Savagery starts in the nature of survival. The need to hunt, to eat, to over power an animal and then other humans simply to survive ends the bigguns need for their own humanity. “His mind crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.” (Golding 76). This quotation, also from Chapter 4, explores Jack’s mental state in the aftermath of killing his first pig, another milestone in the boys’ decline into savage behavior. Jack exults in the kill and is unable to think about anything else because his mind is “crowded with memories” of the hunt. He is now ready to control everything he touches. Golding explicitly connects Jack’s exhilaration with the feelings of power and superiority he experienced in killing the pig. Jack’s excitement stems not from pride at having found food and helped the group, but from having “outwitted” another creature and imposed his will upon it. Earlier in the novel, Jack claims that hunting is important to provide meat for the group; now, it becomes clear that Jack’s obsession with hunting is due to the satisfaction it provides his primal instincts and has nothing to do with contributing to the common good. Jack and the boys are slowly losing their innocence. It was the beginning of their transformation into savagery.
Only when the rule of law is forced upon the boys again, do they understand the prior downfall into a hell of their own makings. “There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?” (Golding 158). At the end of the novel, after the boys encounter the naval officer, an authoritative symbol of the former lives, who appears out of nowhere to save them, does Ralph suddenly realize that he is safe and will be returned to civilization. This plunges him into a reflective despair. When the naval officer appears on the island, all the boys who were just moments earlier behaving savagely, come to a halt and suddenly return to their senses. This suggests that the appearance of the naval officer represents the return of both adult supervision and civilization. However, the rescue is not a moment of absolute joy, for Ralph realizes that, although he is saved from death on the island, he will never be the same. He has lost his innocence and learned about the evil that lurks within all human beings. Here, Golding explicitly connects the sources of Ralph’s despair to two of the main themes of the novel: the end of innocence and the “darkness of man’s heart,” the presence of savage instincts is lurking within all human beings, even at the height of civilization.
Golding expresses his argument that if a person were to be put in an environment where the rules of society were stripped away, the person would revert back to his primeval nature. Society keeps everybody sane and civilized, and we need rules and principles by which to live. If people do not have rules and morals, humans will revert back to a pre-civilized culture. Society is so comfortable with civilization, when it is taken away; they turn into the “Beasts”. Golding therefore teaches the reader that civilization is what binds men together as a society and without such; we would all be simply savages.