The Lord Of the Flies

Topics: Books

What are boys like? This is a question often asked by various people. How do they behave both individually and in a group situation, particularly a dangerous and unfamiliar one like this? Are they different to adults. What would happen if, during a full-scale nuclear war, a group of boys, of contrasting characters, were given the chance of a new start – a new Eden? Would they behave any differently? Is conflict inevitable? The Lord Of the Flies’ was set in a period where the tensions between the USSR (United Soviet States of Russia) and the USA (United States of America) were at their height and this book attempts to answer all of these questions, but are the answers presented accurate, and if so, how far? The reader quickly becomes aware of the range of personalities on the island Ralph immediately is portrayed as a leading figure as he seems to command Piggy, “sucks to your ass-mar”, although it could be seen as a sign of frustration or a put-down, and surveys the situation that they are in realistically: “He must have flown off after he dropped us.

He couldn’t land here.

Not in a plane with wheels” When Ralph uses the conch to call the other boys he proves that he is taking charge. He proves that he is cool-headed and able to rationalise. Most boys, when left for a time without the restraints of the adult world, develop a hierarchy, or ‘pecking order’ extremely quickly and when Jack appears, rivalry develops: “I ought to be chief,” said Jack with simple arrogance, “because I’m chapter chorister and head boy.

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I can sing C sharp. ” Here jack doesn’t explicitly tell them that his future plans are to create a dictatorship, it is more a case announcing his leadership qualifications.

Jack wants a ‘tribe’ where everyone worships him and obeys his orders, like the chapel choir. If boys were left in a situation like this, where a ‘gang’ of youths were forced to be with other boys, then they would assume that the others would follow their example. As Jack is the leader of this ‘gang’ then he assumes that he will lead the other boys. Ralph tells the boys of how they will be rescued soon if they build a fire and therefore the boys follow him as he is saying what they want to hear. Initially the boys behave well when they are placed outside the controls and restrictions of the adult world with no adult authority.

Piggy is the first to attempt to sustain a civilised society, as he tries to imply the rules and laws of the adult society into the boy’s society. One instance is when he suggests writing down the names of the boys. In a group of boys, especially such a cross-section as Golding presents, there is always a realistic member who is determined to create the perfect society. Piggy is this member as on numerous occasions he tries to prevent the boys from descending into savagery, which will be rooted in the text later.

This works initially, mainly because of the nature of their meeting, as this is, in effect, a disaster. After a major incident, boys seem to look to their leaders for encouragement and the message from Ralph is to create an ordered society. The reason for Ralph following this path is because his father was in the Royal Navy and therefore has had to mature quickly as he has probably not had a father figure and therefore is a great deal wiser than his years suggest. Ralph also offers the prospect of rescue. In fact he promises rescue, he tells the boys what they probably want to hear and therefore they follow him.

The solution to the rivalry between Ralph and Jack is to split the ‘tribe’ of boys into two groups, the hunters and the non-hunters. This works initially as the dictator can never accept that people are better, or even equal to him and this allow Jack to follow his own ambitions. A famous expression demonstrates this aspect of political reality: “You can please some of the people all of the time, and you can please all of the people some of the time; but you can’t please all of the people all off the time. ”

Ralph is the only rival to Jack and his first impression of Ralph is one of dislike: “What he saw did not please him”. They are very different characters and they symbolise the two futures for the ‘tribe’. The black cloak, his ‘tall thin and bony’ structure is complimented by his red hair and black cap, giving Jack the overall impression of a dictator. This bears a slightly ghostly, spectral appearance, similar to the grim reaper! He orders his choir as if they were troops. Jack’s primitive instincts are never far away, and they quickly become central to his concept of survival.

These are to hunt and kill the pig, disregarding the rules of society. Like any group of boys, they think that rules are there to be broken. Ralph believes in democracy and is mature, elegant and a natural leader and whereas Jack wanted to be leader automatically, Ralph, the democrat, wanted an election. In any society, and it is not just true of boys, there is one leader who initially looks appealing because he says the right things, but as time progresses, he becomes less appealing as he is too sensible and doesn’t allow for fun.

Golding claims here that there are always rivals in society and claims that leaders will order society to fit themselves, in Ralph’s case democracy, in Jack’s case a thirst for blood and this is true of all groups pf boy, there will be those who set out to exploit others for their own gain. At the end of the first chapter Golding presents Jacks as a bloodthirsty, primitive boy as he throws his knife into a tree to establish order. In any society, there are people that are feared, as they appear to be violent people.

Golding shows that Jack is a leader with this statement to prove that he is a leader and that he will not be contradicted by anyone. Golding also shows what kind of a leader he will be as Jack ‘threatens’ or dares’ them to contradict, proving that he will be a leader by threats. In the second chapter, Golding uses many techniques to show the inevitable problems of organising a society that is made up of individuals. In the preliminary stages of the book, the boys operated in harmony to build up a fire and the conch filled the boys, especially the younger ones, with awe and wonder.

Piggy suggests the building of a shelter and the ‘Government; system is established by Ralph and encouraged by Jack. The problems develop, as with any group of boys, when Jack, Piggy and Ralph develop a different perspective on the uses of a democratic society Ralph wants to use the society to live fairly amongst one another, Jack wishes the rules to be used for control and punishment while Piggy, clearly the most intelligent of the ‘tribe’ needs the rules to ensure survival of himself and the others.

If we were to look at any group of boys, we would find that there would be similar characteristics to those shown by Golding. Golding emphasises that everyone is different in their ideas and that people get on well with each other while they have their own way: “Even the smallest boys, unless fruit claimed them, brought little pieces of wood” This demonstrates unison for their leaders’ ideas but they are also distracted by the fruit (their own intentions). Piggy cries for help in the, allegedly, as he would not be helped if this wasn’t the case, “I got the conch… ou let me speak! “. As in any society there is a ‘mother’ figure. Ralph is the one with this calming presence upon the boys. The younger boys fear ‘the beastie’ and it takes Ralph’s best efforts to calm them. There is always a fear that young boys have, and it is usually an exaggerated if not made up fear and they need to be calmed down. Ralph is unlike Piggy, both physically and mentally, as he recognises that the younger boys are a vital part of the ‘tribe’ and is not as pessimistic as Piggy is.

The skills demonstrated by Ralph that prove that he is worthy of being a leader are that he has patience, for the young children, diplomacy, as he demonstrates when the issue of the snakes is raised, respecting public opinions, as he shows when he waits for the others to voice their opinions about the snake before voicing his own and he also demonstrates lateral thinking. Ralph has the support of the younger children and, for a short while, Jack.

In most groups of boys there is a person like Ralph who is so practical that he is initially an idol, but he quickly descends into a memory of how life used to be when there is a leader whose main focus is having a good time. The older children, apart from Ralph, lose interest very quickly in the younger children. The ‘little-uns’ spend much of their time being ill, homesick and generally being of little use to anyone. In any gathering of boys of such a wide variety, there will undoubtedly be tensions.

The older boys want to socialise with those of their own age group and the younger boys have found that the fun has ‘worn off’ from the initial thrill of being deserted on a desert island and are now pursuing their ultimate ambition, to enjoy themselves. This attitude frustrates the older boys as Roger and Maurice demonstrate: “Roger and Maurice came out of the forest… Roger led the way straight through the sandcastles, kicking them over, burying the flowers, scattering the chosen stones. Maurice followed, laughing, and added to the destruction”

The boys do show some hint that without adults, they would at least have a conscience, even if they fail to heed it: “In his other life Maurice had received chastisement for filling a younger eye with sand. Now, though there was no parent to let fall al heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrong-doing. ” Golding tries to make the point in this chapter that humans, especially young humans, need something, no matter how improbable, to hold onto. The possibility of a ship visiting the boys is extremely unlikely after a nuclear war but Ralph can almost picture it and the boys have something to cling onto.

Ralph almost fantasises about this event claiming that it would be his father who rescues them. This is a demonstration of how humans cope throughout horrendous situations providing that there is hope. The inevitable tension of having of having some non-corrupt boys in a group of corrupt boys sparked the sufficient violence within the boys to resort them to primitive forms of behaviour. The boys have just begun to destroy their world as the adults have destroyed theirs.

The boys are solely to blame for the death of Simon as they descended very quickly into savages, they ignore Ralph’s commands and go off to find fruit, rather than build the fire. It is possibly fear that motivates them to kill Simon, kindled by Jack’s aggressive stance and Piggy’s constant fatalism. Jack initiates the lust for blood and the boys descend into savagery and so an accident of this nature is not altogether unlikely. The first indication of tension in chapter three is Jack’s preoccupation with hunting, despite this particular talent being somewhat new to him. He hunts, not for food, but for his lust for blood.

He approaches madness as he describes his obsession with ‘the thrill of the chase’, this causes tension between himself and Ralph as the fire remains lit. Ralph then, after realising how obsessed Jack is becoming about the pigs, orders him to build a shelter which is vital for their survival, unlike the pig meat. Jack has descended into savagery, “Except for a tattered pair of shorts held up by his knife-belt he was naked”. Jack is not prepared to kill at this stage but he lust for blood; “From the pig-run came the quick, hard patter of hoofs, a castanet sound, seductive, maddening – the promise of meat”

After this even Jack “rushed out of the undergrowth and snatched up his spear”. This points to the fact that he panicked instead of acting rationally and approaching stealthily. He quickly loses his temper after this escapade, possibly with himself. The boys become restless, despite Ralph’s best efforts as the prospect of more work and no play becomes more and more unappealing. He is struggling to deal with boys who are unable to demonstrate responsibility or care for themselves. Ralph realises how mollycoddled the rest of the boys have been and how much they must mature if they are to survive.

All of the boys are choosing the ‘easy option’ and descending into savagery before Ralph’s eyes. Despite claiming that the English are the best at everything, Jack displays a great deal of aggression, probably released by testosterone. The younger boys are showing naivety, as they don’t seem to realise the implications of being trapped on a desert island with little chance of rescue. As the book progresses, the boys still obey notions of proper behaviour without any senior authority but without the authoritarian figure, the boys transgress from proper behaviour into savagery.

Jack becomes the first to leave the protective boundaries of civilised society, as his successful hunts are, in effect, attempts to succumb to an animalistic nature. The other hunters also descend into savagery as the thrill of violence. Not only are they not content to kill the pig, they feel the urge to mutilate and maim the pig. The hunters are becoming like a separate tribe on the island as they develop their various ideals for life on the island.

The conflict between the two sides is also shown as Piggy and Ralph become disgruntled and then furious that the hunters have let the fire die out, especially as it could have been the only chance of rescue that the boys had. Piggy then becomes a martyr as he is persecuted by many of the boys but his presence is vital to the survival of the boys, not only because of his spectacles, but also because of his level-headedness. Piggy seems to keep his ‘schoolboy’ appearance as his hair remains relatively well kept and this is in stark contrast to the other boys who grow more dishevelled.

Jack’s lust for violence is shown when he punches Piggy as he has developed an increasingly violent nature as he has control of his hunters. Ralph’s first mistake was to trust in human nature and hope that Jack would comply with his ideologies, a fatal mistake, almost literally. Democracy is completely shattered when the ship is sighted and the pig is killed. The ship reminds the boys of their civilised lives which they once belonged to whereas the killing of the pig is an example of their descent from civilised behaviour into savagery.

Ralph and Piggy have a greater concern for returning to a civilised society while Jack and the hunters enjoy the downfall of civilisation and the descent into savagery. The ‘little-uns’ show so signs of remorse at descending into savagery. It is my opinion that the story of ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ would be slightly different than it is today. Depending on what type of people that were put in the situation of being alone, free from the restraints of the adult world, there would be small differences. The boys would probably split into two groups more quickly, as there are rivalries between boys whilst within the restraints of the adult world.

There would be less violence because people are more aware of others; vegetarianism is a recent train of thought. Other than these minor changes due to society evolving over a period of time, Golding’s portrayal of boys is remarkably realistic, if one was to think for a moment, one could probably think of people in real life who are eerily similar to the main characters from Lord Of The Flies. The view that is particularly disturbing is that the behaviour that is exhibited by the boys is common to all human beings, young or old.

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The Lord Of the Flies. (2017, Sep 21). Retrieved from

The Lord Of the Flies
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