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Essay/Term paper: The corruptive nature of society as shown in golding's lord of the flies

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

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In Lord of the Flies, William Golding presents pessimistic view of society. He uses

the story of a group of boys stranded on a deserted island to examine a multitude of

specific social issues, such as leadership, sadism, and the role of intellectuals in society.

Taken together, this presentation of opinions on social issues brings the reader to the

question of the nature of society. As to this question, Golding asserts that society is an

inherently corruptive influence and illustrates this through the breakdown of social order

on the island.

Golding begins his indictment of society with an illustration of innocence. One of

first things that Ralph, the central character of the novel, does upon his arrival on the

island is to strip himself of his clothing and go swimming. During this opening sequence,

Piggy rambles about eating candies in his aunt"s store. Even Jack first appears as a choir

boy. Golding is careful in the novel to introduce each of the boys as the picture of

innocence, emphasizing that they are children and nothing more. This is shown in the

following quote, " He (Ralph) patted the palm trunk softly, and, forced at last to believe in

the reality of the island, laughed delightedly again and stood on his head. He turned neatly

on to his feet, jumped down to the beach, knelt and swept a double armful of sand into a

pile against his chest. Then he sat back and looked at the water with bright excited eyes."

(Golding, William Lord of the Flies Wideview/Perigee page 10).

By doing this, Golding strips his characters of any motives that they may have for

their actions down to bare human nature, as the author has shown them to be carrying no

emotional baggage. Because of this, these innocent children become the perfect subjects

for Golding"s test of human nature. Also, by establishing this innocence at the beginning,

before the boys form their society, in such a concrete manner, Golding suggests that man

begins as innocent, before entering society.

After establishing the boys as innocents, Golding wastes little time in mixing them

together into a society. That natural state that they exist in upon arrival on the island is

shattered by Ralph"s first unifying blow of the conch. Golding uses the scenario of the

isolated tropical island to demonstrate the effects society has on individuals. One of the

first things the boys do after assembling is to make fun of Piggy"s weight. Jack does this

to impress and entertain the other boys. Ralph chimes in to impress Jack, as well as the

group. Because of this desire to belong by Jack and Ralph, Piggy is isolated from the

group. To show this in the text, " "Then," went on Piggy, "that boy- I forget-"

"You"re talking too much," said Jack Merridew. "Shut up Fatty."

Laughter arose

"He"s not Fatty," cried Ralph, "his real name"s Piggy!"



"Oh, Piggy!"

A storm of laughter arose and even the tiniest child joined in. For the moment the

boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with Piggy outside: he went very pink, bowed his

head and cleaned his glasses again." (page 20).

This only begins the social problems that the boys experience. The caste system

that boys inadvertently create immediately isolates all of the younger children by giving

them no purpose. This caste system also serves to separate the boys who are not in the

choir from the rest of the group. Aside from the caste system and the overwhelming need

to belong, a fear of ridicule exists in the boys that prevents them from communicating

properly. This was demonstrated best at the meeting where Simon was trying to suggest

that the Beast wasn"t a physical thing, as is shown in the following passage, "Simon was

close to him, laying hands on the conch. Simon felt a perilous necessity to speak; but to

speak in assembly was a terrible thing to him.

"Maybe," he said hesitatingly, "maybe there is a beast"

The assembly cried out savagely and Ralph stood up in amazement.

"You, Simon? You believe in this?"

"I don"t know," said Simon. His heartbeats were choking him. "But...."

The storm broke.

"Sit down!"

"Shut up!"

"Take the conch!"

"Sod you!"

"Shut up!"

Ralph shouted.

"Hear him! He"s got the conch!"

"What I mean is... maybe it"s only us"


That was from Piggy, shocked out of decorum. Simon went on.

"We could be sort of...."

Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind"s essential illness.

Inspiration came to him.

"What"s the dirtiest thing there is?"

As an answer Jack dropped into the uncomprehending silence that followed it the

one crude expressive syllable. Release was immense. Those littluns who had climbed

back on the twister fell off again and did not mind. The hunters were screaming with


Simon"s effort fell about him in ruins; the laughter beat him cruelly and he shrank

away defenseless to his seat." (pgs 80-81). Because of this fear of embarrassment, Simon

is isolated at this point in the novel.

However, as well as demonstrating the isolating aspects of society, Golding also

uses this scenario to look at other degenerative evils of society, such as the tendency

towards laziness and the desire for privilege. At the first meeting, the boys collectively

acknowledged a need for shelters and a signal fire, yet these tasks fell to only a few of

them, while the others went swimming or hunting. Specifically, at that first meeting, Jack

volunteered the choir, himself a member, to keep a lookout and a signal fire going on top

of the mountain, yet the job soon fell to Samneric. Likewise, Piggy constantly made

suggestions as to what needed to be fixed, yet never acted on any of it. He espoused his

opinions on how to keep the fire going properly and how everyone should participate in

building the shelters, yet he never did any of this work that he suggested, himself. This

brings us to the idea of the desire for privilege. Piggy wanted work done, but did not

want to have to do it. Jack wanted to only have to hunt and not participate in Ralph"s

ideas of how the group should run. Jack was also envious of Ralph"s position as leader

and wanted that privilege for himself. It was this desirethat eventually led to the schism in

the group, with Jack forming the tribe at the Castle Rock. With this split, Jack was able to

enjoy the position of leader and did not have to do anything that he didn"t want to do. As

soon as the government was formed on the island, the boys began to tear away from it

until it ceased to exist. This is symbolized by the shattering of the conch that occurs in

chapter eleven, completing that social drive towards anarchy.

By looking at these two social evils that Golding vividly demonstrates, we are led

to the conclusion that there is a tendency towards anarchy in human nature as people

would rather obey their wants than their needs when given the chance by society. By

presenting a view of innocence, the effects of society, and direct social evils, William

Golding shows that society is a corrupting influence.  

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