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William Golding's Insight on Obedience in Lord of The Flies

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In society, obedience is taught at an early age towards your elders and to authority. Humans are taught to follow commands that benefit them even if they lead to violence. However, as we grow up to be independent from our superiors, obedience idea of obedience tends to change. In the Lord of the Flies, the boys show obedience to the leaders. How we become obedient can be understood in multiple ways. In the modern world, people to obey people of higher power. An example of this would be a teacher or a boss. William Golding’s opinion in Lord of the Flies demonstrates that obedience comes from fear and a higher authority and obedience then leads to violence. This blind obedience which is presented towards Ralph and Jack is relevant throughout time depending on the circumstances and fear.

One factor that leads to obedience is fear. In the Lord of the Flies, the boys are stranded on an island where they live by themselves. One source of fear in the book is the beast. When the boys were debating about if the beast was real or not, “I know there isn’t no beast not with claws and all that I mean but I know there isn’t no fear either… unless we get frightened of people”. The boys are afraid of the beast which leads them towards Ralph and Jack. When they are scared, they turn to a leader or authority to survive or to feel safe. When they killed Simon, ““I expect the beast disguised himself.” “We’d better keep on the right side of him, anyhow. You can’t tell what he might do.” The tribe considered this; and then were shaken, as if by a flow of wind. The chief saw the effect of his words and stood abruptly”. The author is hinting that fear helps the leader/ authority control the society. The boys are afraid of the beast so they will listen and follow anything Jack says. According to CBS News, “Not knowing what to do is a key factor of obedience”. In Lord of the Flies, the boys do not know what to do so they follow Jack and Ralph because they are older and a leader figure. The boys have lived in England and they are kids so they do not know how to handle this situation well.

Another source in CBS says, “Fear of consequences shows obedience when you aren’t sure of the outcome”. The kids on the Island were afraid to rebel against Jack so they join and obey him. Being afraid and fear leads to obedience towards authority. Another factor that leads to obedience is a higher authority. In the Lord of the Flies, the boys obey Jack and Ralph. When the boys were running around the fire, “Jack had him by the hair and was brandishing his knife…the chant rose ritually…”. The chant was meant to be for fun but the group couldn’t stop themselves from obeying their Jack and performing the dance. Since Jack did it, the boys do it too because he is of higher authority. When they tie up a young boy, Wilfred, on Jack’s orders. Robert tells Roger that Jack wishes to torture Wilfred later and when Roger asks why, Robert responds: “I don’t know. He didn’t say.” This shows that the boys would do anything Jack says without question or complaint. This supports that an authority figure causes obedience. We can see this is reality in Milgrams experiment. The experiment had a participant shock a student from 15 – 450 volts if they got an answer incorrect. His results revealed the disturbing extent to which people obeyed authority even when it meant knowingly inflicting pain. In Milgram’s first set of studies, “26 out of 40 participants continued to shock the students with each wrong answer, all the way to 450 volts. Even when the students pleaded for the shocks to end”. People follow orders similar to Jack’s even though they know they’re inflicting pain. People are obedient when there is a higher authority present.

Although obedience has been taught at an early age, the reasons behind it have remained the same. Even if it is through fear or a higher authority, it leads to obedience which can benefit or harm you or others. William Golding’s insight is that these are examples of how higher authority and blind obedience to tradition can create societies filled with inhumane cruelties.

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William Golding’s Insight on Obedience in Lord of the Flies. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from
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