Choose a novel in which an important theme is explored. Explain how the author develops this theme throughout the novel.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an effect on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.
The theme of savagery versus civilisation is first introduced to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the person who first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority amongst the boys. At the first assembly Ralph says “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted”. This suggests civilisation as Ralph is allowing each boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be given the chance to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have created the island to be a democratic place which shows a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.
Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be associated with Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a “snake thing” but by the end of the novel it has become “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be bad omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However at this stage of the novel the beast is quite insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boys fear of the beast grows so to does the beast itself until it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a strong status as a Lord although it is over something pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.
One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilisation is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This suggests savagery as the boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they don’t care about it. This is particularly clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done thus showing them becoming savages.
We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation developing further when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is really scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now completely open for the boys. This is the first true piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys becoming savages.
A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he said and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still someone with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.
In conclusion The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he wants to enforce rules and let everyone have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. Through the boys actions Golding shows us that we need rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions properly.
Describe the Symbols Used in The Lord of the Flies
The Lord of the Flies is the debut allegoric novel written by William Golding, which has not become too popular after it was published. But after a while it became a bestseller and was called one of the most significant novels written in English language, due to the problems it highlights, and a strong moral. Charles Brian Cox (“The Lord of the Flies. Critics Reviews,” n.d.) said “its exceptional strength stems from the fact that Golding believes: every detail of human life has a religious significance.”
While writing the story author wanted to show that evil is something external to human nature and looked for the extent to which human soul is free from evil. Author’s thoughts about the prevailing of evil in humanity and the fragility of modern civilization have found their reflection in a story about a group of boys stranded on a desert island.
Firstly, boys try to organize their lives wisely, in accordance with the rules of civilized existence, making efforts to create a semblance of democracy. But it does not last for long: the struggle for power erupts and panic breaks out, children feel the presence of the dreaded beast – the embodiment of their unconscious fears. And then, the order disrupts under the influence of dark instincts. Animal instincts which are asleep in human minds win, and fear and the instinct of self-preservation become destructive, lead to meanness and murder. Consequently, Golding claims that the biggest problem of society is the evil concealed in human soul.
The writer gives specific significance to simple items and phenomena. For example, a conch found by Ralph and Piggy acquires the meaning of symbol while becoming a horn which unites and summons children – it embodies the principles of civilization, law and equality. Boys associate the conch with a right to give a talk. But as a number of conflicts and contradictions increased, among them the conch loses its essence – its destruction means the eliminating of civilization all children believed in.
The true meaning of the symbols is not always revealed even by the end of the story. For example, a fire in the beginning of the novel is associated with salvation, it is a signal fire, but it quickly falls out of control and destroys one of the boys. Fire fades when Jack kills his first pig, and becomes a terrible destructive force during hunting to catch Ralph, although thanks to the fire boys were found and saved. The meaning of symbols changes as the story progresses, but also depends on the fact that main characters subjectively invest in these symbols.
Golding’ s heroes are not just specific boys with child logic and behavior, but also certain social and philosophical types of personality. Each character represents his own specific position (side of the human soul) in the struggle between two worlds – the world of savagery and common-sense world. But main conflict of the novel occurs between Ralph and Jack, who are shown as two different characters, two opposite personality types. Jack embodies willingness, cruelty and selfishness, Ralph is soft and inclined to searching for the truth. But simultaneously they both represent two inner beginnings, the two worlds of feelings and ideas.
Image of the symbol Lord of the Flies originally emerged unspeakably – it finds manifestation in boys’ fear and their feeling of some “beast.” Imaginary “beast” is generated by fear, which by its nature has two sides: state of fear and act of self-preservation. In both manifestations fear gives a push to cruelty, violence and blood. If rationalist Piggy does not see the gist of events, then Simon reaches this understanding by insight. Only he knows that the “beast” is hidden in their souls – it is a secret fear, cruelty and a willingness to kill. So, “beast” awakens in Jack, Roger, Maurice and becomes the essence, which then symbolically embodies in the The Lord of the Flies. This image opens in an external action (pig’s head impaled on a stick and plastered with flies) and inner (fear in the minds of the children). At the level of meaning it is the instinct of “beast,” awakened in children, and on the artistic level it is symbolic and fantastic form of The Lord of the Flies. That is why there are artistic ambiguity and ambivalence of this image. While planting a pig’s head on a stake, Jack announces: “The head is for the beast. It’s a gift” (“Important Quotes from Lord of the Flies,” 2012). This symbol reflects the pervasive evil that seizes man. “Looking at the novel in the context of biblical parallels, the Lord of the Flies recalls the devil, just as Simon recalls Jesus. In fact, the name Lord of the Flies is a literal translation of the biblical name Beelzebub, a powerful demon in hell sometimes thought to be the devil himself” (“Lord of the Flies. Themes, Motifs and Symbols,” n.d.).
Hence, the author with help of describing such symbols as signal fire, the conch, “beast” and The Lord of the Files endows inanimate objects with human significance and meaning of life. Also, he points out the fact that animal instincts are likely to prevail in the environment of fear and hopelessness. According to D. Anderson (“The Lord of the Flies. Critics Reviews,” n.d.), “the story investigates the origins of moral degradation of humanity.” Jack in the first chapter of the book blamed himself for not having courage to cut the pig. Later he overcame himself at the expense of his soul’s principles, but changed drastically. And in nowadays society people often forget about honesty, justice, value of life and order. That is why it is natural that this narrative story has great popularity – someone, having read it, would recognize himself in one of the characters’ behavior. The moral of The Lord of the Flies is to make right choices in our life and do not forget that if we succumb to dark side of our soul we will have the “beast” inside us. On the whole, adult problems described here make us think about the fate of humanity, civilization ways, and relationship between personality and society.
The Lord of the Flies. Critics Reviews. Retrieved from http://ru.wikipedia.org
Important Quotes from Lord of the Flies, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com
Lord of the Flies. Themes, Motifs and Symbols. Retrieved from http://www.sparknotes.com
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