Themes and Issues
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. Lord of the Flies is a thought provoking novel, the main theme being the fact that men are inherently bound to law/moral society and without the influence of morality and the basic consensus of right and wrong we would slowly regress to our primitive and savage instincts. This essay will analyse the novel giving evidence to support the theme as well as discuss issues that may arise from it.
Mr. Golding writes to show us that within every human there is a primitive evil that will break loose if it is not curbed by the strong order of civilisation. This theme is promoted strongly throughout the book using both the actions and the personalities of Ralph and Jack and the other boys. Mr. Golding slowly unfolds a sequence of events that will gradually lead us to understand the meaning of his writing.
In the novel, the main characters are Ralph and Jack. Ralph represents civilisation and order while Jack stands for savagery. However, the decline of Jack into the darker side of human nature is a gradual one and not instantaneous. In the beginning of the book we see that Jack is still bound by the rules and laws of his old world. He concedes to the election and even though unwilling he accepts Ralph as the leader. Jack was even enthusiastic when Ralph decided to introduce rules into the assemblies (page 44).
Everything at this part of the book is so far contained within the law: the sense of the wrong and the forbidden is strong inside everyone including Jack. At first, Jack could not bring himself to kill the piglet entangled by the creepers because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood. Roger threw stones at Henry, but he threw to miss because of the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. (Page 78) The restrictions of the cultivated world are still heavy upon them.
With the lack of enforcement, the world of cultured rules soon fades into the distance. The beastie takes its place and disaster strikes (Page 46-p60. The first death occurs. The littleun with the mark on his face disappears.) The beastie can be interpreted as evil, but it is more accurately the sinister side that is present in every human being. It is worth noting that Mr. Golding creates his first sense of unease through something which is familiar to every child the fear of the dark and unknown. This is an important event in the book as it shows us that the island of paradise is not quite what is seems.
Jacks decline into evil is marked soon there after the arrival of the beastie. He surrenders his civil side and gives himself into his darker, savage nature. We can interpret all these from Jacks actions: he lets the fire out, (therefore letting go of hope of rescue and civilisation) and kills his first pig (resulting in loss of innocence and also symbolises Jack giving in to his bloodlust).
Jack and the boys grow more savage. They paint their faces and hold wild, ceremonial dances. Here the true nature of the beastie is revealed by Simon. Only he truly realises what the beastie is. Maybe its only us, Simons insight unfortunately is confined only to himself. Later the threat becomes real in the form of the dead airman. This too is ironic as Ralph had appealed to the adult world for help (If only they could send us something grown-upa sign or something) and the dead airman is shot down in flames over the island. Immediately, the fears of all boys on the island are crystallised. The beast is no longer a figment of their imagination but a real thing. Evil takes deeper root in the boys heart.
A clear rift is soon driven among the boys, marking clearly Jacks break from civilisation. Jack forms his own tribe, their one purpose is to hunt and satisfy their bloodlust. The island has properly been defiled by evil now and it runs rampant among the divided boys.
Yet again Simon is the only one who perceives this. We can gather this from the fact that Simon confronted the Lord of the Flies. Simon sees the evil and he also discovers that the beastie is the dead airman. He has to pay the price of his life in trying to communicate his discovery to his friends. Simons death once again authenticates the truth evil has now been properly confirmed on the island, the airman is no longer necessary and his body vanishes, carried out to sea.
Simons death marked the beginning of total anarchy on the island. Even Ralph and Piggy have contributed to Simons demise. They have all been stained. Ralph as well has begun to forget the importance of rescue. He starts to forget the fire and experiences blank gaps in his memory. Ralph and Piggy decide to take a stand and try to convince some of the boys to return to the good side. However, the boys refuse; preferring their newfound freedom and civilisation or any makeshift semblance of it is finally crushed and snuffed out with Piggy and the conch.
By now all the boys with the exception of Ralph are in the grip of the beastie. They proceed to hunt Ralph down. Roger even sharpened a stick at both ends, intending to spike Ralphs head on it as Jack had done with the sow. All look hopeless but at the very end of the novel, we see order restored to the island once more in the form of the navy officer. Civilisation has once again been imposed and the savage game is stopped at once.
Once the destruction is complete, Mr. Golding returns our world to us, we realise with horror our words the kid needed a bath, a hair-cut, a nose wipe and a good deal of ointment. Our everyday sight had been returned to us but because of our experience of reading the book we now re-interpret the things we see and say with Macbeth Mine eyes are made the fools o the other senses. Through a sequence of carefully plotted events, Mr. Golding forces us recognize the truth, that there is a monster lurking beneath the calm exterior of mundane, ordinary humans. The evil that will break loose with the absence of the chains of moral society.
Mr. Golding had a purpose in choosing young boys as his main characters. Young boys are generally seen as innocent and guileless, however Mr. Golding shows us that not even they can escape the true primitive human nature.
Many issues arise from this theme. Among them the most prominent being the flaws of society. All through the book, Mr. Golding has developed his theme using many symbols such as the conch and the boys and the beastie to allow us and see and understand his point of view on humanity. Instead of going along with the popular belief that man is innocent and society corrupts, Mr. Golding points out to all of us that man is the one who created society therefore the flaws of society can be attributed to the faults of man.
Another issue present is the loss of identity. A prime example in the novel is Jack. As he slowly becomes more savage, he starts to paint his face. The paint provides Jack with a mask that hides him from his morally imposed conscience while committing what is deemed as violent and disgraceful acts such as slaughtering of pigs and the murder of Simon. It allows him to believe that someone else is perpetrating those crimes and that he is innocent.
In reality, the loss of identity is also present. For instance, a teenager might decide to become an artist. On the other hand, his parents disagree and force him to study engineering. As a result, the teenager has lost his identity and instead has become a doll for his parents to command. This results in society being influenced by the mistakes and wrongs of the past such as: the tendency of violence and the overvaluing of money.
Then again, this is also the way wisdom is passed down from generation to generation, in following the footsteps of the great people before us. However, it should not be used in the wrong way like in the novel.
All in all, Mr. Goldings novel makes for very interesting reading and incites us all to look deep within us and acknowledge our hidden demons. Ultimately, Mr. Goldings book has become important to us not only because it tells us about the darkness within mens hearts but because it permits us to almost experience it. By the power of the written word, he is able to communicate his meaning to us superbly and in the end we are left with no choice but to face the unpleasant truth. Mr. Goldings novel is an excellent one simply because it has achieved its purpose in making us see the beast that exists inside us. We now should comprehend the significance of Shelleys remark the great instrument for the moral good is the imagination.