Unavoidable Darkness Darkness prevails in all humans. It is an inevitable trait that people choose to let shine or keep hidden. The dark is usually a private matter, however, when in frightening or dire situations, the darkness overtakes others. The dark is not only shown through real life humans, but also in imaginary literary characters and novels as well. In The Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses archetypes such as the hero, the quest, and loss of innocence to bring out one of the novel’s many themes, the idea of civilization versus savagery.
The hero archetype throughout the novel represents Ralph, the protagonist and the leader. Ralph is chosen by Piggy to become the leader of the island and the boys. He does not necessarily want to become the chief over all the kids on the island, but all of Ralph’s inner and outer qualities point to his as being a leader. Ralph is one of the oldest, strongest boys on the island. It seems natural for Ralph to inherit the place of leader because he seems so strong and brave. Not only that, but Ralph is also very likeable and able to talk to people and reason.
The first idea Ralph has as head of the island is a way to signal to people outside the island that there are people on the island and they need to be rescued (Golding). Thinking of a way to save everybody is a symbol of heroism. Ordinary people would generally be concerned with how to obtain food and materials for a shelter, but Ralph is thinking ten steps ahead. Ralph is a smart boy and when it is just Ralph and Piggy alone, Piggy hands Ralph a conch shell that he finds and Ralph decides to blow it as hard as he can to summon on the other little boys to him so they all can work together and thrive as a team (Golding).
Ralph’s heroism is displayed in how he chooses to work with others in a democracy like setting. He realizes that the group will not be able to function together or without set jobs that help everyone know where to be and what to be doing at all times. In addition, Ralph tries his hardest to keep all of the work and rules fair among the group, however, the boys are so self-indulged that they do not listen to Ralph and eventually go off with Jack and his savagery. Ralph believes that the only they will be able to survive is if everyone is doing something to benefit their minisociety.
Eventually, Ralph does not win the battle against the others or persuade them to come back to civilization, but Ralph remains a hero because he believes what he believes and does not allow his evil side to take over and sticks with his morals. The quest is another archetype present in the novel and represents the signal fire to rescue. The main focus of most of the book and of Ralph has been to leave the island and be saved by outside people. All of these boys from ages six to twelve are stranded on the island and will not survive for a long time without rescuers.
None of the boys have any idea how to survive because they are all so young and have had parents who provide all that they need. The boys do not realize how much they need to work in order to stay strong and alive. All of the boys need to be rescued because if not they will sink and eventually die. The rescue fire is what they need to obtain the help that will save their lives. Ralph is so focused on the fire throughout the novel that it becomes a huge quest that needs to be managed by lots of people. The fire is the boys’ last hope and needs to be maintained at all times.
Even though the fire is the group’s last shot, most of the boys neglect the fire because they do not realize how much the fire could save them. The younger and some older boys are more concerned with food and killing animals than being saved. Almost all of the people are sick of Ralph’s rules about keeping up the fire that they flee to another side of the island with Jack where they do not have to worry about rules and roles in the government Ralph tries to make (Golding). Ralph needs the fire because he is searching for his future and something beyond a life on an island with pigs and sharp twigs.
He understands that he needs to focus solely on the fire in order to have any hope of his bright days back in Europe where he can become married and have lots of children. Ralph is the only one of the clan to realize that the fire will give them the future they all have always dreamed of and a life that is not lived out on an empty island. Another archetype present throughout the literary masterpiece is the loss of innocence for everyone through Piggy’s death. The loss on innocence means losing the thoughts that keep a person whole and clean and making them into a beast they had no idea lives in them.
When all of the boys first arrive on the island, all is well. There are no fights and the boys are still young, innocent children, however, as the novel progresses the boys become more and more out of control. It is not until Piggy’s death do they boys realize that everyone has gone rouge and all is not well. Piggy dies because he tries to explain to the other why the fire and rules are so important. As Piggy is trying to do that, Roger shoves a rock down the mountain side that knocks Piggy off the mountain side to his death below on a bed of rocks (Golding).
The boys have allowed the beast inside of each and every one of them to take over and shine through. The clan does not care that they are killing innocent people and causing mass chaos, all they want to do is be violent and put up a fight. The group is no longer a clan that wants to thrive and live in harmony, now they are out for themselves and own wishes. The clan does not care about each other and would kill in heartbeat because it is fun to them and the beast inside of them has taken over. No one, not even Ralph has their innocence anymore. Everyone has all witnessed people being killed and pure evil.
All of the group has seen and been to the dark side, some are even there at the end of the novel as well. The clan of boys in the beginning who is sweet and wanting to aide each other in need no longer exists. The pureness all of them have at the start of the book is no longer to be found. Ralph even assisted in the murder of Simon and is crying at the end of the novel because he realizes how dark society can become so fast and how depressing that thought is. It is morose to think that when left without order and structure life begins to fall apart and people fight for themselves and lose all sanity and love they have left.
The theme of civilization against savagery shines through the archetypes of the hero, the quest, and the loss of innocence. The entire novel deals with the idea of whether the boys should become a civilized society or have a free for all with no rules on the island. Ralph, the hero, pushes for order and civilization. He feels that in order for the boys to be successful on the island and for them to have all the proper supplies they need; they all need to work together to make it happen. If they do not work together, all that Ralph tries to make work will fail.
In addition, Ralph’s main focus of keeping the fire going adds to the theme. The quest of the rescue fire shows that civilization is extremely important to Ralph and that he knows what he is doing. Ralph understands the fact that the only way the boys will make it out alive is if that fire continues to burn. The hope of rescue is in the hands of the people who Ralph appoints to watch the fire day and night. However, Jack and other people choose to ignore their roles in the society Ralph creates and lessen the chance of a rescue for anyone.
Jack believes that if it is every man for himself and no order or rules, all tasks that need to be completed will work themselves out. Jack’s plan eventually fails and leads to the loss of innocence for all the boys on the island. The back and forth of rules versus no rules throws a lot of the boys off. They love the sounds of no rules and freedom but do not understand the destruction of savagery. The group does not comprehend that when people work together as a group the load that they may have to bear alone is much easier and less stressful with the help of other people.
Civilization helps put people in places that will allow the society to function correctly, but savagery lets people do whatever they want even if it means losing all innocence and giving up. Throughout The Lord of the Flies, archetypes such as the hero, the quest, and loss of innocence are written in such a manner that allows the theme of civilization versus savagery to prevail. Ralph maintains a strong hero but realizes that his quest of keeping the rescue fire going will fail if others are not helping him.
If all of the boys decide to go off into unordered chaos the society will fall apart and the quest will fail. The quest causes the loss of innocence to come about because the people are a mess and decide to let their dark side take over. During all of the archetypes, the concept of civilization versus savagery helps to add the extra layer of volume the archetypes need and allow them to have and even deeper meaning. All in all, Golding is able to prove that everyone has a dark side and that without ordered society people would act out of character.