William Goldings novel Lord of the Flies not only provides a profound insight into human nature but also does so in a way that is remarkable for its use of shock and horror. Golding presents aspects of human nature as themes in the book. It alerts us to our potential to descend from order to chaos, good to evil, civilization to savagery. They are explored through how innate evil can be brought out in certain situations, the dangers in not addressing our own fears and the battle between civilization and anarchy.
Most importantly, Golding achieved the above using metaphorical and didactic writing techniques that unquestionably shocked his readers and still shocks them today. Lord of the Flies is essentially an allegory. It reveals how people can descend into barbarism in an atmosphere of chaos. The main issues in the novel are that of the divide between civilization and savagery, the innate human evil, power and its consequences, and grouping.
The theme of the breakdown of civilization toward savagery emphasizes the struggle between the ruling elements of society which include law, morality, culture and the chaotic elements of humanitys savage instincts which include anarchy, bloodlust, amorality, selfishness and a desire for power. The book implies that civilization is a veneer, which can be easily pierced to reveal the brutality of human nature. Goldings main representation of the conflict between civilization and savagery is through the characters in the novel.
Ralph, the protagonist and Piggy are both symbols for morality and leadership, whilst the antagonist, Jack and his right hand man Roger are symbols for the desire for power, selfishness and amorality. Jack cannot at first bring himself to kill a pig because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood. This shows the boys innocence at the beginning of their experience. Another example of this is where Roger feels the urge to torment a Littlun but is held back by the social values which he used to follow Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them.
Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. This happens earlier in the novel when the boys are still governed by their morals from their good society. The novel illustrates the descent from the boys utopian society into a primitive tribal culture of conflict which soon becomes a dystopia. This quick fall from law and order stuns the reader into self-realization of the human condition.
From the first mention of the Beast, to when Ralph is running for his life from Jacks tribe, fear is a major preoccupation of Lord of the Flies. Just as fear in world history has been the cause of violence and destruction; it is the force which drives the boys on the island towards their chaos. The boys use the Beast figure as their means of projecting their fear of each other and of the circumstances that theyre in. This breakdown in the groups need and desire for morality, order and civilization is increasingly enabled or excused by the presence of the Beast.
The degree to which each boy is prone to see the beast mirrors the degree to which he is afraid, and can be linked to a fight or flight mechanism. Simon is really the only one on the island who realizes that the fear is innate and that there is no beast. What I mean is maybe its only us. Simon seems to exist outside Jack and Ralphs conflict and he contrasts with them as his qualities seem to be more natural, a kind of instinctive goodness that is not taught by human society such as Ralphs democratic type civilization.
At night, when fear mainly controls the boys, they feel they are not answerable for what they do. Even Ralph, the symbol for civilization, morality and leadership joins in the tribal chanting and killing of Simon for he cannot help himself but be part of the mob psychology. After Simons death, Ralph and Piggy discuss what happened but both desperately try to excuse their actions It was dark. There was that that bloody dance. There was lightning and thunder and rain. We was scared! It was an accident, thats what it was, an accident.
They are denying that they were part of Simons murder. The disturbing display of savagery when Jacks boys cut off a pigs head, the Lord of the Flies and put it on a stick as an offering for the beast is an important symbol of the theme of an instinctive human savagery. Simons delirious confrontation with the Lord of the Flies confirms his theory of evil being instinctive to man and actually within all of us There isnt anyone to help you. Only me. And Im the beast fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! … You knew didnt you? Im a part of you.
Golding is portraying through these examples that every individual, no matter how strong their moral instinct will have an innate drive toward savagery as well. A prominent theme throughout the novel is that of power. It could be argued that the author was using this theme as an allegory of the twentieth century, for the island was a microcosm of the political conflicts at the time e. g. democracy against autocracy. Golding uses the boys as symbols, Ralph and Piggy representing democracy and Jack representing a dictatorship. The boys look for leadership qualities when deciding their leaders.
None of the boys could have found good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack. But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch. The author is showing us that we need all the characters of good leadership to be successful, i. e. charisma and popularity, not just intelligence and logic. Golding uses many effective writing techniques to clearly and strongly depict his ideas and visions.
In the beginning of the novel Ralph is talking to Piggy shortly after they have met I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. Hes a commander in the navy. When he gets leave hell come and rescue us. Whats your father? Piggy flushed suddenly. My dads dead and my mum– He took off his glasses and looked vainly for something with which to clean them. I used to live with my auntie. She kept a sweet shop. I used to get ever so many sweets. As many as I liked. Whenll your dad rescue us?. In this snatch of dialogue Golding catches not only schoolboy speech patterns, but also the social difference between the two boys.
Another example of familiar language use is when he is describing Piggys bloody death on the rocks. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. He is using the boys type of speech to create a clear mental image. Techniques such as foreshadowing are also used to hint and give the reader an air of suspense, for example when Ralph joins in the chant around Robert after they nearly catch a pig, the boys get caught up in the excitement and nearly kill Robert. This is a presage of the incident of Simons murder. The use of irony in the last chapter of the novel is effective in illustrating the boundary between civilization and savagery.
One of Goldings most effective techniques is his use of a Deus ex machina or a character who resolves a complication. As Ralph is escaping from Jacks tribe there is a sudden appearance of a Naval Officer to bring the boys back to the world of law and order. The fire that attracted the attention of the band of naval officers was not a controlled signal fire but a fire with the purpose of killing and burning Ralph as Jacks tribe hunted him. This is an essential message of the novel the irony is that it was their savagery that ultimately saved them. The irony is deepened by the behavior of the officer.
His manner indicates he has never seen such savagery, that he was outraged by the boys. Yet, the man is a naval officer at the very time of the rescues, himself serving in a war zone. The island is a microcosm and these techniques are the tools which provide the reader with a clear insight and an understanding into human nature. War and the time of his upbringing was the context for William Goldings Lord of the Flies. Through the two wars, the Great Depression, and the Cold war, he was exposed to what mankind is truly capable of. He makes many subtle references to the politics of the 20th century.
We might get captured by the Reds, a possible reference to communist times. Another link is the boys address of jack, The Chief, which reminds us of Hitlers title in Nazi Germany of the Fuhrer which means Chief. It portrays Jacks Totalitarianism and links it to a figure that was prominent at the time. His perception of what mankind was capable of was extremely negative. He said once I believe man suffers from an appalling ignorance of his own nature. I produce my own view [Lord of the Flies] in the belief that it may be something like the truth.
Golding could not see how in a world of Christianity, there could be so much fear, abuse of power and savagery. This was accounted for by mans Original Sin, the disobedience of Adam and Eve which led to the loss of paradise. He describes this loss of paradise as the move from civilization to savagery, a utopia to a dystopia. Golding has unquestionably provided us with a profound insight into the dark side of human nature and has achieved this using shock and horror as artistic devices. Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of mans heart and the fall through the air of the true wise friend called Piggy.
This quote from the last page of the novel in fact summarizes the thesis of the Lord of the Flies. Here, Golding explicitly connects the sources of Ralphs despair to two of the main themes of the novel: the end of innocence and the darkness of mans heart, the presence of savage instincts lurking within all human beings, even at the height of civilization. In looking at this, we see that Lord of the Flies is in practice an essay or thesis on the human condition. This last important sentence is his conclusion, the summary of his opinions and beliefs.
Goldings use of themes and symbols such as the close conflict between civilization and savagery, instinctive evil, and power; extensive writing techniques to provide the reader with a more reflective insight into human nature; and his lifes experiences, enrich the novel with truths that can only be truly discovered through bitter experience. For these reasons, it can be seen that Lord of the Flies does shock and disturb the reader into an insight and better understanding of the human condition Lord of the Flies shocks and disturbs the reader into an understanding of human nature.