The Consequences Of Freedom Without Rules
In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Golding uses three literary tools, symbolism, character, and setting, to show that total freedom and no consequences for ones’ actions will lead to a world where people are selfish, manipulative, cruel and murderous. It is parents and society that teach children how to live in a civilized world, and government laws that keeps them under control.
Lord of the Flies is set during world war II. (Notes on Novels) A group of young boys are being transported on an airplane from England to escape from the war. When the airplane crashes and lands on the island, they find themselves helpless and without protection and adult guidance. The group of boys have to deal with changes as they slowly get used to the isolated freedom from the world they once knew. Three of the main characters, Ralph, Piggy, and Jack, though under the same circumstances, are affected differently by the isolation and lawlessness of the island. (Freewebs)
Golding uses a lot of symbolism in this novel. The book suggests that savagery and civilization are closer to each other than we think. The plane crash represents the failure of society in the world outside, the corruption of ideas and the battle of good vs. evil. It was because of the war that they were on the plane. (Company)
Ralph, takes leadership immediately; he uses the conch found by Piggy, who is also used as a symbol to call the other boys who were between the ages of six and twelve to an assembly where they discuss the need for rules and unity. The conch represents democracy and order, and it is the only thing on the island that is used to keep order. Piggy represents knowledge and morality. He listens to the rules from the very beginning to the very end. The writer of this essay also concludes that Piggy is very smart and plans things out carefully:
Piggy knew the rules, as did all the other boys, but he also had the patience to at least wonder why the rules existed. This intuition of Piggy’s made him more aware of why the rules were imposed thereby ensuring that he would abide by them even when they were not enforced… Piggy was a very reliable person who could look ahead and plan carefully what needed to happen in the future. (razshmu)
Piggy is physically blind to the things around him but he understands what is happening on the island. Sadly, the boys do not realize that Piggy sees more, and they tease him and treat him bad, he is eventually killed. Ralph symbolized organized society, law and order, he sets the rules that all of them have to obey, one of them being that whoever was holding the conch could speak, and “That’s what this shell’s called. I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.” (Page 45) Ralph calls for a signal fire to be watched at all times in case an airplane would fly by, the signal fire represents hope, rescue and salvation. Jack symbolizes anarchy and selfishness; he states that they should survive there hunting and enjoying the fact that there are no rules and can do whatever they like. He does not care about getting rescued. Golding shows competition between Ralph and Jack they both think they are right and they want things to go their way. The Beast represents the fear of the unknown and evil within man. The boys do not want to believe that a beast exists on the island, but they are not sure and are uncertain of the truth. One of the deepest meanings is no real beast exists, and fear itself is the only beast on the island.
Golding uses character in this novel in several instances, when Roger is throwing rocks he’s described in another essay as doing what he knew was wrong because he knows there are no consequences:
Mans primal instinct towards violence really shows when they are living without rules or realize that there are no authority figures to enforce any rules. Without having consequences for any actions that might be taken then they primal instinct of the boys begins to take over. Even though the fact of no punishments may be known in the back of one’s mind there is still the thought of what’s right. “Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry and back again.” (Page 67) This is an example of how Roger knows it is wrong to hit someone with a rock but also knows that there are no punishments for anything. (raveeshsyal)
Jack is fed up with the rules and working towards getting rescued so he forms a new tribe, a tribe of hunters to search for meat, play and have a good time. There was plenty of fruit to eat and there was no need to hunt but his selfishness and greed leads to the tribes decent into savagery and chaos. Jack wanted to be the leader and he uses fear to obtain that. Jack finally gains the trust and respect from the rest of the tribe when he kills the pig and this only pushes him further into his madness and quest to be #1 on the island and better than Ralph. The fear of the unknown and the fact that they are all alone with no help and total chaos all around him Ralph starts to take on a different side. A different Ralph then what we first see at the beginning of the story, his character changes back and forth and he struggles with whether or not he should just give in and be like the rest of the boys while Piggy continues to stand firm on what he’s been taught, that following the rules and doing what’s right is the only way to live on the island and if they don’t then they will not survive. An example of how Golding uses character is when Ralph and Piggy are the only two left to watch the fire and attempt to aid in being rescued, Ralph becomes uncertain of his own self and starts to doubt his own beliefs:
“I’m scared.” He saw Piggy look up; and blundered on.
“Not of the beast. I mean I’m scared of that too. But nobody else
understands about the fire. If someone threw you a rope when you were drowning. If a doctor said take this because if you don’t take it you’ll die—you would, wouldn’t you? I mean?” “Course I would.”
“Can’t they see? Can’t they understand? Without the smoke signal we’ll die here? Look at that!” A wave of heated air trembled above the ashes but without a trace of smoke. “We can’t keep one fire going. And they don’t care. And what’s more—”He looked intensely into Piggy’s streaming face. “What’s more, I don’t sometimes. Supposing I got like the others—not caring. What ’ud become of us?”Piggy took off his glasses, deeply troubled. “I dunno, Ralph. We just got to go on, that’s all. That’s what grown-ups would do.” (Page 200)
Jack’s character goes under drastic changes; he goes from a nice innocent boy to an evil methodic murderer. The way a person acts when they are faced with dangerous situations and lots of stress or can reveal a lot about their character. Instead of rising up and being a leader with Ralph and joining together for the good of all the boys, he allows the circumstances to get the best of him turning him into an animal. His disregard for rules has a tragic result when as the group of boys are dancing around the fire pretending to hunt the pig, they accidently kill Simon:
The littluns began to run about, screaming. Jack leapt on to the sand.
“Do our dance! Come on! Dance!” He ran stumbling through the thick sand to the open space of rock beyond the fire. Between the flashes of lightning the air was dark and terrible; and the boys followed him, clamorously. Roger became the pig, grunting and charging at Jack, who side-stepped. The hunters took their spears, the cooks took spits, and the rest clubs of firewood. A circling movement developed and a chant. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe … The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws. (Page 217 -219)
At first the boys are sad when they realize what they have done, but it’s quickly made to be forgotten by Jack who explains it as the killing of the beast. The boys become even more violent after this and push a large rock of the cliff hitting Piggy and killing him.
This is a classic example of how humans can become desensitized by their surroundings and actions around them. The more you see it the less impact it has on you, the fear of the beast and the islands isolation from civilization causes the boys to enter survival mode. When a person is faced with kill or be killed then without thinking natural instinct enters in and the mind say’s, “I’ll do whatever it takes to live”. Golding’s portrayal of good gone bad is full of symbolism from everyday life, then in his time and now in ours. It was during World War II Golding wrote this novel, I can see a lot of literary tools he used stemmed from his own life and experiences during this time.
William Golding says that “the theme (of the book) is an attempt to trace back the defects of society to the defects of human nature…The moral is that the shape of society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system.” (Lord of the Flies The only web site you’ll need)
One excerpt from another reader shows the similarities of another novel “The Coral Island” by R. M. Ballantyne in which the names are even the same:
My Christian name was Ralph … Jack Martin was a tall, strapping, broad-shouldered youth of eighteen, with a handsome, good-humored, firm face … My other companion was Peterkin Gay. He was little, quick, funny, decidedly mischievous, and about fourteen years old. (Ballantyne)
But the boys there on that island build a successful civilization; this is Golding’s flip side version of that tale. It’s interesting to know that he in several ways actually copied someone else’s work, he just put a different spin on things.
One interested in finding about Golding for oneself should probably begin with Lord of the Flies. . . . The story is simple. In a way not clearly explained, a group of children, all boys, presumably evacuees in a future war, are dropped from a plane just before it is destroyed, on to an uninhabited tropical island. The stage is thus set for a reworking of a favorite subject in children’s literature: castaway children assuming adult responsibilities without adult supervision. Golding expects his readers to recall the classic example of such a book, R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island. (Novels for Students)
There are numerous criticisms’ that referred back to this book,
This is Golding’s theme, and it takes on a frightful force by being presented in juvenile terms, in a setting that is twice deliberately likened to the sunny Coral Island of R. M. Ballantyne. (Thompson Corporation)
After reading Golding’s novel, I now understand the symbolic meanings of the characters, Piggy, Ralph, and Jack. Piggy is intelligence and because of his weight he is teased and looked at as dumb, but looks can be deceiving as in this case they were. Ralph is the leader, and symbolizes rules and order. He can be compared to the likes of a Judge or Law enforcement, he maintains peace. Jack, is a hunter and he symbolizes the natural instinct of survival. From reading other essays a better knowledge is gained of the book the need for laws, order and rules are very important in our world and if people choose to ignore them then they too become just like these fictional characters Golding wrote about. This novel didn’t feel like a fiction, every page of the book could happen today in real life. Just like the boys stranded on the island, when faced with the stress and chaos of everyday troubles humans will resort to the same actions told in this story.
Ballantyne, Robert Michael. “The Coral Island.” London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1911. p13-15.
Carl Niemeyer. “Lord of the Flies: The Coral Island Revisited.” Novels for Students.
Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. 17 April 2008. http://www.enotes.com/flies/coral-island-revisited.
Company, Southwestern. Student Handbook Volume 2. New Jersey: R.R. Bowker, 1993. 211.
“Lord of the Flies” http://www.freewebs.com/. April 2008
raveeshsyal. 7 Aug 2004 . slashdoc.
razshmu. “slashdoc.” 31 May 2005.
“Lord of the Flies (Historical Context).” Notes on Novels. Answers Corporation, 2006. Answers.com 01 May. 2008. http://www.answers.com/topic/lord-of the-flies-novel-5
Thomson Corporation. “Critical Essay by John Peter.” 2005. 30 May 2008