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Theme of Savagery Versus Civilization in Lord of The Flies

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What would happen if a group of boys from a civilized society were suddenly thrown together onto a deserted island with no adults? William Golding’s Lord of the Flies provides a possible answer. In the cold and vulgar novel, Lord of the Flies, written in 1954 novel by William Golding, Golding brings to life savagery versus civilization within man in its purest form. The main characters Jack and Ralph are ideal illustrations of these personas. However, they did not start out with these good versus evil behaviors. The author utilizes archetypes to exemplify how the characters started out with the same identity, but that quickly changes as society is stripped away right out from under them. The isolation and people around them morphed the characters into what they truly are, behind the glasses, the war paint, and without the grownups.

In the beginning of the novel, Ralph is shown to be a strong leader, yet he does not know how to lead. He gains confidence when the others on the island vote him in as the chief. However, when the novel wraps up, he has lost his confidence, followers, and pride. He still is a leader, but it is masked by the terror and struggles he has gone through on the island. “Him with the shell. Ralph!Ralph!”. At this very moment Ralph was infused with pure confidence. Confidence that will stay with him through the entirety of the book. He now realized that the boys on the island stood behind him. They trusted him to rule over them. They trusted him to him to keep a civilized society. But most of all, they trusted him to get them off this island. Since the others trust Ralph, they for the most part listen to what he has to say.

Ralph enforces certain rules and ideas to ensure their rescue. “We’ve got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day there may be a ship out there… and if we have a signal going they’ll come and take us off. And another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting. The same up here as down there.” (Golding 43) Ralph tries to create an orderly civilization among the boys by prioritizing the signal fire and establishing rules about meetings and communication. Throughout the novel, Ralph insists on the need for an organized system of government, insisting on using the conch. Ralph also prioritizes the need for maintaining the fire over the need for hunting, which leads to his eventual clash with Jack. “Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!”. Ralph angrily realizes that Jack and his hunters let the signal fire burn out while hunting a pig. As he believes the signal fire is their only legitimate means of rescue from the island. Furious with Jack’s short-sighted obsession with hunting and killing a pig rather than focusing on getting rescued. As the novel progresses Ralph becomes afraid of the beast, the island is ripping out of each of the boys.

He recalls memories and has dreams of what it was like living back at home.HE becomes homesick and this is one way the island changed for the time being. HE was not homesick once he was home. “I’m frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home.” (Golding 140) Ralph grapples with his grief the morning after the boys kill Simon. Ralph understands that he has committed an unspeakable act. His new knowledge of his and the other boys’ capacity for violence causes him to fear their situation even more than before. In a reminder that these characters are merely children, Ralph wants to return to the safety of his home. He stared out at the beginning of the book wanting an adventure and to explore the island. He quickly loses his excitement about being alone and independent, and having the freedom to wander with no rules.

Ralph’s transformation was influenced greatly by the presence of the other boys on the island. He gained confidence the minute he was voted in as chief. He is thus portrayed to be a moldable and impressionable character, due to his fast changing personality based upon others opinions. Ralph also gained connections with characters like Piggy. When piggy’s time came to an end he was greatly saddened and felt guilt around his death. He also creates allies which stay by his side knowing his loyal nature, Piggy was an ally. Ralph is not one to be influenced, he is a leader not a follower. He stays sane and level headed throughout the morbid events that take place. When all the boys first arrived on the island they needed a leader. Jack and Ralph were the two that stepped up to the position. They both have leadership qualities however they both have different ideals. “You could have had everyone when the shelters were finished. But you had to hunt”. The two boys have not yet split off into their later revealing groups. The tension is building, conflicts and controversy put stress on the relationship. Jack want to live freely with no rules, while Ralph is focused on government like standards and being smart about his actions. Actions that could help them stay safe. Actions that could get the boys rescued. Actions that could bring them home. Ralph has to handle these conflicts with maturity, keeping in mind that the level headedness of the boys will affect the survival of the “government” and its rule. The rules and regulations are keeping the boys more in line, less savage like. Without them they can do whatever they like. Jack forces Ralph to step up and act as the grown ups. There are no actual grown ups to enforce them or help balance out societal structure, there are only boys pretending to be ones; trying their hardest to do what the grown ups would do.

Again, Jack and Ralph disagree and Piggy trys to mediate. “Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”. This sums up the essential conflict between Jack and Ralph. Ralph believes in law, order, and working towards the common good – in this case, rescue, while Jack prioritizes hunting, chaos, and living for the moment. Ralph (strong word)one final time with Jack and the others to see reason. He wants them to rejoin the group and help him build a civilization. By saying this, Piggy is putting on display how terrible Jack’s tribe is. Jack rules by fear, and to keep her high status he must make an example of anyone who challenges or stands up to him. With those intentions the words Piggy spoke will sadly be his last. In the escalating fight to get Piggy’s glasses back, roger pushes a boulder off the mountainside. Which proceeds to plunge down to where Piggy and Ralph were standing. Ralph having perfectly good vision sprang out of the way, but piggy having lost his glasses was struck and killed.

He is a natural leader. Ralph’s capacity for leadership is evident from the very beginning (he is the only elected leader of the boys). During the crisis caused by the sight of the dead paratrooper on the mountain, Ralph is able to proceed with both sense and caution. He works vigilantly to keep the group’s focus being rescued. When the time comes to investigate the castle rock, Ralph takes the lead alone, despite his fear of beast. He has all the elements of a hero Golding portrays Ralph’s archetype as the hero of the novel, and is successful. Ralph is not your typical hero, he does not necessarily solve the problem the whole novel is based around in the end. Some may argue that Ralph is not the hero and that there is no hero present. For example, Harry Potter is the hero of the Harry Potter series because he is brave, kind, a capable leader, and solved the problem of the novel. At the end of the series Potter is an adult and this is when he defeats the problem. Ralph is a 12 year old school boy. He is less experienced and is doing the best he can for his age situation. In the end Ralph is the well portrayed hero of the novel. Golding makes Ralph a perfect fit as the hero archetype this for this particular circumstance the characters are in.

Jack started out as a choir school boy who wanted to be chief as soon as he heard the words. He did not show himself to be a good leader but simply stated that he could sing “C sharp.” Meanwhile Ralph didn’t even have to state his reasons to be voted in, he just was. But Jacks true makeup is unleashed on the island, bringing out a power hungry animal, or beast.

Conflict on the island begins with Jack attempting to dominate the group rather than working with Ralph to benefit it. He frequently impugns the power of the conch. Declaring that the conch rule does not matter on certain parts of the island. Yet he uses the conch to his advantage when possible, such as when he calls his own assembly to make himself chief and overrule Ralph. For him, the conch represents the rules and boundaries that have kept him from acting on the impulses to dominate others. “Things are breaking up. And i don’t understand why. We began well, we were happy. And then-” He moved the couch gently, looking beyond them at nothing, remembering the beastie, the snake, the fire, the talk of fear.” At this point the boys have gathered for a meeting. They are discussing fear, the apparent beast, and the signal fire. Soon after the beginning of the meeting things go astir, Ralph takes it into his own hands to pacify things. Things take a turn when Jack starts calling the littluns names, he thinks they are being un logical for thinking there are furious beasts on a deserted island. Then things escalated even more, the boys were fighting over the couch. When Jack had the couch he cradled it like it was his baby. The conch symbolizes power, so in a sense Jack loves and cradles power as a mother cradles her beloved child. Piggy tries to stand up for himself when the others are taking over him. He states that he has the couch so the other boys should shut up.

Jack quickly showed his true colors to the boys when he could not get his way. He would be angered by little things like when Ralph was voted in as chief. All that built up anger exploded out of him and he turned into the Jack we know at the end of the book. “Shut up, Fatty.” Jack from the get go was a kid with no filter. He said and did whatever he wanted. Not caring if it was hurtful to his peers or the survival of the so called government, Ralph was trying so desperately to organize. However, Ralph quickly states that Piggy is not fatty, this implies that Piggy is not brave enough to stand up for himself so Ralph does it for him. As the other kids including Jack go on laughing, Ralph was silent.

Jack is extremely arrogant and that never changed throughout the book, in fact he probably developed more evil characteristics than he started out with. The other characters did not change his they simply gave him someone to rule over and take control over. Back in the real world his powers were held back by societal structures and rules, but on the island we saw who Jack really was. Bollocks to the rules! “We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat – !” Jack feels that being a hunter is more important than following Ralph’s rules. He values killing and hunting more than contributing to the order and civilization of the island. Jack demonstrates his growing desire for power over others as he begins to establish a strong drive to hunt and quickly becomes a barbarick monster.

In the morbid yet eye opening novel, Lord of the Flies, written in 1954 by William Golding, Golding brings to life savagery versus civilization within man in its purest form. The main characters Jack and Ralph are ideal illustrations of these personas. However, they did not start out with these good versus evil behaviors. They transformed, the island unveiled their true being. The author utilizes archetypes to exemplify how the characters started out with the same identity, but that quickly changes as society is stripped away right out from under them. The isolation and people around them morphed the characters into what they truly are, behind the glasses, the war paint, and without the grownups. Sitting reading this novel you think to yourself how you would never forget the critical structures of society. You think that you would never go so far as to kill another human due to that thirst for power. You would never become so power hungry that you create your own tribe of hunters, breaking away from all common sense and good. A tribe powered by fear and freedom. A tribe based on evil, forgetting the good. A tribe you would never created or even go so far as to join. You say this now. What would really happen on that island. What would you choose. Good or evil? 

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Theme Of Savagery Versus Civilization In Lord Of The Flies. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
“Theme Of Savagery Versus Civilization In Lord Of The Flies.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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