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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Document length: 2858 words

Lord of the Flies - How does Golding present the decline from civilisation to savagery?

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Introduction

How does Golding present the decline from civilisation to savagery? Lord of the Flies is the name given to the inner beast, to which only Simon ever actually speaks. As Simon's waits for the beast's arrival near the bloody sow's head on the stake (buzzing with flies), The Lord of the Flies speaks to him, warning him not to get in its way or else he shall be killed by the boys. The Lord of the Flies name comes from the sow's head and the countless flies buzzing about it, which soon move from the sow's head to swarm around the head of Simon as the Lord of the Flies tells him, "I'm a part of you." In biblical texts, the Lord of the Flies is the title of Beelzebub (a direct translation of his name), a demon of Hell. There is a clear distinction between this book and The Coral Island. There is no separation between boys and savages, good and evil, Christianity and cannibalism, British and savages in this book, where as in the Coral island this distinction comes out many times. Jack is the novel's primary representative of the instincts of savagery, violence, and the desire for power, which is shown from the beginning. When the idea of having a Chief is mentioned, Jack speaks out immediately. "I ought to be chief," Jack says with simple arrogance, "because I'm chapter chorister and head boy." He is furious when he loses the election to Ralph, which subtly begins their conflict, and continually pushes the boundaries of his subordinate role in the group.

Middle

The boy with the mulberry birthmark first introduces it, " 'Now, he says it was a beastie'". The Beastie symbolizes the Devil, and is a manifestation of all the evil inside the boys; in fact, the name "Lord of the Flies" is a literal translation of the name of the biblical name Beelzebub, a powerful demon in hell sometimes thought to be the devil himself. Their terror of this monster both unites and divides the boys; it unites them in the sense it gives them all a common enemy, and at points, drives away other in-group conflicts, but as different characters have different ideas as to, at first, whether the beast actually exists and then eventually how to deal with it, it causes even more strife to the already tense atmosphere building on the island. The hunts and killing are the most blatant signs of savagery. When Jack is hunting he does not hunt like you would expect, his hunting is instinctive and Golding stresses that he acts like an animal, "dog like on all fours" and "ape-like". Golding also stresses that the way Jack hunts is instinctive "Jack himself shrank at this cry with a hiss of indrawn breath". He uses all his senses, which is unusual as normally humans mainly use their sight. But as Jack he is so primal he uses smell, to see if the droppings are warm. When he gets onto the pig run he draws himself up to his full height, like an animal would before it strikes its prey or if it was on the defence because it wants to make itself seem more powerful.

Conclusion

The boys rarely speak more than a few sentences at a time; often theirt utterances amount to just a few words and their vocabulary is limited. They also resort to boyish slang and mild swearing, representing the decline into savagery in speaking terms. There is countless examples of symbolism in the novel. The pig's head symbolises the cynical ways of adults and the hollowness of their world. It is Simon who sees the parachutist as epitomising the capacity fo adults for death and destruction. He symbolically frees this "unknown soldier" when he releases the suspension lines of the parachute. Although symbolism is, in part, tied to objects, it can be seen here that actions can also be symbolic. Examples are when the hunters baptise themselves with the blood of the pig, or the death of the sow show the boys relinquishing a mother figure, and so parental ties and innocence. In conclusion, the overriding theme of the novel 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 on the one hand; and the instinct to gratify one's immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one's will on the other. These two instincts may be called "the instinct of civilization" and "the instinct of savagery," as one is devoted to values that promote ordered society and the other is devoted to values that threaten ordered society. Throughout the novel, the instinct of civilization is associated with goodness, while the instinct of savagery is associated with evil, and the latter prevails. It is only at the very end of the book that the group is drained of savagery, as the captain pictures these small, ragged, confused little boys.

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