Death of Reason and Birth of Beast
Order and chaos of human nature in isolation in Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Order and chaos, the two initiated and have kept balance the way of the world since the beginnings of civilization. Mankind then established the basis of our culture based on that delicate equilibrium; yet, to the author William Golding, the universe is a cosmic chaos that resist simplistic patterning (Friedman, 14). We strive to appreciate but also dominate; we try to create justice, but we are willing to sacrifice it for even the slightest material gain; in short, the melting pot of emotions and desires is separated into two opposing fronts, the rational and the irrational. The rational people are individuals who are capable of great achievements, joy, and empathy toward others but who also realize their abilities and limitations; they were the forerunner who incorporated reason into our lives and further developed our abilities to deduct and analyze. Today, however, we can see the number of irrational people grow in such a huge disparity and the reason stems from a common source; rather than a conspiracy many people, it is the effect of many individuals pursuing their own selfish and separate agendas. In Lord of the Flies, Golding uses an isolated community to show the progression of human nature when confronted with uncertainty. Goldings use of isolationism and characterization of Ralph, Piggy, Simon, Jack Merridew, Roger, the Beast, and other children on the island combined with the analysis of male psychology and choices made by the characters in Lord of the Flies explains the nature of mankind seen through order and chaos.
Golding extracts the boys in the novel from the chaotic society that they were in and isolated them in a neutral environment so that the characters remove themselves from the distractions in everyday life to confront the one who determines their futures, their inner selves. Golding understands that most people who followed the political and moral doctrines of a civilized society neither care nor have the ability to influence its development. People does not truly understand why laws and legislations are established; they know rules and codes protect them, yet, they choose to break the links to a civilized order to pursue mere materialistic gains that are for, of course, their personal benefit. In order for the characters in the novel to make the journey to understand the rules of society and to determine their own destiny, Golding provides the isolated island setting for the confrontation to take place.
When the boys were first introduced to the island, an inherent flaw is already evident within the community that would soon be created. The plane in which the boys traveled in was shot down during an atomic war that raged on elsewhere in the world. Piggy also enlightens the readers and reminds Ralph what the pilot said about the atomic bomb and that those with knowledge of their location are all dead (Golding, 14). The scar left by the plane crash also symbolizes the intrusive existence of mankind upon the face of nature. The boys, however, establishes a settlement on the beach and despite the Jungle, [the readers] are invited to feel at home (Atkins, 1). Yet, gradually, the boys indulge in the world without rules, punishment, or order and bring about a very progressive deterioration of civilization. The first element that contributed to the destabilization of the island society is the initial fear of the unknown that the island presents to the stranded boys. The mysteries of the island causes unease among the boys and gives birth to the idea of the Beast; even in the beginning of the novel, dissent caused by isolation spreads around the group like a film of oil on the of water, just waiting to be set off by the slightest spark toward conflict. While the setting obviously alludes to the feared outcome of a wartime society, one must realize, however, that the book exhibits the darkness of mans heart, not the temporary malaise of one historical disaster (Reilly, 6). The setting only introduces the blight that mankind has caused to nature and shows that without proper guidance toward an orderly society, breakdown of relations are imminent.
In order to show the degradation of an isolated society, Golding then uses a wide spectrum of characters to convey human nature through order and chaos. The boys are initially logical and led by characters possessing reason and confidence. When Ralph and Piggy first set out to create an organized island society, the two discovers the conch that is more than a plaything, as we are first led to believe with the vivid description, and will become a means of communication, and ultimately a symbol of law and order (Friedman 20). The response to the sound projected by blowing the conch also depicts images associated with an orderly society. The conch ushers in the first signs of lifevisibleon the beach, which becomes the basis of society on the island and the rise of the charismatic leader Ralph (Golding 18).
Forced to live on the island without any resources and adult assistance, the boys choose Ralph as the chief because he is the democratic man (Koopmans, 75). Ralph is not set apartby virtue or intelligencebut by the fact that it was hewho had first exercised the symbol of legitimacy (Koopmans, 75). He is the one who first insisted that everyone have names; the action itself represents the orderly society that Ralph is capable of making. Names represent recognition and legitimacy; without it, mankind would plunge into the primitive way of life that our ancestor lived, survival above all else. Ralph also creates the rule that the conch would indicate the speaker and passes around the symbol of democracy so that anyone can hold it when he is speaking and not be interrupted, except, of course, by himself (Golding, 33). Throughout the novel, Ralphs approach to survival incorporates rules and ideas that others have to conform and contribute to insure their rescue. He tells the boys to build shelters so that they would be safe from the weather, and he also tells them to keep a signal fire burning because it is their only hope of being rescued. Ralphs infatuation with the signal fire, however, presents Jack and the readers with an exploitable weakness; he fails to inspire people to work for the greater good and eventually a type of anarchy will turn against Ralphs democratic ideals and embrace the savage and raw emotions of Jack.
The truly logical element within the side of reason and order is represented by Piggy. All of Piggys attributes contributes to the symbolic role of an adult in the novel. Throughout the story, he contributes as a wise person that Ralph could look to for reason and guidance. Regrettably, only Ralph realizes Piggys potential and the other boys bullies him because of his physical appearance. Piggy is short and fat, which leads to a common lack of respect from other boys; also, his asthma, bad eyesight, and thin hair are all afflictions of old age. He does, however, possess the ability to think things through, whereas Ralph cant think [like he] could [because] He could go step by step inside that fat head of his, only Piggy was no chief. But Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains (Golding, 78). Piggy realizes the boys situation and considers how they are going to survive. At the start of the novel, he says to Ralph that "we got to find the others, we got to do something", demonstrating his ability to stay focused on a specific task (Golding, 14). We then see an indication of his intelligence as he describe the shell as "a conch, which could be blown to signal people for miles (Golding 17). The advices offered by Piggy represents what adults and teacher might say to the boys back at home; he is, however, shunned due to his physical appearance, as many brilliant people today are. The island society does not realize the value of Piggys advices and when presented with the choice, they indulged in fun and games instead of reason.
The fatal flaw in Piggy character is that he does not possess enough courage to confront the problems faced by the island society. With the progression of the story, Piggy and the role he plays slowly fades out from the minds of the boys. Ever since the beginning, he has been ignored and ridiculed for his reasonable and logical suggestions. Whenever Jack argues with him, Piggy, representative of our civilization at a certain level, is intimidated by [the boys] uniformed superiority (Atkins, 1). First the boys forcefully takes Piggys glasses, which in a way represents his intellect and reason, for without them, he is blind to the world, without his permission to indulge in their own self and impulsive whims; the boys demonstrate their mutinous nature when they surrounded [him] before he could back away and Jack snatched his glasses off his face while he shriek[ed in] terror (Golding 40). The event is the first in a series of injustices that shows the gradual deprivation of reason and logic. Piggys power continues to diminish when a lens is broken during an argument that broke out about the fire. Piggy, however, can almost "see" what is going to happen to the boys; he condemns them for "acting like a crowd of kids" and tries to use his superior intellect to deter the boys from the inevitable fall from reason .
With progression of the story, Ralph's attitudes change as he becomes more responsible and mature. He realizes the importance of being a responsible leader and begins to guide the other boys more. The fact that he joined the feast after the slaughtering of the pig, however, indicates the all-too human failure to resist the overwhelming temptations presented with savagery (Friedman, 22). Ralph tries to fight with the problems of being a leader and the childish innocence and playful nature of a is lost as he begins to accept the fact that he is not as thoughtful and thorough as Piggy. As he tries to ponder through some of the problems and act like an adult, he has become more considerate. Ralphs actions, however, can also be seen as not entirely democratic; the militaristic efficiency he exhibited at the beginning of the novel, which could have been motivated by his father, who is an officer in the navy, show that real democracy is not possible and leaders must control their people in order for a civilized society to survive. Yet, Ralph could not follow through with many of his ideas because he could not bring himself to force anyone to act, thus allowing Jacks rise to power.
As in any story of this kind, the flock of boys without defining characteristics or resolve represents the general population of the world, waiting to be sway to the side that offers power and gratification. Yet, the lack of attention on these characters does not diminish their significance within the story, for without them, the conflict between order and chaos would be reduced to the quarrels of a selective few individuals. The roles that the other island inhabitants play directly correlates to the outcome of the story. The various minor characters, especially the little uns, and their innocence are devastated as Jack gains more power, revealing the supremacy behind the forces of corruption. The ease through which they are dominated show that commoners can only choose and not lead due to their lack of power.
Golding also included a Christ-figure in [his] fable, who is the little boy Simon: solitary, stammering, a lover of mankind, [and] a visionary (Friedman, 24). Simons thoughts and actions gives us as reader one of the truly neutral takes on the story, for he is influenced by neither Piggys holy crusade towards reason nor Jacks continuous challenges for power. Instead of being a peacemaker to ease the rising conflict between Ralph and Jack, Simon usually withdraws to his own love of solitude to think his own thoughts rather than those officially recommended (Atkins, 2). The solitary character that Simon possesses can also be seen as a negative influence towards the development of the island society. The intuition and understanding he has developed are not communicated fully with others; rather, he lets the boys to freely interpret the message for themselves; yet, they continuously failed to delve into the true meanings of his messages: in order to survive, mankind must conquer fear and evil by themselves.
Simon is characterized as the potential savior of mankind; alone possessing the saintliness, selflessness, and undiscriminating love for his fellow creatures, Simon is charged to guide the community towards stability (Kruger, 1). One of such instances is when he prophecies to Ralph that [hell] get back to where [he] came from (Golding, 111). Like many of Christs messages, however, Simons precognitive abilities are dismissed by those who either fear or question them. Nevertheless, Simon strives to maintain balance within the society, trying to help those who are too immature to account for the enemy within and dissipating the irrational fears that are projected onto the outside world (Friedman, 21). Golding described one of his reclusive strolls through the jungle like the appearance of the Savior in a village:
Here the littluns who had run after him caught up with him. They talked, cried out unintelligibility, lugged him toward the trees. Then, amid the roar of beesSimon found for them the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliageback down to the endless, outstretched hands [while] the littluns watched him inscrutably (Golding, 56)
Simon could inspire so much good within the boys of the island; the boys, however, are puzzled by the actions of kindness without explanation. Contrasting to Christs reception after he fed the masses with only five loves of bread and two fish, Simons actions received little or no appreciation at all. Much like the fact that man turned on Christs efforts to save him, the boys sneer at Simons message about the fact that the Beast is only us with laughter [that] beat him cruelly (Golding, 89). When Simon finally goes to share his revelation with the others, after learning the true nature of the beast, the hunters, led by Jack, commits the ultimate sin of murder. The killing of the Christ-figure marks the end of innocence and because Simon death seems to have no significance for the boys; his knowledge dies with him (Henningfeld, 4). Simons death forces the boys to cross through the threshold that fear has planted since reason has failed to explain the darkness within, and the island paradise begins its fatal transformation into hell (Friedman, 22).
The group that first tried to assemble the type of democratic government that Ralph insisted immediately agreed to separate Jack and his choristers to become hunters. Ever since then, Jacks challenges for power, however subtle at first, plunges the island community into chaos. More importantly, the dictatorial fashion through which Jack gained power was made possible by the fear the gave birth to the Beast. The Beast is created by the littluns on the island to materialize their fear in order to combat it; when they fail to do so, however, the unknown of the island jungle consume them from within and creates an excuse for the rise of Jacks order.
Initially, the Beast was introduced as the snake-thing, similar to the undergrowth and creepers of the jungle, by the boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark (Golding, 35). As the novel progresses, however, the Beast is transcends from mere fear of the environment to become the LORD of the FLIES, [which] represents something anarchic and evil in the very core of human nature (Carter, 1). Lord of the Flies is a translation of Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils; Golding believed that such a hideous demonic force can only be represented by the fly-covered head of the sow. In the exchange between the Lord of the Flies and Simon we understand that the Beast is not something you could hunt and kill and that he is a part of [us] and the reason why its no gowhy things are what they are (Golding, 143). Ralph tried to convey the idea that the Beast cannot be real, yet he does not know why things are breaking up. The leader of the group was, at the time, too concerned with the idea of rescue to care for the conditions within the community. Those who questioned the existence of the Beast failed to help the group confront the fear within the community because of their lack of resolve and allowed Jack to project the feasibility of actually hunting the Beast, thus solidifying the tangibility of the idea and his own power among the boys.
Jack can be characterized as the Id in a Freudian classification, he only understand the need the feed the raw emotion within him and does not consider the opinion of others important. When we are first introduced to him, however, we can see the chains that societys laws and rules that binds him and his soon to be hunters:
Each boy wore a square black cap with a silver badge on it. Their bodies, from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross on the left breast and each neck was finished off with a hambone frill (Golding 19).
Since the previous society restricted his personal expression of power and emotions, Jack positively revels in the fact that they are trapped on the island. The awakening of the primal instincts within Jack is slow at first; he quickly established that the boys want to have fun. And [they] want to rescued (Golding, 37). While in the being of the novel Jack still preserves some reserve that makes him coordinate with Ralphs rational demands, he stray more and more from the path towards reason and beginnings to embrace the darkness within. One of such instances is that he enforces that the island should have lots of rules and that those who breaks them shall be punished, yet he consistently abandons these shackles in order to further his own interest, hunting. The quarrel between Jacks emotions and Ralphs reason escalades further when the hunters failed to light the signal fire and miss a chance at getting rescued. Jack is more interest in the blood lust of his kill that his thoughts stray far from rescue and he at first barely comprehends Ralphs anger (Friedman, 22). The killing of the first pig also marks the beginning of Jacks quest for both physical and psychological dominance of the boys.