Lord of the Flies

‘Lord of the Flies’ is frequently read as the story of changing identities. The plot gives an opportunity to trace the process, in which several boys turn into savage beasts on an isolated island. These changes do not occur overnight, but are accompanied by a series of profound implications, which make the story extremely realistic and teaching. In this essay I will turn my attention to exploring this process of losing identity and ultimate human devastation. ‘Lord of the Flies’ is the narration about the three identities, lost through violence, savageness, and inner moral conflict.

Identity loss as the leading theme of the book

The loss of identity among boys and their ultimate moral devastation is the major conflict of the book. Golding was extremely interested in investigating the inner causes and complications of such identity loss. It is difficult to justify these irreversible changes by external conditions in which the boys found themselves, yet for someone this justification may seem possible.

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Ralph and his changing identity

‘Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.’[1] Ralph’s presence on the island led him to the state when he could not control his premature instincts anymore. The outstanding feature of Ralph’s personality in this story is that he experienced the loss of his identity twice: the first took place when he appeared on the island, and the second occurred after he was elected the leader and could not successfully hold that position.

The change which occurred to Ralph could be connected to some magic spell of the island, but unfortunately this change found its reasonable explanation. Ralph was a well-bred and disciplined young boy, but being on an island without any adults significantly contributes into his identity loss. He could not perform the role of the leader and reasonably recognized the difficulties of being without parents.

The loss of his leadership identity made him realize his ineffectiveness which he tried to compensate through cruelty and violence. ‘Ralph went for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy.’[2] The moment when Ralph sees the officer and realizes that his life is saved, becomes the culmination of his devastation: he simultaneously perceives the irreversibility of his change and the power of evil which exists in every human soul.

Jack as the symbol of release from former identities

Jack is completely different from Ralph; he is not subjected to reflecting upon the despair of his identity loss. ‘I’m scared of him, and that’s why I know him. If you’re scared of someone you hate him but you can’t stop thinking about him. You kid yourself he’s all right really, an’ them when you see him again; it’s like asthma an’ you can’t breathe.’[3] In his identity loss and devastation Jack has gone beyond reasonable measures, making the other boys afraid of him.

He has demonstrated his ill nature to the fullest. Through his example, the reader reveals the tragic truth: human evil does not have any measures. The mask which he used in hunting, in reality was ‘a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.’[4] He was unreasonable enough to call for disregarding his leadership, which broke one of the major human principles, and led to disorder and freedom to fight with each other.

Piggy: a tragic victim of his identity loss

Out of the three major characters, Piggy is the most civilized, and the biggest victim of the identity loss among the boys. This may put a contradictory tint onto the whole discussion: the reader risks thinking that reason cannot lead to any positive outcomes. Yet, this assumption is deceptive. Piggy’s age and appearance (glasses, in particular) turn him into an outcast from the start. His identity is lost through the efforts of others: he is called fatty, and he is mocked on for wearing glasses. These glasses are inseparable from his identity, as they let him watch the world in its true colors.

As soon as they are taken by other boys to make the fire, he realizes that blindness and identity loss are synonymic. The loss of his identity has not led to devastation: it has led to his death which made him the victim of those who had lost their identities earlier. ‘How can you expect to be rescued if you don’t put first things first and act proper?’[5] The tragic character of Piggy’s identity loss is that it did not stem from Piggy’s character but was urged by other’s cruelty. He was the only person who lost his identity through his death.

Conclusion

The process of identity loss leading to devastation starts from the moment boys appear on the island. They do not display any strivings towards rescuing themselves, but prefer swimming in the lagoon. They hide their faces behind the masks, and hide from consciousness, shame, and reason. Their education is turned into primitiveness – the brightest sign of identity loss. Trying to kill the boar and dancing around it in the blood dance is the scene at which transformation into savages and as a result, identity loss is completed. There is no way back towards being civilized. The gradual degradation which all boys experienced broke all connections with their previous world. The appearance of the officer on the island has indicated total devastation of the boys’ moral identity.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

GOLDING, William, Lord of the Fli

[1] W. Golding, Lord of the Flies, Penguin Non-Classics, 1999, p. 103.
[2] ibid.,  p. 184.
[3] ibid., p. 83.
[4] ibid., p. 55.
[5] ibid., p. 38.

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