An Analysis of the Theme of Flaws in the Novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The theme of flaws is a central topic throughout the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ and Golding presents the flaws of characters in various ways. Even though Golding did not intend to write a traditional Shakespearean tragedy, the protagonist Ralph fits the characteristics of the ‘tragic hero’ in Shakespeare’s plays. The main idea that Golding focuses on is Ralph’s ‘hamartia’ and how this leads to the tragic fate of the boys on the island. Even though Ralph is shown to be a strong and innocent boy on the island, there are multiple flaws that Golding presents to us.

One of these flaws is his naivety; this trait is shown at the very start of the novel. Although Ralph is made ‘chief’ on the island at the beginning of the novel, he makes a decision that ultimately causes him to lose all power by the end of the novel. Because he is so naïve and trusting his first decision as chief is to make Jack the leader of the hunters; “Jack’s in charge of the choir.

They can be – what do you want them to be?”. By doing this Golding is showing us that Ralph may be seen as a ‘natural leader’ but he is still only a young child who is not yet aware of the danger that comes with giving away the power he has only just gained simply because he wishes to be friends with Jack. Another one of Ralph’s flaws is his indecisiveness, this is made aware to us throughout the novel and is a key fault in his leadership skills.

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Golding shows this by using rhetorical questions such as “what was it?” and “what did it mean?”, by doing this we are shown Ralph’s confusion and the struggle he has with making choices. This inability to make important decisions when he is under pressure makes him seem weak and incapable of being chief. Golding makes this aware to us by using third person but shifting from an external perspective to an internal one that allows us access to his consciousness.

This consequently leads to Ralph finding himself in life threating situations; “There were many things he could do. He could climb a tree – but that was putting all his eggs in one basket. If he were detected, they had nothing more difficult to do than wait. If only one had time to think!” This is a clear example of how this fatal flaw has caused him to be left in a almost inescapable situation. Although Ralph is unable to make decisions on his own, with the help and knowledge that is provided by Piggy he is able to make rational choices that are best for the group. However, this reliance on Piggy is another flaw that makes Ralph a weak leader, Golding presents this by showing us that Piggy is always the one who comes up with the smart ideas. This is first shown at the very start of the novel when Piggy finds the conch shell and suggests that they “can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us” which is a very rational way of thinking, yet later when they are having the vote for chief Ralph is described as being popular because there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch.”

This shows us how Piggy’s ideas are the foundation to Ralph’s early success on the island. We are shown the real importance of this flaw once Piggy is killed because this is when Ralph finds himself in situations that decide his fate. In the final chapters of the novel, when Jack and his tribe are hunting down Ralph, we are shown his inner thoughts and then become aware of this reliance on Piggy; “Think. What was the sensible thing to do? There was no Piggy to talk sense.” Golding does this to show us how even Ralph is aware that he would not have been chief without Piggy’s help, but also only now really appreciates the knowledge and support he received from Piggy. One more flaw that Ralph has, leads to Jack taking over and leaving Ralph powerless. This is his inability to understand the immediate needs of the boys on the island. Although Ralph has the groups best interest at mind and he is trying to think rationally and find the best way to survive and be rescued, he does not do what the rest of the boys need most, which is to deal with their concerns. The main concern of the boys is the beastie’ and when they explain this Jack and Ralph have very different reactions; “[Jack:) there isn’t a snake-thing. But if there was a snake we’d hunt it and we’d kill it. We’re going to hunt pigs and get meat for everyone” while Ralph says “But there isn’t a snake!” “But there isn’t a beast!”. The boys are scared and want reassurance that Ralph will protect them, yet he laughs and dismisses it, while Jack promises that is a beast where to exist he would kill it and also says that he will feed all the boys. Golding gives us these two reactions to show us how Ralph does not have this quality that is required if you wish to be a successful leader and also because this flaw is evidently the reason why the majority of the boys leave to join Jacks tribe towards the end of the novel.

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An Analysis of the Theme of Flaws in the Novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. (2022, Sep 27). Retrieved from

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