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Essay/Term paper: The lord of the flies: themes

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Lord of the Flies

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The Lord of the Flies: Themes


The world had witnessed the atrocities of World War II and began to
examine the defects of their social ethics. Man's purity and innocence was gone.
Man's ability to remain civilized was faltering. This change of attitude was
extremely evident in the literature of the age. Writers, who through the use of
clever symbolism, mocked the tragedy of man's fate. One such writer was William
Golding. An author who has seen the destruction of war and despises its
inevitable return. Through the use of innocent and untainted children, Golding
illustrates how man is doomed by his own instinct. The novel is called Lord of
the Flies, and is of extreme importance to help reconstruct the current wave of
revolutionary ideas that swept the twentieth-century generation. Lord of the
Flies portrays the belief of the age that man is in a constant struggle between
darkness and light, the defects of human nature, and a philosophical pessimism
that seals the fate of man. Golding's work are, due to their rigid structure
and style, are interpreted in many different ways. Its unique style is
different from the contemporary thought and therefor open for criticism.
The struggle between darkness and light is a major theme in all the
works of William Golding. Strong examples of this are found throughout Lord of
the Flies. The most obvious is the struggle between Ralph and Jack. The
characters themselves have been heavily influenced by the war. Ralph is the
representative of Democracy. Elected as the leader he and Piggy his companion
keep order and maintain a civilized government. The strength of Ralph's
character was supported by the power of World War II. Jack, on the other hand,
represents authoritarianism. He rules as a dictator and is the exact opposite
of Ralph. Jack is exemplifying the Hitler's and Mussolini's of the world. He
is what the world fears and yet follows. This struggle is born at the very
beginning and escalates till the very end. The struggle in the book is a
negative outlook on life in the future. One other example is the debate over
the existence of the beast. The idea of a beast brings all into a state of
chaotic excitement in which Ralph and Piggy lose control. Ralph and especially
Piggy try to convince everyone that there is no such thing as a beast to
maintain order. Jack and his choir of hunters do all to win support of the hunt
and in doing so he becomes an advocate for evil. This struggle between good and
evil is a fairly clear picture of the way this post-war generation viewed man
and his journey through life. This is done through Golding's masterful use of
allegory. Therefor making it enjoyable for all readers.
Golding himself stated that the purpose of the novel was to trace the
defects of society back "to the many defects of human society." The use of
children is an extremely effective way of making the purpose understandable to
readers of all generations.
"The idea of placing boys alone on an island, and letting them
work out archetypal patterns of human society, is a brilliant
technical device, with a simple coherence which is easily
understood by a modern audience." (Cox 163) This quote by C.B. Cox gives
us the reason why this novel has survived so long and is so well respected. The
children are left to react in ways that will test how close they will resemble
modern civilization. The group at first tries to assemble a type of demcratic
government in which Ralph is elected leader. At this instant we see something
that is most important. That is the reluctance of Jack to become the leader.
He and his choir singers, which are dressed in black to symbolize evil, are
immediately separated from the group and labeled as hunters. This gives Jack
some piece of power and like the dictators of the 1930's he insists he receive
more. The hunter party is Golding's triumph in giving the first glimpse of
human savagery through the hunter party. As the hunter party grows in numbers
the hunters have a great thirst for blood and death. This is how the beast is
first seen. They become more savage and soon begin to paint their faces to show
how fierce they are. The whole time Ralph and Piggy the only rational thinkers
have become the greatest enemy of the party. They begin to make chants and
dances and do all to destroy any order. When Piggy is killed we see the end of
rational thinking and the complete collapse of mankind's strength to remain
civilized at all costs. Man has become savage and has shown a terrifying
glimpse into the future of Democracy. The defect of man is revered to as the
beast. The thing the boys were all running away from was what they became and
it was lead by the representation of Satan himself, the red haired Jack. At
certain stages in the story Golding deliberately makes us forget that these are
only young children. Their drama and conflict typify the inevitable overthrow
of all attempts to impose a permanent civilization on the instincts of man.
Golding along with many of the writers of the time gave pessimistic
endings not only to their books but to life in general. They showed society in
a sort of downward decent which could not be stopped because it is in our nature.
The savagery of man is used through the use of the hunters. The pessimism is
viewed through the ending. The ending has been interpreted in many ways but
most contain the same ideas. The idea that there is no hope or mankind. The
story takes place in the near future during an atomic war. The children were
being transported away from Britain. The world had already started to become
savage and as many people in the generation said " If world war three is atomic
bombs than world war four is sticks and clubs." Obviously the idea of human
nature and savagery were in fact very prominent. Golding uses an excellent idea
for the end of this story. The naval officer comes to rescue the children from
their war with Ralph and are suprised to find how savage the "English" boys were
acting. At this point we see Ralph begin to cry not for being saved but for
mankind.
" The naval officer, who comes to rescue them...His trim
cruiser, the sub-machine gun, his white drill, epaulettes,
revolver and row of gilt buttons, are only more sophisticated
substitutes for the war-paint and sticks of Jack and his
followers. He too is chasing men in order to kill, and
the dirty children mock the absurd civilized attempt to
hide the power of evil. And so when Ralph weeps for
the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and
the death of his true wise friend, Piggy, he weeps for all
the human race." (Cox 164)

Such a tragic view of the future of mankind and their nature is a
perfect window for people to understand how the impact of the war made the world
rethink its ethics and how life was thought of as a punishment in the extreme
sense and that there was no hope for the future except fear. This view has
since changed but not greatly as one would imagine. The basic ideas are still
their and modern society may still relate to this novel. The interpretation may
not be exact but from now on mankind will always weep for " the end of innocence,
the darkness of man's heart, and" the most disturbing" for all the human race."



 

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