Civilisation Versus Savagery in The Lord of The Flies

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 892 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 892|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

‘The Lord of the Flies’, by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding, is an allegory based novel of the frightening beast within man. When a group of schoolboys survive an aeroplane crashes on an uninhabited island and a disastrous attempt at trying to govern themselves with no adults to supervise them shows the development of their actions on the island. The boys’ begin with electing a boy Ralph as leader. As the novel develops the boy's civilisation diminishes and descends into barbarism, transforming a group of civilised, well-mannered school boys’ into a wild pack of beasts, wanting only to kill, hunt and butcher anything they don’t like the look of. The theme of civilisation versus savagery is divulged throughout the novel showing the true dark side or the ‘beast’ within human beings illustrated as a group of schoolboys.

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William Golding first introduces the theme of civilisation versus savagery in the exposition when he characterises the boys’ as civilised school children who wish to establish order on the island.

‘And most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch’, the boys’ start with electing Ralph as leader. The conch is a symbol of respect and civilisation bringing all the boys’ together almost as some sort of family, highlighting how civilised the boys were before the evil chaos unleashed within them further on in the novel. When the boys’ had created an assembly Ralph tells the boys’ they may never get rescued from the island,''We may stay here till we die” With that word the heat seemed to increase until it became a threatening weight’, Ralph is very straight to the point to the boys’ with the fact they can be stuck on the island for the rest of their lives this realization may be of conflict later, The boys’ are shocked and saddened by idea of growing old on this island.

Although, as the boys’ adapt to life on the island, their civilised ways come under threat as they are drawn towards more violent, savage behaviours, as ‘Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked around challenging’, This highlights Jack’s aggressiveness and mental strength on the island after only one chapter in the novel turning himself mildly violent on the violent. This act foreshadows towards the end of the novel when the hunters and Jack as leader hunt down Ralph savagely with no intent to be merciful, but the intent to kill.

‘On the unfriendly side of the mountain, the drum roll continued’, this shows an idea of savagery or tribal instinct: the island also seems to have two sides. It tells us that the fire will continue and the stress and misfortune will too. This also foreshadows when the boys’ turn completely savage.

Thirdly, the boys’ innate capacity for savagery and evil becomes more apparent during the key incident when they initiate a tribal hunting dance that leads to the death of Simon, ‘Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.’, These three phrases combined together is a rule of three making the chant hypnotic, compels the boys’ to join in the chant. The chat is Monosyllabic, having all words consisting of one syllable making it catchy and memorable. It suggests the boys’ are losing intelligence as they’re swept up in the moment, foreshadowing the worst things that happen later on.

‘There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws’, This is a key incident to the climax of Simon’s murder. The ‘Teeth and claws’ links back to earlier in the novel and the boys’ description of the beast, suggesting that the beast is within them all. The animalistic, grotesque and gruesome description emphasises the horror of his death.

Lastly the boys’ full descent from civilisation into savagery is most compellingly communicated by Golding through the murder of Piggy and the denouement of the novel, ‘Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever’, the word ‘delirious’ means Roger is in a disturbed and maniacle state. He is expressing his entirely evil nature here, showing us the full transformation from a civilised schoolboy to a demented and deranged barbarian who has completely lost his mind and is now fueled by violence and the thought of destuction. This highlights the theme of civilisation and savagery in the novel.

‘Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear’, as the group of hunters led by Jack hunt down Ralph with the intent to kill (keep in mind this is the description of a hunt, but importantly, of a human). Even Ralph (who was still mildly civilised much more than the others) had to trigger his instinct of survival to survive against the hunters, showing that when Ralph wasn't savage, the hunters still made him savage if he helped it or not.

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In conclusion, ‘The Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding is an excellent novel which illustrates what can happen when people are taken away from the pressure of society which keeps them humane and refined. Slowly, all the boys collapse into savagery and show little or no respect for other lives on the island. Even Ralph, who is the protagonist of the novel and who remains substantially well-behaved and civilised, is unconscious of the full realization of the attitude and the insanity of the savages actions. Even Ralph enjoyed associating the savages with the chanting and dancing.    

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Civilisation Versus Savagery In The Lord Of The Flies. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
“Civilisation Versus Savagery In The Lord Of The Flies.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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