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The Theme of Savagery versus Civilisation in The Lord of the Flies by William Golding


The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is an unique in which the style of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of a fictional nuclear war. On the island we see dispute in between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an impact on the rest of the young boys throughout the unique as they dig further and even more into savagery.

The style of savagery versus civilisation is very first presented to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we relate to Ralph as he is the individual who initially utilizes it and ends up being the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority among the kids. At the first assembly Ralph says “I’ll provide the conch to the next individual to speak … he will not be interrupted”. This recommends civilisation as Ralph is enabling each boy to have an equivalent say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be offered the possibility to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the kids. The kids have developed the island to be a democratic location which reveals a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.

Contrasting with the sign of the conch is the symbol of the monster which becomes related to Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The monster starts as a “snake thing” however by the end of the novel it has ended up being “the Lord of the Flies”. The very first quote reveals us that the beast is plainly wicked. Western society considers snakes to be bad prophecies due to the fact that it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However at this phase of the unique the monster is rather poor as it is just a “thing”. As the boys fear of the monster grows so to does the beast itself up 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 quite revolting– the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to act more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the guidelines, led by Jack, therefore showing the style of savagery.

Among ways Golding programs dispute in between savagery and civilisation is when Jack and a few of the other young boys are eliminating the first pig. Jack chants “eliminate the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This recommends savagery as the young boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they do not care about it. This is especially clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it seem like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the absence of care and sensation revealed towards the pug’s carcass. This reveals that the young boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done therefore revealing them becoming savages.

We can see the dispute between savagery and civilisation establishing even more 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 starting to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, however here he really snaps and chooses Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is actually frightened as Golding selects the words “wept” and “horror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is harming and is really frightened about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have actually also pertained to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now entirely open for the young boys. This is the first real piece of violence between the 2 factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys ending up being savages.

A last method which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being shown is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is assaulted by Jack. Ralph says “that was a cheat”. This reveals that Ralph is truly angry at Jack for what he stated and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he states this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this moment as there is still somebody with a sense of ethical goodness prepared to eliminate for justice.

In conclusion

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the style of savagery versus civilisation is revealed. Ralph represents civilisation as he wishes to implement rules and let everybody have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the young boys and he is not interested in what they need to state. Through the young boys actions Golding shows us that we need guidelines and to knowingly impose them to ensure society functions correctly.

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