Lord of the Flies Analysis

June 13, 2012
Power and control has become a big part of day-to day life- kids listen to their parents, who listen to officials, who listen to the government, who listens to the president, who listens to the people. Taking things into a broader view, power and control is displayed over everything and everyone. In a smaller world or a microcosm, with no designated leader, anarchy would flood the streets and world would be put into a state of utter chaos in the struggle for power and control. The evil, primitive being within all of mankind would be released and would run rampant with no one to stop it. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s recurring theme of power and control illuminates the essential illness of man found through the chaotic and irrational behavior that consequently follows the pursuit of it.

From the beginning, Golding purposely sets the boys up to reveal their true personalities through their need for power and control. In Ralph’s response to Jack’s question about the grownups, Golding intentionally has him declare, “There’s no man with the trumpet. Only me.” (10) This demonstrates the power and control the adults once possessed over the boys and how deep in their minds it was instilled. It also brings to light that someone needs to take responsibility over this group of boys and displays the start of Ralph’s transformation into that adult figure, becoming “the man with the megaphone.” (Golding) In another portrayal of this desire for power and control, Golding allows Ralph to ridicule Piggy by shouting, “He’s not Fatty! His real name is Piggy!” (21) When Ralph mocks Piggy by divulging a secret that he had so carefully entrusted him with, he is giving up the trust of a friend to gain greater power and control over the rest of the boys. Golding seizes another opportunity and presents another side of Ralph that emphasizes the darkness within him as a consequence of power and control. Later on, Golding introduces Jack’s rivaling craving for power when he offers, “I ought to be chief because I’m chapter chorister and head boy,” () as his first attempt to use his power and control over the choir boys and expand it to the others on the island. He later continues asserting his power and control when he exclaims, “We’ll have rules! Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks ‘em-” (33) Golding incorporates a glimpse into Jack’s malevolent personality -displaying the imminent darkness within him.

Following these initial displays of power, the boys’ thirst for power and control intensifies as their malignant personalities show through and trouble bubbles to the surface. Golding deliberately places the boys in a situation where their excitement takes control of them and their fire becomes a symbol of destruction; he continues by demonstrating the power and control of the boys resulting in the large forest fire where the “trunks crumbled to white dust” (Golding 41) and trees “exploded in the fire.” (Golding 46) The power and control of the older boys is present as they shield the younger boys from the apparent murder of the boy “whose mulberry-marked face had not been seen since the evening of the great fire.” (Golding 60) Furthermore, as a form of exercising their power and control over the “littl’uns” (Golding 60), Golding has Roger lead “the way straight through the castles, kicking them over, burying the flowers, scattering the chosen stones.” (Golding 60) In this manner, Roger tears apart their perfect little worlds that the small kids had created with “absorbed attention” (Golding 59). This showcases the inescapable evil within him, and the struggle for power and control throughout the age groups. Following that, Golding purposefully points out Henry innocently playing in the sand, creating little grooves in the sand to trap the transparencies when he is overcome by “beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things.” (Golding 61) Through this, the author captures the universal lust for power and the darkness that lurks behind it. Later on, Golding shifts the power and control over the boys to Jack when the procession carries in “the gut red carcass of a pig [as it] swung from the stake.” (Golding 68) Jack finds himself in the perfect position with his newly found power and control in supplying meat for the rest of the boys to usurp Ralph’s position as chief. The murder of the first pig symbolizes the malignant behavior of the boys when they find this violence pleasurable. Golding describes the feeling as though the boys had “taken away its life like a long satisfying drink” (70) Additionally, with all this talk of the beastie and fear possessing the littl’uns, Golding has Simon offer, “Maybe, its only us.” (Golding 89) The meaning of this line demonstrates how man’s essential illness lives within all of the boys and how the beastie- being a creation of their own dark minds- will haunt them as a reminder of the evil within them. During the reenactment of the killing of a pig, the boys lose their control when they begin to hunt Robert. This symbolizes how the maligned monster within each of these boys clamors and roars for more violence for “Ralph too was fighting to get near to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh” (Golding 115) and how it causes the boys to turn on one another. Moreover, Golding then has the boys hunt for a sow, displaying the irrational thought process of the boys, considering the fact that fewer pigs will be bred now. The air full of “sweat and noise and blood and terror,” (Golding 135) the boys continue to hunt the sow, “wedded to her in lust, excited by the long chase and the dropped blood.” (Golding 135) Here, Golding describes the hunt as a rape, the worst possible act of power and control over another person, to illustrate the malice within the boys and the struggle to exercise their power and control over another living being.

After the killing of the sow, Golding creates a struggle for power and control between Ralph and Jack, allowing their real personalities come through. The violence has escalated and Jack’s tribe of savages has caused so much destruction that it is impossible to ignore that “the island was getting worse and worse”. (Golding 139). In an attempt to intimidate Ralph’s tribe into surrendering, the “demoniac figures with faces of red and white and green rushed out howling, so the littl’ uns fled screaming.” (Golding 140) In this excerpt, William Golding demonstrates Jack’s seizure of power through intimidation and the true personalities shining through their masks, “safe from shame or self-consciousness.” (Golding 140) As Ralph’s followers dwindle, Golding deliberately has Jack step in announcing, “Listen, all of you. Me and my hunter, we’re living along the beach by a flat rock. We hunt and feast and have fun. If you want to join my tribe, come and see us. Perhaps I’ll let you join. Perhaps not.” (140) Through this announcement, the author portrays the division between Ralph’s tribe and Jack’s tribe and the struggle to maintain it. However, Jack’s power has increased to the point where he is able to sway the boys over to his side with the promise of more hunting, meat, and a fun lifestyle with no rules. He understands that the primitive need for violence and hunting within the young boys alone will persuade them. When Ralph confronts Jack about this sudden loss of power, he encounters him sitting upon a throne, “painted and garlanded…like an idol.” (Golding 149) As Jack feverishly yells as them, “Do our dance! Come on! Dance! ”(Golding 151) they begin another reenactment of the killing of a pig where Roger takes its place. Their excitement over imposing their will on another being riles them all up, so when they see the dark figure stumbling down the mountain, the beast within them, refusing to be quenched, pounces upon the bait as “the sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed.” (Golding 152) The violence involved with the murder of Simon is described as primitive and savage as the hunters “screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.” (Golding 153) With the death of Simon, the beast within the boys has emerged as a consequence of their lust for power and control. Inquistive about Jack’s new position as chief, Ralph clambers up the mountain to ask Roger and Robert about Jack’s dictatorship; they fearfully whisper, “He got angry and made us tie Wilfred up.” (Golding 159) Wilfred symbolizes Jack’s world, revolving around the power and control he has gained through intimidation and violence and hunting. His exploitation of this power drives him to do whatever he wants without following any rules or answering to anyone. The malignance within him has shone through as his true personality as a result of his wild chase for power and control.

Unfortunately, following the tied-up Wilfred, the system of law and order completely collapses and the fight for power and control forces the boys to reveal the ability to do evil within them. Jack’s “tribe of painted savages” (Golding 177) steals Piggy’s glasses to light their fire and their footsteps escalate into a battle where Ralph’s tribe attacks themselves. Golding utilizes this to symbolize the darkness within in them resulting in their own misfortune and the collapse of reason and logic. Ralph “was torn and jolted, found fingers in his mouth and bit them…he hit with more and more passionate hysteria as the face became slippery.” (Golding 167) As Ralph once again visits Jack, his anger boils to the surface after seeing the “painted fool” (Golding 178) with his primitive tribe and “the breaking sound of stones” (Golding 180) is following by the rock causing Piggy’s fall into the ocean where “his head opened and stuff came out and turned red.” (Golding 181) The death of Piggy results in complete anarchy, signifying the evil within the “anonymous devils” (Golding 181) tearing apart yet another innocent human soul. The struggle for power and control between Jack and Ralph reaches its climax, with Ralph’s last defense stripped away. Ultimately, Golding’s theme of power and control reaches a resolution when Ralph finds himself at the feet of the naval officer as he is asked, “Who’s boss here?”(Golding 201) and Jack “started forward then changed his mind and stood still.” (201) With the adults back in the picture, the power and control automatically go to them, rendering Ralph’s and Jack’s attempts to maintain power and control futile and their inner beast hides in the presence of this authority. Furthermore, Golding has Jack stand in the background as a sign of him yielding his power and control to Ralph and the naval officer as a resolution.

In Lord of the Flies, William Golding describes the essential illness of man with his recurring theme of power and control and the anarchy that ensues the pursuit of it. With most of the population living a crazed state, the world would be a dystopia. As humans, we have rules and regulations and strong morals that keep our inner malignant being in check. In making these rules and regulations, it is often thought that we limit ourselves and restrain ourselves from being the best we can be. These limits are set by the individuals that have power and control over us, the power and control we give them by electing them into their positions. In general, power and control is displayed through every action.





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