned to the society of the adults. In the beginning of the novel, Ralph is unable to understand why the boys turn to be savages. As the novel progresses, Ralph like Simon; the one who is behaving beyond his age, comes to understand that savagery and evil exist within all the boys. And unfortunately, Ralph tries to fight the bad influence of Jack but faces defeat. Although at the end, he is rescued and turned to civilization. https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/flies/character/jack/
Piggy represents the scientific rational side of civilization. He is the first boy that Ralph met him in the island and became the most loyal and true friend to him. We can describe him as talkative and intellectual boy. Piggy use to think with Ralph to reach to the successful ideas and innovation. For example, using the conch-shell that symbolize civilization and order in the novel. It governs the boys’ meeting, as who hold it have the right to speak. But at the end, the conch-shell gradually losses its power and influence. He supports Ralph and help him in solving the problems on the island. Piggy is the boy who worries about the rules of English civilization. As in chapter one, he told “no grown-ups” which means that there are no one to guidance. His poor eye sight and weight making him physically inferior to the others. He believes in rules, timeliness and order. He is the one who suggests using fire for rescue to save the boys by using his glasses, which represent the power of science. Piggy’s independence and his rational thinking prevent him from being part of the savagery group, so he is not as susceptible to the mob mentality that over takes many of the other boys. However, like Ralph, Piggy cannot avoid the desire of savagery on the island. Piggy tries to convince himself that Simon’s murder was an accident. However, it seems that his willingness to be accepted by the group lead him to mislead his own morals. We can say that Piggy’s death led to the end of rationality on the island. Following his death, Ralph is left alone and he has to protect himself from Jack and the hunters.
Jack is the novel’s primary representative of the instinct of savagery, violence and the desire of power above all other things. Jack is the novel’s antagonist. He becomes obsessed with hinting and allocates himself to the task and painting his face like a barbican. The more savage Jack becomes, the more he able to control and be the leader to the rest of the group. He took the charge and leads them against Ralph, and he becomes the leader of the hunters but it longs for total power. Jack’s love of violence and authority enable him to feel powerful. He is a cruel and aggressive boy as well as, carelessness and irresponsible. Seeing piggy as an obstacle, he plans to kill him.
Simon is the only naturally good character on the island. He represents a kind of natural goodness. unlike all others boys on the island, Simon acts morally because he believes in the inherent value of morality. Simon is behaving beyond his age; he is very mature for his age. As when the little boys were arguing about the existence of the beast, he told them that there is no physical beast, but rather a savagery that lurks within each human being. The sow’s head on the stake symbolizes this idea, as we know in chapter eight, Simon imagined that Lord of the Flies, which is the name given to the sow’s head was talking to him. Many critics considered this scene as the climax of the novel. Simon likes to be alone and doesn’t merge with the other boys.
Roger is a sadistic, cruel older boy, who likes very much to brutalize others. Roger’s cruelty begins in chapter four when he terrorizes the little Hennery, as he picked up a stone and threw it at Hennery. Golding’s view here that when there is no punishment or societal guidance, people are free to do whatever they want. However, Roger leaves a safe distance between the rocks and the child, as he only wanted to scare him or in other words, he still tied with civilization and the taboo of the old life, but it is not out of humanity, it is out of fear. Roger quickly understands that the more violent Jack will be, the more chance to be powerful and effective leader.
Although the beast is not a physical character in the novel, it has two descriptions at different places. If we take from Simon’s perspective, he sees that the beast is the deformed body of the pilot and his face is hidden in the swarm of flies. The second perspective is the unseen animal or thing that scares and frightens the boys on the island. They think that the beast visits them when they are sleeping to scare them. Even though, Simon has seen it but he couldn’t explain it to the other boys. He thinks and behave beyond his age, as he realizes that the invisible beast of evil exists in every boy as well as, there is no physical beast. The boys use this beast for different purposes. For instance, Jack uses it to create fear as well as gathering the hunters and Ralph uses it to prove and show his leadership qualities.