by Valerie H.
Fear can cause mankind to do desperate, barbaric things in their battle to survive. This concept is embraced by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which describes a group of British schoolboys who reveal savagery as their darker nature as they struggle to govern themselves on an isolated island. Although they start off as civilized children, with the lack of a reasonable adult to discipline them, they fall into chaos as they squabble among themselves, with two conflicting leaders—Jack, who represents dictatorship, and Ralph, who represents democracy. As the story’s plot builds up, with these two powerful and influential forces becoming tenser, Golding chooses many characters or items that represent different ideas, such as Piggy, who is rationalism and logic. This use of symbolism leads to the themes of democracy versus dictatorship, logic and reason versus instincts and emotion, and civilization against the wild as the horrified boys realize their unconscious transformation into the monsters they have gradually become.
Ralph, the main character, assumes power over the boys in the form of a democratic leadership during their first assembly on the island. He forms a small council of two wiser boys who advise him and collaborate on making decisions, but all the other boys are free to determine their place in society based on their age and their actions. With Ralph as chief, different classes form, some higher than the others and able to order the minorities around. Although there are small conflicts within the group, Ralph manages to keep them under his control by asserting his leadership over them. He uses power to emphasize his position, but also lets other boys, even younger children, speak during the assemblies. However, later, Jack forms his own group in a moment of emotion and rules over them in the form of a dictatorship. He is the supreme leader of all the members of his hunting tribe, who are equal in social status. They are all forced to share the same opinions as Jack, but otherwise, their lives are very comfortable as long as they acknowledge Jack as their only leader.
Although both Ralph and Jack were both leaders with devoted followers, they ruled their groups with different ways of thinking. Ralph was more of a realistic, civilized thinker. He believed that they would be rescued someday because a ship had to pass by soon, and reassured everyone that the island would not be their permanent home. Ralph also insisted on keeping a neat and orderly environment, like they had in civilization. He assigned jobs to everyone, from building shelters to filling shells with water, and only allowed people to speak during assemblies if they were holding the conch, which was a significant part of his orderly management. On the other hand, Jack was more of a person who acted on the spot and never planned or thought anything out before he did something. Jack ruled with his instincts and emotions, so sometimes his decisions could be biased based on what he thought at the moment; however, his tribe easily accepted whatever he said or did and never questioned his judgment.
Before they crashed onto the island, the boys lived in civilization. They were carefree, kind, and totally dependent on adults. Their parents and teachers provided and taught them everything, so their lives were very comfortable and they didn’t need to lift a finger to survive. Without adults to give them food, shelter, and anything else they needed to live, they wouldn’t be able to do anything independently. However, in civilization, the boys acted friendlier and more politely to younger children and adults because they had been disciplined to treat others with respect. Civilization made the boys calmer and friendlier, as well as reliant on others to support them. In contrast, the wild caused the boys to become hateful and more vicious to each other. They had no one to stop them from being rude or violent because despite different boys being chief of the group, they didn’t have the same authority adults did. Nevertheless, the wild was good for the boys in some ways. It caused them to be more independent because they depended on themselves to survive, to build shelters and hunt for meat.
Golding’s Lord of the Flies was highly enjoyable, not only because of its meaningful themes and symbolism but also because it included vivid descriptions of the darkness of man’s heart and how the beautiful nature around the boys, so pure, contrasts with the evil of the boys. The plot was well organized and suspenseful, with many unexpected events that built up to an exciting climax, and had a powerful, emotional ending. This novel would be a pleasant read for preteens or teenagers because it teaches many important lessons and discusses many conflicts using children of their age through the deeper meaning of the different scenes and descriptions; it is easily a recommended book choice that stands out from the other literature in its category. While it is classified as a coming-of-age novel, it can teach anyone—even adults—powerful lessons about man’s heart and is a timeless book that will never cease to please.