Ever since the existence of life, everything that has taken place on earth had been labeled in terms of black and white. The concepts of “good” and “evil” had been uniquely defined by what had been imposed to human beings by society through topics such as religion, morality and ethics. They’re categories through which behavior had been separated into. But through out the years, humans have come to believe that life comes in shades of grey and that nothing is purely “good” or “evil”. William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies” can be easily used to back up this belief. Taking into consideration that the novel was written after Golding’s experience in World War II, his point of view about humanity and the role that evil plays in it was based on his real-life occurrence. “Lord of the Flies” depicts to us the foundation of a society formed by British schoolboys who stranded on an unknown island after being involved in a plane crash. At the beginning of the story, the boys assume the role of adults, which leads them to follow what they knew about the British society, by choosing a leader and generating several rules, in order to coexist between each other in harmony. But as they start to loose their innocence, order collapses and savagery begins its reign, the expectation of being rescued and surviving collapses as well. The boys no longer considered the island paradise, they were no longer naive nor they had an idea of what was “good” or “evil”. Everything that would help each one of them make life on the island better was good, even if in reality it wasn’t, and everything that disturbed it was to be destroyed. Then, accordingly to Charles Darwin’s theory of “Natural Selection” the strongest boys were the ones who survived.
At the beginning of the story, Ralph -a civilized, moral and productive boy- was chosen to be the leader, given his effort to increase their chances of being rescued. But not long after, Jack -a egocentric, violent and savage boy- who had loosen the election to Ralph, starts playing a big role in Ralph’s decision making, which leads to numerous disputes between the boys who supported Ralph’s point of view and the ones who supported Jack’s. As result, the group of boys is separated into two tribes, the “hunters” commanded by Jack and the “littluns” commanded by Ralph. Although at the establishment of these two groups they were practically balanced, throughout the story, all of the boys except for Piggy and Simon -who were killed afterwards- leave Ralph’s tribe to go to Jack’s. No doubt what Golding was trying to show was how the instinct of savagery comes far more innate to humans than the instinct of civilization. But Golding was also trying to show how while it may be true that the savage side of the boys was reigning among them and their civilized side had taken a grand leap backwards but it wasn’t completely lost, it was still present inside each one of the boys in different degrees. In other words, known that Golding associates “savagery” with “evil” and “civilization” with “good” in the novel, it can be said that none of the boys were purely “good” or “evil” nor black or white. An example of this is the fact that despite of the rush to hunt and the bloodlust the boys felt, they never killed a boy of their same tribe, which means loyalty was still playing a role in their subconscious, furthermore Piggy -represents the intellectual side of human beings- who is Ralph’s right hand, practically doesn’t understand the instinct of savagery but conversely Roger -represents violence and brutality- who is Jack’s right hand, doesn’t understand the rules of civilization. In brief the intensity of savagery and civilization varied from boy to boy, but were both present between each one of them.
Every individual is capable of committing the most offensive crimes. It is the rules of civilization that keep an individual from becoming an uncontrollable savage. Throughout “Lord of the Flies” Golding uses several objects to represent different aspects of savagery or civilization, reason why it is considered an allegorical novel. The conch shell for instance represents civilization, law and order and the right to speak; it governs the boys meetings. But as savagery starts taking over the boys the conch shell starts loosing its power among them, to the point were Roger destroys it during Piggy’s murder, which symbolized the end of civilization on the island. Piggy’s specs represented the power of science, making fire and intellectuality. Taking into consideration the fact that the specs were used in order to make fire and that the fire at the beginning of the story represents salvation and the desire of being rescued but after a while when the boys burn a part of the mountain and use it in their attempt to hunt and murder Ralph, it starts to represent destruction it can be concluded that the specs likewise the fire represented both: civilization and savagery at the same time. In like manner the fire also symbolizes the desire of the boys of returning to civilization when it is maintained and their acceptance to life in the island when it is low or out. The sow’s head in the jungle represents the impulse of the boys towards savagery and barbarism altogether with the fear they felt of the beast, since it was stabbed on a stake as an offering to it. The beast represents the evil that lies between each one of the boys and its growing is proportional to the instinct of savagery each of the boys has, but the only boy who managed to figure this out was Simon -represents innate goodness-. “What I mean is… Maybe it’s only us” (Simon, chapter 3). All of these symbols were used through the novel for either a savage, a civilized purpose or both; Ralph for example used the conch shell as a manifestation of his regrets for participating in Simons murder and the specs in order to make a signal fire. Jack in the other hand used the specs in order to set a fire to murder Ralph and the beast in order to take advantage of the fear the boys felt for it and manipulate them into following his orders.
“Lord of the Flies” is a novel based on the conflicts between good and evil or civilization and savagery and their coexistence. It is perceived through the novel how “black paint can cover a white wall but white paint will never be able to cover a black wall”; this means some of the boys went from being good to being evil but none of them went from being evil to being good. Within human beings lie more dark shades of grey than light ones. But evil and good are obligated to coexist between each other in every success in life, such as familiar decisions, religious events, presidential elections, etc. It’s ironic how evil sometimes, without even noticing it, ends up working for good. Thus Jack’s tribe was the one to survive, Ralph was the one to achieve a moral victory among all of the boys. Hence the fire to save them wasn’t the signal fire but the fire that was set by Jack in order to murder Ralph. This represents how although it is true that the evil side of human beings comes more innate than the good one; some individuals manage to stop evil from taking control of their lives and make their good side much stronger which gives them a spiritual victory that’s far more valuable than the physical victory that most of the times evil achieves. Although in the novel evil and savagery achieved physical victory on the island, good and civilization achieved victory in reality, given the fact that the boys returned to civilization and had to make part of the society of adults and follow their rules again.
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