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Essay/Term paper: Evaluation of the lord of the flies

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

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Evaluation of The Lord of the Flies


Lord of the Flies is a 202 page long adventure story written by William
Golding in 1954 about a number of boys marooned on a tropical island and left to
fend for themselves. While on the island, they discover quite a bit of evil
within themselves.
A few years after World War 2, a planeful of boys as young as 5 or 6
but most no older than 11 or 12 crashes near an uninhabited tropical island. As
soon as they land, one of the eldest assumes leadership of the others, but not
before befriending an overweight, asthmatic boy nicknamed Piggy. Ralph takes
control of the boys and organizes a small expedition up the mountain. He meets
Jack Merridew, the chief antagonist. Jack is then a leader of choir boys, but
will soon turn into a leader of savages. On the mountain, Jack hunts but does
not kill a pig. He vows to kill it the next time. On their return, Ralph holds
an informational meeting and informs the boys that they will be safe, but that
they must start a signal fire and set up temporary shelters until help can be
found. A rumour of a beast is heard, but is quickly discounted as a nightmare.
It will later be a major theme in the book. On the mountain, fire is created,
but only through the use of Piggy's glasses. After Jack goes off to hunt and
comes back, Ralph discusses the problems of people not working with Jack. Simon
goes into the jungle alone and contemplates. The boys become used to the daily
tasks on the island. The small children play all the time while the older ones
do most of the work. The first flash of Jack's future warrior/hunter position as
leader is shown as he comes back to camp with his face painted. A ship is
spotted, but they find that the signal fire on the mountain has gone out, and
the ship passes them by. Jack finally kills a pig, but Piggy criticizes him. In
return, Jack slaps Piggy and breaks one of the lenses on his glasses. Ralph
warns Jack to stop this destructive behaviour. Jack starts roasting the pig he
had killed earlier. Jack does not initially give Ralph any food, but he does
finally get some. Ralph calls an assembly after the feast. He verbally attacks
all the boys for their neglect for the daily tasks that must be completed such
as building shelters and keeping the fire lit. The fear of the beast grows even
larger. Piggy begins to criticize them as the meeting turns anarchic and
disorderly, and Jack begins to shift towards leadership. That night, there is an
aerial battle above the island. In the half-asleep state of the boys, they
believe that the beast has come to kill them. An expedition is organized, but
finds nothing. They come to a part of the island that nobody had been to before
and they reflect quietly. Later, Jack and his growing army of hunters go off to
hunt another pig. Jack is wounded in the battle with the pig. The hunter boys
start a new dance-like ritual in which one of the boys pretends to be the pig
and their battle cry of "kill the pig" is repeated. At first, nobody is hurt in
the ritual, but eventually it becomes more and more brutal. Ralph, Roger, and
Jack continue to hunt for the beast. They discover a strange creature in the
shadows; it is in fact the dead pilot from the airplane that had crashed the
night before, but they do not realize this. Terror rapidly grows as news of the
beast is spread. Jack calls a meeting and publicly accuses Ralph of cowardice
and explains how he is unfit for leadership. Jack leaves, and many of the
hunters follow him. Piggy somehow manages to remain calm and helps Ralph regroup
after Jack leaves. Jack hunts and kills a pig, and leaves its bloody skull on a
pole as sacrifice. This skull is the symbolic Lord of the Flies in the novel.
Jack holds another pig-feast. Ralph and Piggy at first do not attend but are
eventually drawn to it mostly by hunger, but also in a fleeting attempt to
regain some control over the boys. Almost all of the boys have join Jack's tribe
by this point. Simon has an extremely symbolic hallucinatory experience in the
jungle as he starts to believe that the head is speaking to him as an
incarnation of Satan, the Lord of the Flies. He eventually faints from terror.
He eventually revives himself and attempts to go to the mountain, although
significantly weakened by his experience with the Lord of the Flies. He finds
the dead pilot that had been mistaken for the beast. Back at the beach, Jack and
his tribe begin their ritualistic dance. Even Ralph and Piggy are drawn in to a
degree. Simon comes out of the jungle, but he is mistaken for the beast. The
boys beat and tear at him until he is dead. A storm hits and all run for cover.
In the morning, Ralph, Piggy, and Sam and Eric meet on the beach. They are the
only ones who have not joined Jack's tribe. Piggy tries to explain away Simon's
death. Ralph insists that it was a murder. At Castle Rock, Jack rules as a
dictator over the other boys. Roger carries out Jack's sadistic orders upon the
boys who do not comply. Jack warns his tribe to be constantly watchful of the
beast as it is not really dead. Jack plots to steal fire from Ralph and Piggy on
the beach. As he does so, a fight breaks out. Piggy loses his eyeglasses as Jack
steals them to make fire. The next morning, Ralph and Piggy again attempt to
regroup. Ralph suggests going to Castle Rock, Jack's fortress, to attempt to
reason with him. They take the conch with them as the last symbol of Ralph's
authority. Ralph is mocked as he approaches and the conch is ignored. Ralph
demands that Jack give back Piggy's glasses, but Jack refuses and orders his
tribe to attack Ralph and Piggy. A boulder is dropped on Piggy and he is killed.
The conch is destroyed as the boulder crushes it as well. Ralph is seriously
wounded by the hunters' spears. Sam and Eric are forced to join the tribe,
leaving only Ralph free of Jack's rule. Ralph hides in the jungle and nurses his
wounds. He runs across the pig's head and takes the stick upon which it was
placed as a weapon. He tries to decide where to hide, and settles on hiding in
the brush and running if neccesary. He is soon discovered as he observes the
hunters and a violent chase ensues. As both Ralph and the hunters reach the
beach, they see a military officer who happened upon the island. He questions
Ralph and is appalled at the state of the boys. Ralph bursts into tears as the
novel closes and he recounts the events that have occurred.
The character I admire the most in the book is Piggy. He keeps his
clear-headed rationality until the very end of his life. Although he cannot
perform very much physical work, if it was not for his mental contributions
very little would have been possible on the island. He provides clear-headed yet
often cynical and biting remarks at several of the meetings, noticeably the
second one after the fire goes out. His glasses not only provide the literal
fire for the island, but also a symbolic fire that drives the rationality in
Ralph and the other boys. Unfortunately, he gradually loses that rational
control, and eventually not he but Jack becomes the possessor of the fire,
albeit a sadistic and tyrannical possessor.
The character whom I admire the least is not Jack as might be expected,
but Roger. Roger is the cruel, unthinking beast who mindlessly carries out the
orders of the leader who is at least bright enough to think, although not
particularly good thoughts. It is him and those like him who put the spear
through Ralph and dropped the stone on Piggy. If it was not for the Rogers of
the world, much of the mindless, cruel suffering which is so often explained
away through "But I was only following orders!" Although the military chain of
command can be important, it is also important that officers retain a mind of
their own and be able to think when it might not be the best idea to obey an
order. I firmly believe that if all of us could think a little more instead of
blindly doing what we are told, suffering in the world would be hundreds of
times less than what it is now.
Questions I would want to ask William Golding about his book if it were
possible mainly deal with why he chose certain symbolic elements. I would want
to know why he chose to have children as the characters; is it because they are
in truth the only innocents, or to show that not even the children are innocent?
Although I think it is clear that Golding is of the opinion that the basic human
condition is evil and that government and rules must be carefully imposed to
preserve order, like Hobbes, I would also be interested in knowing what his
other philosophical positions were as he wrote this novel. Finally, I would be
interested in knowing what particular event he witnessed or was part of in real
life drove him to write this book. Could it have been an experience he had in
World War II? What could have been so bad as to inspire a book of this
passionate intensity?
Although I disagree with Golding's view of the world as basically evil,
his book is certainly a good argument for that position. It shockingly reveals
that none have innocence and even the best among us can be brought down to a
near-beast state, as even Ralph was by the end of the book, consigned to
mindless running from the evil. I find it interesting how Golding made the Beast,
the Lord of the Flies, the apparent evil in this book and the focus of the
hunter's search, but in fact the Beast is the hunters themselves and the evil
they represent. I think that although the brutality in the book may be a bit
much for some, I do not think that Golding would have been able to get his point
across without it.

 

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