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Essay/Term paper: Lord of the flies

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

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The Lord of the Flies

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
"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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