Lord of the Flies is a historical, fictional novel which was written in 1954 by Nobel Prize award-winning British author William Golding. It is an allegorical novel which was inspired and influenced by Golding’s experiences as a member of the Royal Navy during World War II and his long-time goal to write a novel. Golding became more conscientious about humanity and seemed to develop a broader view of the human psyche, which the theme of the novel derives from. Good vs. evil, civilization vs. savagery, and morality vs. immorality are the main themes in Lord of the Flies.
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The story takes place during the years of a war on an uninhabited island in an unknown area, where a plane transporting young British schoolboys was shot down and, ironically, all of the adults were killed in the accident. About a dozen boys, with the oldest at twelve years of age, are the lone survivors and are in need of rescue. The two eldest boys are Ralph, a boy of athletic stature resembling a boxer, and Jack, a tall, slim choir boy. Ralph, the protagonist, is the leader among the society, and represents the good, civil, moral side of humanity. Notably, Ralph’s right-hand man, Piggy, is the deuterogamist, representing the intellectual, wise side of humanity. Jack is the arrogant, power-hungry antagonist who represents the evil, savage, selfish side of humanity. At the opening of the novel, the most important symbol is the scar that Golding frequently refers to, representing man’s mark on uninhabited territory and how man can come and destroy nature through chaos.
All of the main characters are presented in unique ways, with everyone playing an important role throughout the plot. Ralph is the obvious leader; Jack has leadership abilities that aren’t quite as appealing to everyone; Piggy and Roger play the role of a sidekick to his leader; Maurice and Samneric can be seen as loyal soldiers; Simon is an outcast with a strong spiritual connection; the littluns represent the common people of society. Characterization sets the tone of the novel by Golding giving each individual their own qualities and roles, which becomes crucial in various situations where certain people can make, break or alter the societal norms and/or ethical codes. Characterization runs along the lines of the theme, because humans are the ones who make the choices between good and evil and struggle to be civilized when it’s in our natural instinct to be savage and hostile.
The most common, yet misunderstood or misinterpreted symbol throughout the entire novel is the “beastie”. The “beastie” appears all throughout the story, because the “beastie” is what put the children in this predicament in the first place. The “beastie” represents the evil in society, and even appears in a conversation with Simon in the form of Satan. The evil side of human nature caused the war that landed the boys on the island and killed passengers and a few boys. The “beastie” led the boys into savagery, hostility, hatred and fear. These elements cause confusion which brings chaos into a simplistic society, turning civilized people into the monsters that are deep within us all. The “beastie”, in Chapter 8 – “Gift for the Darkness”, said to Simon: “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?” (Golding 143). Ultimately, the evil behavior of humans, specifically Jack’s camp, even affected Mother Nature when the hunters set the forest ablaze by means of killing Ralph, who was the last representation of civility and morality among the overpowering, savage boys.
Aside from portraying himself as the villain, Jack is a unique, if not the most unique, character in the novel. He is introduced as the head of the choir from which he was a member of back home, but never once showed any positive abilities other than being a megalomaniac or a savage. Jack starts out as a tyrant, ordering the other choir boys at his command, and shows that if he isn’t proclaimed a leader then he will take the power into his own hands. He is strong-willed and fairly intelligent, but a hostile character who doesn’t think deeply enough, which causes unnecessary chaos among the others. Jack can be compared to the late rapper Tupac Shakur’s role as Bishop in the 1992 film Juice. Bishop was a young, teenage thug who got into some trouble with his friends, late night, at a gas station. An attempted robbery had gone wrong, resulting in the killing of the store clerk and led to a police investigation. Bishop began to lose his mind, dealing with paranoia and a thirst for power because he owned a gun and was willing to kill again. Bishop and Jack both lust for power and do what they feel is needed to gain that power. Some might consider the characters as sociopaths, using people merely as pawns to achieve a selfish goal. The only differences between the two are the times and opposite upbringings, and that Bishop, much older and more mature than Jack, landed himself into a tight situation that weighed heavily on his conscious, whereas the young boy Jack had the option of avoiding chaos and being a civil, obedient boy with the sole purpose of getting rescued off an island. Both characters deal with the battle of good vs. evil.
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Lord of the Flies is an overall good novel with many themes regarding life and its experiences, as well as strong points that reflect upon humanity, morality, and civilization against savagery. The novel’s strongest feature is the theme and the symbols, which the allegorical literary style forces readers to think critically about and question every aspect in every chapter in order to understand the concepts behind the plot. Human behavior is too immerse to ever truly form facts about, but people can make very accurate assumptions about basic reasoning or logic, so it can be said that the human psyche has a natural instinct of savagery, but an acquired trait of civility. Even so, morality holds true for all beings, but on different levels, as long as we follow the societal norms that we’ve mentally been raised to know. The mind is so extensive with what it can lead an individual to do that it’s bound to think of good and bad decisions, attitudes, judgments, etc. Conclusively, society has never changed from the standpoint of human nature and behavior. An individual is given a choice and it’s up to him or her to choose the path to take, whether if it’s choosing to be civil or savage or, in terms of the novel, choosing to set up bonfires for rescue or hunt pigs for food.
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