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Fragility of Civilisation in Lord of the Flies Essay


Lord of the Flies by William Golding explores a pessimistic and dark reality that focuses on the overall fragility of civilisation. He offers an insight into a potential breakdown of society and what happens when man is left in isolation who ultimately returns to his primitive roots. Societys fragility is exposed through Goldings portrayal of his characters in an allegorical manner, together with usage of successive symbols and imagery. Golding looks at the darkness of a mans heart and the simple truth that the beast is the inner evil in everyone.

The text explores Goldings ideas on how civilisation can be stripped down quite easily to reveal the savage inside of a child or person. It begins with a group of boys isolated from the norm of society, who cling to the only reality and life they had known. They attempt to recreate what is familiar and form an imitation of old society. Golding presents two opposing concepts, democratic authority in the form of Ralph and the conch, and autocratic power in the form of the Chief (Jack). Using this allegorical style, the breakdown of society becomes more evident as Jack becomes more defiant of Ralphs constant emphasis on the need for The Rules! The government element of society is torn apart and Jack, symbolising many tyrants throughout time, disregards the democratic of Ralph revealing his desire for power.

The elements and symbols associated with civilisation are present in the mock-society that the boys have created. What is considered right behaviour and rightness, is enforced into the group. Piggy exhibits the need for order and attempts to create rules and a list of names; the idea quickly dissolves with lack of resources. He is a perfect example of the logic and order that prevails on the island and is the symbol of wisdom. Piggy stays with the same notion of rescue and the ruling that whoever has got the conch has the authority. The conch is the representation of civilisation which is in a way quite similar to the fragile shell; it is easily broken.

The behaviours that the boys had grown into in old society may only be situation specific and in this new reality do not exist. In Goldings imitation society there are elements of civilisation with rules and expectations, comfort and structure. There are also the primal instincts of human beings. Different people feel the instincts associated with both civilisation and savagery in different ways. Piggy, for instance, is all logic and has no savage feelings to speak of, while Roger, a pawn of Jack, seems barely capable of understanding civility. Underneath all that is the human shell, the savages, as they are later known, are freed by the paint that ironically is masking who they were and are able to release the savage within. The imagery here indicates that they are able to escape from the insecurity of themselves and embrace a new-found security and belonging.

Goldings characterisation of the boys is a major part in the idea of the descent into savagery. The Chief (Jack) and his group of savages are used to emphasise the descent into savagery and the idea that they are no longer civilised and have ultimately changed, for the worse. Jacks group, described as demoniac figures represent the change from innocent, British schoolboys to paint-clad, spear-yielding savages. Goldings point is that if the restraints of society are withdrawn, human beings will regress to their primal beginnings.

The idea of a beast comes into play, exploring Goldings concept that men are inherently evil. Golding imposes throughout the text using an omniscient narrative style that the evil is inside the individuals and the reader has the insight to this while the characters remain ignorant. Through such cues as man-kinds essential illness and Jacks re-enactment of killing the pig, the reader is shown many signs of the evil within. It is an illness that has been present throughout time, more apparent in someone like Jack. The evidence of the evil is, not only the act in itself, but the sense of fulfilment, glory and most importantly power over another.

The fear of the unknown and dark merge into a solid, yet unseen form of a beast, symbolising mankinds need to have something to fight against. This fear revolves around the island and the boys, and is able to grow because the boys, inherently Jack, play with the idea of fear. They cannot accept the idea of the beast yet they cannot truly let go of it. Fear can't hurt you was thrown around as the littluns became unsettled by the manifestation of the beast. The irony of it is the fear that they speak of is actually the thing that is driving the characters and which in due course results in the deaths of both Simon and Piggy.

The beast represents the way in which man will attempt to convince himself that there is no evil within him, rather it is something else. Simon, a misunderstood character is the only one who seems to grasp the notion that they are the beast and as a result is killed, demonstrating the lengths that the other boys would go to in order to hide from the truth. Golding introduces the realisation that evil is internal through the characterisation of Simon, revealing how blind the others are to this. The blindness of the characters foreshadows the suggestion that human beings are blind to evil and moreover see what they choose to see.

The evil within can also be expanded to the evil present in society and therefore the world. It affects everyone and everything. What we get in the novel is not only the characters displaying an internal evil but the environment that they are in also showing evidence of the darkness of a mans heart. The isolated island can be linked with the fact that we are all alone and the elements of the island, such as the image of the darkened curve of the world which represents that the earth too possesses some dark spirit. The evil is there yet human beings avoid the truth of it and ultimately suffer because of it.

Lord of the Flies is one of those timeless classics that offer a side of humanity that in his time was controversial and avoided. It is mainly Goldings use of allegory and an omniscient narrative style that allows the text to establish the fragile nature of civilisation and exposes the dark reality that comes from the evil within human beings. The text presents his opinion in a challenging manner that men are inherently evil and when left to their own devices man demonstrates this.

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