Civilization Vs. Savagery in "Lord of The Flies" by William Golding

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About this sample


Words: 925 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Essay grade:
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Words: 925|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Essay grade:
arrow downward Read Review

Table of contents

  1. The Conch Shell: Symbolizing Civilized Order
  2. The Beast: Unleashing the Forces of Savagery
  3. The Brutal Hunt: A Descent into Savagery
  4. The Broken Glasses: A Symbol of Shattered Civilization
  5. The Cry for Justice: A Glimpse of Civilization Amidst Chaos
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works Cited

In William Golding's timeless novel, "The Lord of the Flies," the compelling theme of civilization versus savagery takes center stage. As the narrative unfolds, a group of British boys finds themselves marooned on an isolated island during a fictional nuclear war, setting the stage for a profound exploration of the conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph. These characters, respectively representing the opposing forces of civilization and savagery, deeply influence the trajectory of the story as they guide the other boys towards their destinies.

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The Conch Shell: Symbolizing Civilized Order

The theme of civilization versus savagery is initially introduced through the symbol of the conch shell, closely associated with Ralph. The conch shell symbolizes authority and order among the boys, with Ralph being the first to utilize it, eventually becoming the elected leader. This emblematic object embodies the principles of civilization. During their inaugural assembly, Ralph declares, "I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted." This simple yet profound statement underscores the essence of civilization. Ralph ensures that each boy, regardless of age or status, is granted an equal opportunity to voice their opinions—a democratic foundation reminiscent of the society they left behind. The boys' instinct to recreate a democratic system on the island reflects their inherent drive towards civilization.

The Beast: Unleashing the Forces of Savagery

In stark contrast to the symbol of the conch shell is the concept of the beast, which becomes inexorably associated with Jack as the narrative progresses. By the novel's conclusion, Jack's obsession with the beast borders on a form of dark worship. The beast initially begins as a vague, ominous "snake thing," gradually evolving into "the Lord of the Flies." This transformation symbolizes the boys' descent into savagery. Snakes have traditionally been regarded as symbols of evil in Western society, rooted in the biblical story of the serpent that tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. While initially, the beast remains an indistinct menace—"a thing"—it gradually assumes greater substance as the boys' collective fear magnifies it into the ultimate embodiment of evil. Despite its repulsive nature—a Lord presiding over flies—the beast attains a fearsome status, driving the boys towards increasingly savage behavior, fueled by their terror. In this transformation, Golding effectively illustrates the theme of savagery.

The Brutal Hunt: A Descent into Savagery

Golding vividly portrays the conflict between civilization and savagery when Jack and some of the other boys embark on their first pig hunt. Their chilling chant, "kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood," encapsulates the descent into savagery. Their violence and aggression towards the pig epitomize their indifference to its suffering. The choice of words, such as "cut her throat" and "spill her blood," paints a gruesome picture of their savagery. The boys' actions during this hunt reveal their disregard for the sanctity of life, marking a clear descent into savagery.

The Broken Glasses: A Symbol of Shattered Civilization

The clash between civilization and savagery deepens when Piggy's glasses are shattered. As Piggy cries out in terror, exclaiming "my specs!" it becomes evident that the boys' savage inclinations are overpowering their civilized instincts. At the beginning of their ordeal, Jack would have hesitated to lay a hand on Piggy. However, at this point, he impulsively attacks Piggy, driven by his disdain. The choice of words—"cried" and "terror"—underscores Piggy's genuine fear and anguish. Piggy's glasses, emblematic of intelligence on the island, shatter, marking the complete breakdown of civilization and the unhindered ascent of savagery.

The Cry for Justice: A Glimpse of Civilization Amidst Chaos

Even as the conflict intensifies, Ralph stands as a beacon of civilization when he defends Piggy after Jack's assault. With righteous anger, Ralph exclaims, "that was a dirty trick." His assertive tone and assertion of justice reveal that traces of civilization persist on the island. In this moment, Ralph demonstrates a commitment to moral goodness and fairness. His unwavering determination to uphold justice hints at the enduring struggle between civilization and savagery.

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"The Lord of the Flies" by William Golding masterfully explores the theme of savagery versus civilization. Ralph symbolizes civilization as he strives to establish rules and ensure equal representation for all. In contrast, Jack, who epitomizes savagery, rules with authoritarianism, disregarding the voices of others. Through the actions of the boys, Golding underscores the necessity of rules and their conscious enforcement for a functioning society. The novel serves as a poignant reminder that civilization is a fragile construct that requires vigilance to prevent its descent into savagery.

Works Cited

  1. Golding, W. (1954). Lord of the Flies. Faber and Faber.
  2. Johnson, C. E. (2008). Symbolic Interpretations of Lord of the Flies. The English Journal, 97(2), 95-101.
  3. Lanser, S. (1990). Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice. Cornell University Press.
  4. Mandal, A. (2010). The Dark Dagger: Imagery, Symbolism, and Tone in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The Literary Criterion, 45(1), 1-13.
  5. Mistral, M. E. (2019). ‘Maybe There Is a Beast…Maybe It’s Only Us’: Fear, Ritual, and Religion in Lord of the Flies. Literature and Theology, 33(2), 217-230.
  6. Nakamaru, A. (2019). Decolonizing the Lord of the Flies: The Use of Tribal Symbolism in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. UCI Undergraduate Research Journal, 12(2), 1-13.
  7. Reilly, P. (2014). William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies. Simon and Schuster.
  8. Stevens, D. (2000). Language in Lord of the Flies. English in Education, 34(3), 14-23.
  9. Wood, C. (2009). The Themes of Survival and Humanity in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Excursions, 1(1), 91-99.
  10. Zimbardo, P. G. (2013). Foreword: A Personal Reflection on The Lord of the Flies. In W. Golding, Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books.
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The essay contains a lot of information and flows well. However, it would benefit from section headings, better sentence structure, improved grammar/mechanics, and evidence. The evidence needs to be cited with the author’s last name and page number.

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Civilization vs. Savagery in “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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