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Commentary on Lord Of The Flies Essay


Lord of the Flies by William Golding is an intense and gripping novel which follows the life of a group of English schoolboys who were evacuated during World War Two and their plane crashed on a desert island. As many writers at this time were exploring the effects of such atrocities as the Holocaust, the novel would seem to be Goldings attempt to discuss his theory that man is fundamentally evil and that it is only society that civilises him. By placing a group of schoolboys in such a context, Golding creates an experiment in order to analyse the behaviour of humans once society and civilisation have been removed. This essay will discuss the authors exploration of this theme in depth by examining his employment of a number of literary techniques such as setting, symbolism, imagery and characterisation.

The plane carrying the boys was shot down, stranding them on a paradise island without adults or authority. As it is up to individuals to take control of their lives and rely on their conscience to devise their own sense of responsibility and boundaries, the boys immediately begin to form a society which is a microcosm of the outside world. Leaders were elected and the boys behaved in a civilised manner. However, inevitably, with the lack of adult supervision, they diverge into two tribes; many of them revert to savagery and commit murder. In the way he portrays the effects of lawlessness on the boys society, Golding successfully emphasises his theme.

The first technique which Golding employs to illustrate the effect on mankind of civilisations influences being withdrawn is setting. The choice of setting in this novel a deserted paradise island provides an ideal scenario for Golding to convey his theory that man is essentially evil. Since the island is uninhabited and is void of any element of civilisation, it therefore acts as a blank canvas on which he can paint his pessimistic portrayal of human nature. The setting depicts the two sides of mankind the good and evil sides in the graphic way he describes both sides of the island.

One side of the island is described as a warm safe place where plenty of fruit grows and is sheltered. The authors use of descriptive language here allows him to illustrate, to the reader, mans good side. However, he illustrates the other side of the island as harsh where the waves are uncontrollable, the rocks are jagged and strange noises can be heard. This more barbaric dark unsheltered side of the island represents mans inherent evil. Therefore, the two sides of the island are symbolic as one represents innocence and purity and the other represents the violation and destruction by man.

Goldings excellent employment of imagery also clearly highlights his hypothesis that there is evil inside every man and it is society that keeps him civil. In particular, his powerful image of the conch is essential to the theme as the way it is used to call the boys to assemble, allowing the holder authority,

Ill give them the conch and they wont be interrupted effectively represents democracy and peace. The author clearly shows here how important the conch is, as it provides law and order. He also reinforces its importance by discussing how symbolic it is when it is smashed. This powerful imagery is used to illustrate the ultimate breakdown of the civilised society as the boys resort to savagery releasing the evil inside them all.

Another effective example of imagery to suggest evil on the island is seen in the incident with the pigs head which has been impaled on a stake by Jack to control the boys. The pigs head is perhaps the most significant symbol in the book. When Simon dies it becomes another symbol of the power of evil and a kind of Satan figure who evokes the beast within each of the boys. Golding emphasises this in his reflection, What I mean is...maybe its only us to clarify that all the boys fear is just the twisted people they have become as a result of the breakdown of their society.

Golding's masterly characterisation also helps to contribute to the theme of the breakdown of civilisation and evil winning to the reader. Golding highlights very clearly a similar contrast in characters to that of the contrasting sides of the island i.e. the good and evil of human nature. On one hand Jack seems to be reverting to savagery where Ralph on the other hand wants to uphold civilisation and keep the island organised. Jack's preference for savagery is illustrated in his obsession with hunting and killing. His fascination with hunting is portrayed in the following statement:

"Rescue? Yes, of course! All the same,

I'd like to catch a pig first".

Whereas Ralph's main aim while on the island is to maximise his chances of rescue and uphold civilisation.

He enjoys organised meetings as shown by what he says:

"Meetings. We love meetings"

This contrast in the character outlooks demonstrates distinctly the breakdown of civilisation and the descent into savagery which Golding was discussing in his novel.

I found the characters in the novel interesting and engrossing. Their differences in personality not only helped me to understand the different sides of human nature but they also helped me to understand why Golding had used the different sides of the island to back up this idea of good and evil.

Another convincing application of Golding's skilful characterisation is in the way he manipulates minor characters to monitor how evil overwhelms when laws are distinguished. Although Jack is the main character who regresses in the novel, Golding also uses a few minor characters to establish how much the boys changed throughout their time on the island, from being biddable and influenced by their civilised up bringing to descending into savagery.

One character whose savagery Golding illustrates is Roger. Roger is a much more concentrated form of Jack and demonstrates explicit evil early on in the novel.

In the novel, Roger at first illustrates an impotent form of evil:

'Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry - threw it to miss.' The reader can see here that Roger is prevented from inflicting any unnecessary harm on Henry, as the civilisation of his former life has taught him that it is wrong to deliberately inflict pain on others who are innocent:

'Here, invisible yet strong was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting children was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law'.

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