Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
Civilization vs. Savagery
The central concern of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. This conflict might be expressed in a number of ways: civilization vs. savagery, order vs. chaos, reason vs. impulse, law vs. anarchy, or the broader heading of good vs. evil. Throughout the novel, Golding associates the instinct of civilization with good and the instinct of savagery with evil.
The conflict between the two instincts is the driving force of the novel, explored through the dissolution of the young English boys’ civilized, moral, disciplined behavior as they accustom themselves to a wild, brutal, barbaric life in the jungle. Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel, which means that Golding conveys many of his main ideas and themes through symbolic characters and objects. He represents the conflict between civilization and savagery in the conflict between the novel’s two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, who represents order and leadership; and Jack, the antagonist, who represents savagery and the desire for power.
As the novel progresses, Golding shows how different people feel the influences of the instincts of civilization and savagery to different degrees. Piggy, for instance, has no savage feelings, while Roger seems barely capable of comprehending the rules of civilization. Generally, however, Golding implies that the instinct of savagery is far more primal and fundamental to the human psyche than the instinct of civilization. Golding sees moral behavior, in many cases, as something that civilization forces upon the individual rather than a natural expression of human individuality. When left to their own devices, Golding implies, people naturally revert to cruelty, savagery, and barbarism. This idea of innate human evil is central to Lord of the Flies, and finds expression in several important symbols, most notably the beast and the sow’s head on the stake. Among all the characters, only Simon seems to possess anything like a natural, innate goodness.
Loss of Innocence
As the boys on the island progress from well-behaved, orderly children longing for rescue to cruel, bloodthirsty hunters who have no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence that they possessed at the beginning of the novel. The painted savages in Chapter 12 who have hunted, tortured, and killed animals and human beings are a far cry from the guileless children swimming in the lagoon in Chapter 3. But Golding does not portray this loss of innocence as something that is done to the children; rather, it results naturally from their increasing openness to the innate evil and savagery that has always existed within them. Golding implies that civilization can mitigate but never wipe out the innate evil that exists within all human beings. The forest glade in which Simon sits in Chapter 3 symbolizes this loss of innocence. At first, it is a place of natural beauty and peace, but when Simon returns later in the novel, he discovers the bloody sow’s head impaled upon a stake in the middle of the clearing. The bloody offering to the beast has disrupted the paradise that existed before—a powerful symbol of innate human evil disrupting childhood innocence.
More main ideas from Lord of the Flies
Lord of The Flies Essay
1673 Words7 Pages
Lord of the Flies was published in 1954 by William Golding. Today Lord of the Flies is a well known literary criticism. Many schools require their students to read Lord of the Flies because of the literary criticisms in the book. In this paper three themes or literary criticisms are talked about: good vs. evil, symbolism of characters, and maturity of characters.
Another topic in Golding's Lord of the Flies is the battle of good vs. evil. Everything seems to start out just fine on the island; the island seems to be rich with fruit and game and the climate is favorable. The real problem that arises among the boys involves their own inner nature, and emerges from an argument between those who wish to keep a fire burning on the island's…show more content…
The boys are wearing black cloaks "from throat to ankle" showing the subdued state of the boys before puberty. When they are given permission from Jack to uncover, they emerge as powerful drives. This is seen when they begin to run wild fetching for wood for the fire, and hunting like savages (Martin; Golding 34). The competition between good and evil starts with the gradual struggle between Ralph and Jack, the two oldest boys, for priority. Ralph is the natural leader by virtue of his superior height, strength, and beauty. His mild expression proclaims him “no devil.” He possesses the symbol of authority, the conch. Jack, on the other hand, is described in completely different terms; he is distinguished by his ugliness and his red hair, a traditional demonic conception (Rosenfield). Ralph and Jack do not get along well throughout Lord of the Flies; Jack has his clan rob and steal from Ralph's camp. Also Piggy and Simon are killed by Jack's choir boys. After the boys are murdered Jack wants all the power and tries to kill Ralph by burning down the island. In the process of burning down the island a Navy helicopter rescues the boys from the island so evil does not overcome good on the island. After all the conflicts between good and evil; the murder of Piggy and Simon, robbery, violence, and the burning of the island good still came out on top