In Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, we find a group of British boys stranded on a tropical island while the rest of the world is at war. Their plane has been shot down and they find themselves without adults to tell them how to act. As they struggle to survive, they encounter conflicts that mirror the decayed society from which they have come. We see Golding’s theme come about as we watch the boys begin to lose their innocence and let their natural evil overwhelm their otherwise civilized manner.
While presenting this them, Golding builds a structured plot with numerous subjects and notions that add to the theme’s formulation. One of these notions is the role of the masks that the boys wear. The masks became a producer of evil circumstances, gave a sense of anonymity, and represented the defiance of social structure.
Whenever someone is wearing a mask or has a painted face, evil is at large.The very purpose of a mask is for hiding. The boys use the masks to hide their lust for blood, killing, and death from their consciences. When going to hunt for the first time, “Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” because he knew that his manner of hunting was evil and would only lead to lascivious killing. While describing that hunt to the boys, Jack was “twitching” and “shuddering” as he talked. He knew it was wrong. Eventually all the savages hid behind their masks when their lust for killing climaxes on the manhunt for Ralph.
Throughout all of the story, all hunting, killing, and shedding of blood was done while hidden by masks. The mask, to whoever wears it, makes the boy unknown, unrecognized, and mysterious. When the first mask was put on, Jack “looked no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger”.
At the formation of Jack’s tribe, all who join wear a mask from that time on and become a part of the savages. As three savages return to steal fire, they are driven because they are “demoniac figures with faces of white and red” not individual boys. The mask becomes such an anonymous symbol that, towards the end of the story, Ralph “gazed at the green and black mask before him trying to remember what Jack looked like”. Whether stealing, fighting, or hunting, the savages found their courage because they “looked like something else” “hidden behind the mask of paint”. The painted faces and masks gave those that wanted an excuse for disregarding social rules and order. When hidden by a mask, a savage could do whatever he wanted, knowing that the rules of society could not hurt an anonymous figure.
“Freed by the paint” Roger was no longer concerned with the “taboo of the old life” when he dislodged the rock that killed Piggy and broke the conch, the one symbol of law and order on the island. From that time forth, they had no law, hidden under their masks. All of the savages disregarded any and all social order when they began the manhunt for Ralph. The boy’s in this story were good British boys. They understood that they would be held responsible for their evil actions. The mask gave them an excuse or liberty of sorts to do as they pleased.
Stealing, hunting, and killing were not ceptible and they never would have done anything like that but “the mask compelled them”.