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Sigmund Freud's Theory of Personality Applied to Lord of the Flies Essay


William Goldings Lord of the Flies: Best Understood from a Freudian Prospective

William Golding is a British novelist of the twenty first century. He is most famous for his allegorical novel Lord of the Flies which was published in 1954. The novel has been highly criticized and has been one of the most analyzed novels for many years. Educators and students have performed extensive research on not only Lord of the Flies, but its writer, William Golding as well. The characters in Lord of the Flies have been analyzed according to Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, B.F. Skinners theory of operant conditioning as well as Carl Jungs concept of archetypes. This paper is based on Sigmund Freuds Structural Theory of Personality. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the Freudian Theory of Personality, give examples of its relationship to each character, thus proving this theory provides a stronger understanding of why we, as humans, behave as we do in certain situations. This paper will therefore prove the Freudian theory to be the most effective method of analyzing William Goldings characters in Lord of the Flies.

One of the best known aspects of Sigmund Freuds theory is his conceptualization of human personality as composed of three interacting systems or structures: the id, ego, and superego. These structures are not physically present in the brain; they are psychological concepts or constructs that Freud invented to help explain certain aspects of human behavior. These three systems are interrelated and interactive, but each has its own characteristics. Baron

(2001) explains the structural theory by Freud according to which id is that part of the personality, reflecting various bodily needs, sexual desires and aggressive impulses. Id works unconsciously and if given opportunity it seeks immediate satisfaction of primitive needs. The id is basically the biological component of personality. It consists of a vast reservoir of instinctual drives or life instincts; it also includes the death instinct, which is responsible for aggressiveness and destruction. The id is fueled primarily by a form of energy called libido, which motivates all behavior. It operates according to the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification of all instinctive drives regardless of reason, logic, or the probable impact of the behaviors it motivates. Freud believed that only the id is present at birth; thus a newborns behaviors are dominated by the id. The id cannot tolerate any tension, and so it seeks immediate gratification. However, since it operates at an essentially unconscious level, it is not able to interact effectively with external reality to achieve gratification. In summary, the id is the storehouse of largely unconscious, biologically based, instinctive drives that provide the basic energy source for the entire personality system. It is also the drives that provide the basic energy source for the entire personality system. It is also the foundation from which the ego and superego later evolve.

Ego is defined as the part of the personality that checks the id until conditions allow for satisfaction of its impulses. Ego makes an effort to delay gratification until it can be found in socially approved ways. The ego operates according to the reality principle. That is, it seeks to satisfy the ids wants and needs in ways that are consistent with reality. To accomplish this goal, the ego must be largely conscious and in direct contact with the external world. Furthermore, to carry out its executive functions of screening the ids impulses, the ego system must include our

abilities to perceive, think, learn, and remember, Thus, what psychologists now call cognitive processes were considered by Freud to be functions of the ego.

Superego is defined as the part of the personality which is close to morality and seeks to control the satisfaction of id impulsesonly when it is correct to do so as required by the ego. In the early years of life, the ego only needs to check external reality to determine whether a particular id impulse may be expressed: Morality has no influence at all. While the id is driven to seek pleasure and the ego to test reality, the superego is concerned with striving for perfection. The superego makes the task of the ego much harder by forcing it to consider not just what is real, but also what is right. The superego and the id are often found in conflict with one another and it is only the person himself who can decide which one power can dominate the other.

The characters in Goldings novel go well with Freuds theory where many characters, when marooned on an island, turn from being civilized to savagery. Golding agreed with Freuds theory which divided the personality of the mind into three parts. Freud believed that it is the society that imposes limitations on people. Once away from rules the primitive self of a person becomes prominent. For that matter it is easy to relate Goldings characters in his novel Lord of the Flies on Freuds structural theory where children are trapped in a situation away from civilization and gradually deteriorate from being civilized to savage beasts.

The prominent characters in Goldings novels are Jack, Ralph, Piggy and Simon. An online essay by Alex Donnelly (2008) on the topic states that Jack is the character whose id dominates his superego. Initially his superego did not let him kill the pig because the idea of taking a life was too much for him. They knew very well why he hadnt (kill the pig): because the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable

blood (Golding, pg. 41). When asked by others why he did not kill the pig Jack promised that he would do it the next time. When he killed his first pig he said proudly I cut the pigs throat and twitched at the same time. He laughed and shrugged as he said there was lashings of blood--- You should have seen it (Golding, 98). His superego is disgusted by the killing whereas his id is enthralled by the act.

Donnelly (2008) states that in order to satisfy his instinct Jack forgets to act rationally. For that reason he lets the fire go out. Had he taken care of the fire the ship would have rescued them by seeing the smoke. Hunting the pig satisfied his immediate desires but it led to the dying out of the fire. The dominant id in Jack is evident from several episodes. He wanted to get hold of the conch in order to gain the leadership which satisfied his desire. In this struggle he totally ignored the purpose of the meeting which was to comfort the little ones who were afraid of the beast. He ignores the fact that Ralph is the better leader and to satisfy his quest for power he splits the children into two tribes by stating Wholl join my tribe and have fun? (Golding, pg. 216). Jack kills the pig for his own amusement but tells the other children that he did so in order to provide food for everyone. Barron (2007) further highlights the incidents of Jacks savagery as he took Piggys glasses to light the fire without his permission and knowing the fact that it would hurt Piggy. Jack is the id who wants to overcome Ralph (ego) and Piggy (Superego). He is symbolic of the fact that in the absence of rules civilization breaks down into savagery.

Barron (2007) views Ralph as an Ego who is modest of all the boys and is in struggle with his conscience. Ralph is influenced by Jack and Piggy. He is on the edge of a conflict with his id and superego. Initially he does not realize that he is the main key to the island but later in the book he realizes that he has to make choices in order to survive in the island. If Ralph does something bad it shows that his id is being dominated by his ego. This concept goes well with

Freuds concept that every person has an id within himself. His strong sense of ego becomes evident from the beginning of the novel where he holds the conch and becomes the leader. Barron (2007) further states that Ralph is in conflict with his id (Jack). He wants to have pleasure by performing bad acts but his superego (Piggy) keeps a check on him. Some examples of Ralph being taken away by his id are when he beats the boy who acted like a pig and when he snatches the food from the hunters thinking only about his survival and not having any regards for the consequences. The influence of his superego (Piggy) is reflected through his affection and concern for Piggy.

Donnelly (2008) gives more examples of Ralph being an ego. Ralph puts the blame on Jack for letting the fire go out even though it was his responsibility. He is not one minded like Piggy and chastises Jack for his ignorance. Another example for Ralph being an ego is evident from the occurrence where he is asked to step down from being the leader. Ralph analyses the situation and ponders what is best for the group and refuses to step down. If his id had dominated his personality he would have thought of a rebellion and in case of being a superego Ralph would have stepped down. A third incident is when Ralph goes to Jack and says, Ive come to see about the fire and Piggys specs (Golding, pg. 253). Ralph is actually trying to balance between Piggy, who will never have the courage to confront Jack and Jack who will never show the morality to give back Piggys specs. As the ego becomes weak with the death of Piggy, Jack, the id, takes control and tries to wipe off the ego (Ralph).

Mike Jones (2007) explains Piggy as the superego in the novel. Piggy is the character who keeps on reminding other characters that there were other things that need to be taken care of. Jack is not in favor of Piggy because he is his opposite. Ralph is aware of the fact that he is the leader but it is Piggy who does all the thinking.

As Golding writes Once more that evening Ralph had to adjust his values. Piggy could think. He could go step by step inside that fat head of h, only Piggy was no chief. But Piggy for all his ludicrous body, had brains. Ralph was a specialist in thought now, and could recognize thought in another (Golding, pg.110).

This shows that Ralph is aware of the worth of Piggy and his intellect. Donnelly (2008) says Piggy believes in the rules that are made by the society. He cannot blow the conch as he states, My Auntie wouldnt let me on account of my asthma (Golding, pg. 9). Following the conch rule symbolizes his respect for rules. Jones (2007) further adds that Piggy reminds people of the conch rules in order to keep the assemblies in order. He also reminds them of the importance of the fire and other things that need to be done in a proper manner. His death symbolizes the death of the superego from the island which is later dominated by the id. Barron (2007) is of the view that Piggys support to Ralph is indicative of the fact that he has strong superego. Goldings words represents the end of civilization as he writes about Piggys death in the following words:

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from the chin to the knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist..........Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone (pg. 250)

From the Freudian perspective Simon, like Piggy, also symbolizes superego. Simon on the other hand is a Christ like figure whose superego is stronger than his id. He is the only boy who helps the younger boys. He is symbolic of spiritual human goodness that is in touch with everyone and with nature as well. His superego is exceptionally strong which helps him

understand the fact that the beast is not something from outside but rather a fear that is building up within the boys as he says to Ralph What I mean is .maybe its only us (Golding, pg.126). The other children, not having that much intellect, simply reject the idea without giving it a second thought. His death, like Piggys death, symbolizes the death of civilization and the birth of savagery.

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