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Essay/Term paper: Evaluation of lord of the flies

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

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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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