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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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A new civilisation evolves from what the society has rejected from the civilisation it replaced and all behaviour thereafter is generated around a concept through which this new civilisation formed. Upon William Golding’s island a civilisation is borne out of the ashes of former civilised life. Once away from the grip of society and the presence of authority, the stranded boys began to develop a way of life according first to Ralph’s power in the conch and secondly to Jack’s power in the killing the pig. Jack’s ideas, being more controversial to the British upbringing each boy was melded in, became the more rebellious and therefore more desirable aim.

On first introduction of the characters in Chapter 1, we are introduced to Ralph, Piggy and Jack who all play pivotal roles in the construction of hierarchy and the new civilisation on the island. Ralph is first shown to be an immature and care free prepubescent boy who doesn’t appear anxious about the crash. He is the picture of a normal British schoolboy as he plays on the beach, “He turned neatly on his feet, jumped down to the beach, knelt and swept a double armful of sand into a pile against his chest. Then he sat back and looked at the water with bright, excited eyes.” (Chapter 1, page 15). Golding uses this image of an immature child who later transforms into a hard and calculating leader, to demonstrate the effects of a new social culture of paranoia and violence as shown in their response to an outside threat as with the beast, “Serve you right if something did get you, you useless lot of cry-babies!” (Jack. Chapter 5, page 103). This could be related to the war, as Britain is facing a beast of its own and therefore Golding could be suggesting that any civilisation, strong or weak, is forced to mutate when faced with a threat. Ralph becomes the voice of reason as he tries to hang onto the traditions of Western culture like making shelters, having meetings, keeping a signal fire alight and setting rules, “Now I say this and make it a rule, because I’m chief.” (Ralph. Chapter 5, page 101). Although he is in a savage environment, his idea of a civilisation is parallel to one that might be described as democratic as his intentions and priorities come from a civilised upbringing.


However the influence of Piggy was probably the motivation behind Ralph’s ideas. He is described with a cockney accent which suggests that he’s isn’t as upper-class as the rest of the boys and this is ironic since he stays the most civilised throughout the book, never resorting to violence and voicing the dangers of being trapped on the island forever, “If we don’t get home soon we’ll be barmy.” (Piggy. Chapter 10, page 203). Piggy might even be the reason that Ralph ruled with such civilised aims such as rescue and implementation of resources, in the case of the fruit trees and fresh water held in coconut shells. The initial sign of this was during the first assembly when Piggy insisted on recording everyone’s name, “Piggy moved among the crowd, asking names and frowning to remember them.” (Chapter 1, page 25). Golding could be creating the impression that civilisations do not just consist of leaders and followers but also advisors. Ralph relies on Piggy’s guidance much like a president relies on the men and woman in government. Although juvenile and primitive their assemblies mimic those of government revealing another facet of civilisation which is the process of deliberation before action. “I’ve got to have time to think things out. I can’t decide what to do straight off.” (Ralph. Chapter 1, page 31)


During the first assembly another power player emerges in choir master, Jack. He becomes the instigator and ends up leading the group to savagery. He appears at first to be the most civilised in his choir uniform and in the way he speaks. Jack is the one to bring up the topic of rescue in the meeting surprisingly, which displays that his sense of moral values is still intact, “We’ve got to decide about being rescued.” Jack’s civilised upbringing is shaken when he sets the challenge for himself of killing a pig. “All the same you need an army--- for hunting. Hunting pigs ----“ (Jack. Chapter 2, page 43). This is yet another connection to their former civilisation in the way that both societies now have a need for attack, Britain in the war and the hunters trying to kill the pig. This bloodthirsty goal is what inevitably shapes the new civilisation on the island.
We see that the boys disregarded the way of Western Civilisation in favour of the own. They made traditions like the tribal chant and hunting, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” (Jack’s tribe. Chapter 12, page 229)


Through the use of these three characters and the beast, Golding demonstrates that civilisations are cultivated from primitive intentions whether it is freedom, oppression, territory or domination. Ralph realises the difference between civilised and savage appearances when he is forced to confront Jack, “Supposing we go, looking like we used to, washed and hair brushed---after all we aren’t savages really and being rescued isn’t a game—“(Ralph. Chapter 11, page 210) Likewise with Simon’s conversation with the Lord of the flies where we are forced to confront the fact that although we live in a time of social and cultural superiority, primal urges and thoughts are what powers humans and therefore civilisations and therefore are the foundations of civilised behaviour. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? ...I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?” (Lord of the flies. Chapter 8, page 178)



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