Political Aspects of Lord of the Flies

The “Lord of the Flies” is an allegorical novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. It was Golding’s first novel, and was published in the year 1954. Even though it was not a grand success at the time selling fewer than 3,000 copies in the United States throughout 1955 prior to going out of print it went on to turn out to be a bestseller, and mandatory reading in various schools and colleges. It was adapted to film in 1963 by Peter Brook, and once more in 1990. The title is a reference to Beelzebub from the Hebrew name Baalzvuv בעל זבוב, and said to be a synonym for the Devil. Lord of the Flies explores the dark side of humankind, the savagery that lies beneath even the most civilized human beings (Faber School Editions, 1962). Golding planned this novel as a tragic parody of children’s adventure tales, demonstrating humankind’s intrinsic evil nature. The author presents the reader with a chronology of events leading a group of young boys from anticipation to disaster as they try to survive their unsupervised, uncivilized, isolated environment until rescued.

In the middle of a nuclear war, a group of British boys discover themselves stranded without adult supervision on a tropical island. The group is generally divided into the “littluns,” boys more or less the age of six, and the “biguns,” who are among the ages of ten and twelve. Primarily, the boys try to form a culture comparable to the one they left behind. They select a leader, Ralph, who, with the advice and support of Piggy considered as the intellectual of the group, made every effort to set up rules for housing and sanitation. Ralph furthermore makes a signal fire the group’s first priority, hopeful that a passing ship will see the smoke signal and save them. A chief challenge to Ralph’s leadership is Jack, who as well wants to lead. Jack orders a group of choirboys-turned-hunters who sacrifice the responsibility of tending the fire so that they can partake in the hunts. Jack draws the other boys gradually away from Ralph’s influence for the reason of their natural attraction to and fondness toward the adventurous hunting activities indicating violence and evil.

The conflict between Jack and Ralph, and the said forces of savagery and civilization that they correspond to is exacerbated by the boys’ literal horror of a mythical beast wandering the island (Traister, Rebecca 2005). One night, an aerial battle takes place above the island, and a casualty of the battle floats down with his opened parachute, eventually coming to rest on the mountaintop. Breezes occasionally inflate the parachute, making the body seem to sit up and then drop forward again. This sight alarms the boys as they mistake the dead body for the beast they fear. As a result to this panic, Jack forms a splinter group that is ultimately joined by all but a few of the boys. The boys who join Jack are tempted by the protection Jack’s ferocity appears to provide, as well as by the prospect of playing the part of savages: putting on camouflaging face paint, hunting, and presenting ritualistic tribal dances. Ultimately, Jack’s group in fact slaughters a sow and, as a present to the beast, puts the sow’s head on a stick.

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Soon just three of the older boys, including Piggy, are still in Ralph’s camp. Jack’s group takes Piggy’s glasses to begin its cooking fires, leaving Ralph incapable to sustain his signal fire. When Ralph and his small group approach Jack’s tribe to ask for the return of the glasses, one of Jack’s hunters releases a big boulder on Piggy, killing him. The tribe captures the other two biguns prisoners, leaving Ralph on his own. The tribe undertakes a manhunt to look for and kill Ralph, and they begin a fire to smoke him out of one of his hiding places, generating an island-wide forest fire. A passing vessel sees the smoke from the fire, and a British naval officer appears on the beach just in time to save Ralph from definite death at the hands of the schoolboys turned savages.

Golding uses many symbolisms in The Lord of the Flies.  The whole book is symbolic of the nature of human and society generally as the island turns out to be a society metaphorical to society as a whole and the chase at the end of the book symbolic of the war.  A symbol Golding uses all through the book is the conch.  It symbolizes authority and order.  The person holding the conch had the supremacy, and it formed order and rules since when it was called, everybody had to listen.  One more symbol is Piggy’s glasses.  It represents knowledge and insight.  While Piggy had them, he was able to provide advice to the group, such as that of the signal fire.  It was the glasses that produced the fire.  On the other hand, after the glasses are broken, the group loses what insight they had.  The war paint is furthermore a symbol.  It represented the rejection of society.

In a way, when they put on the disguise of war paint, they took off the mask of society and exposed their true inner selves which were savage. Human condition is depicted all the way through the key characters in the novel. Every one embodies a strong-minded social stereotype which will be later on profoundly explained. This existentialist dissatisfaction is an aspect which darkens human kind similar to other factors such as the type of fear which is dealt throughout the book, being this one of the key causes of chaos. Those parallelisms, being several of them adventured, are valid too revealing two questions which take far beyond this point: to what extent is brutality a mere consequence of circumstances or a genuine feature in mankind.

Unfortunately anarchy conquers order. This is the outcome for the reason that Golding believed that government is an unproductive way to maintain people together. No matter how logical or reasonable, government will in the long run have to give in to the anarchical demands of the public. This book traces the faults in society to the faults in the human being (Baker, James R. 1970).  Golding says that every person has in evil inner nature inadequately covered by society.  If the society is taken away, then the inner nature comes out and disorder and lawlessness erupt. Every person has an evil nature and is able of committing heinous crimes.  In this book, practically each person fell to the level of Jack’s savagery with the exception of those that were able to notice that evil such as Ralph, Simon, and Piggy. The beast is human.  In the start of the book, a littlun told the others that he saw a beast in the jungle opening everyone’s fears.  On the other hand, it turns out that the beast is in fact a parachutist and human, symbolizing that what people should be scared of is not some evil creature, but their own selves and other humans.

Baker, James R. “The Decline of Lord of the Flies.” In South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 69, Autumn, (1970).

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Capricorn Books, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, (1954).

Lord of The Flies, William Golding. Faber School Editions, (1962).

Traister, Rebecca, “Reading “Lord of the Flies””, (2005). <www.salon.com>

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