To what extent can Lord of the Flies be considered a Marxist piece?

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To what extent can Lord of the Flies be considered a Marxist piece?

Lord of the Flies centres on a group of boys stranded on a tropical island when their plane crashes en route from England to Australia as part of an evacuation during an atomic war (hypothetical war.) The story is essentially an allegorical tale of the innate evil of man – good versus evil. Of the book, Golding said that he wrote it to illustrate how political systems cannot govern society effectively unless they take into consideration the inherent defects of human nature. Marxism is seen as the development from an oppressive capitalist society to an equal and classless society. Golding tries to set a utopian world within the island devoid of adult, societal constraints but in the end the innate animal characteristics of man come to the fore.

Golding based his story on the 19th century novel ‘The Coral Island’ written by  R M Ballantyne. Whereas Ballantyne’s novel, an adventure story of three boys stranded on a desert island, was optimistic, Golding’s is terrifyingly pessimistic. The novel was written shortly after World War II , in the early days of the Cold War when paranoia about communism was at its height. In the early 1950s many people were accused, often falsely, of being communists (the McCarthy era in the USA at this time is a good example of this.) It is within this context that Golding wrote Lord of the Flies. The battles between Ralph and Jack, the struggles between the Conch group and the Savages and above all the fight of good versus evil, originate in a degree of paranoia typical of the era in which the novel was written.

Lord of the Flies’ reflects elements of Golding’s own life – his experiences during the war made him second guess the traditionally held belief that while society might be evil, man was inherently good. Golding had witnessed the evil in man, not just in the enemy but in his own allies (he was on the ship that sank the German ship Bismarck.) Golding said in his essay ‘Fable’ - originally given as part of a lecture series in 1962 – “My book was to say: you think that now the war is over and an evil thing destroyed, you are safe because you are naturally kind and decent. But I know why the thing rose in Germany. I know it could happen in any country. It could happen here.”

The breakdown of order and discipline is prominent throughout the novel. This idea was drawn from Golding’s experiences as a school master (his father was also a school teacher.) Golding taught in an English public school so much of his insight was drawn largely from this. Golding felt that at the time, the education system lacked a balance between discipline and creative freedom. By placing the boys on an island without adults, free from the constraints of society, he allows the boys freedom to indulge their desires and impulses. But by setting the story in a tropical paradise, Golding allowed the boys’ downfall to come not through a basic struggle for survival but instead from within themselves and commented “If disaster came, it was not to come through the exploitation of one class by another. It was to rise, simply and solely, out of the nature of the brute . . . . . the only enemy of man is inside him.” (Fable, 1962.)

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Golding uses the varied characters in the novel to symbolise the varying degrees of savagery exhibited by man and their rift with organised civilisation. For example, Piggy demands that the boys stay within the parameters of organised society – his frequent references to his ‘auntie’ represent the only adult voice throughout much of the novel. Jack, on the other hand, is more interested in satisfying his own desires and is of the belief  ‘if it’s fun, do it.’ Ralph, however, is caught somewhere between the extremes exhibited by Piggy and Jack. It is in the clashes between Ralph and ...

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Spelling and grammar is generally good with few mistakes. Technical language could have been used to enhance analysis. In terms of the level of analysis and evaluation, this text does not meet expectations for AS/A Level, though there are signs that with adequate quotation and less historical, arbitrary context, this could be an excellent essay.

The author makes an attempt to consider language, metaphor and themes, but fails to use quotations from the text. This greatly hinders the quality of the essay as there needs to be a clear sign of where the essay's points have come from – usually points should be quote-driven to show that the author has not simply plucked these points from thin air. As a result, this essay often makes generalisations, such as “Ralph represents democracy, whilst Jack, with his symbolic red hair, represents communism.” Where in the text is Ralph shown to represent democracy? Is it in his control of the conch (which is mentioned in the essay but not through direct quotations), or organisation of meetings reminiscent of Parliament? Without such quotations analysis is extremely limited. Further, the essay is made confusing structurally by the lack of topic and closing sentences in paragraphs, as the author tends to jump straight in to analysis. Paragraphs should have clear topic sentences to guide the reader through the essay, as well as a closing note linking the point back to the question. For instance, an interesting point is made when the author comments, “It can be argued that Golding uses Roger... to embody the central theme of the novel.” There is good interpretation here and the “it can be argued” shows some degree of evaluation. However, this is frustratingly limited – what is the central theme of the novel? How does this link to Marxism? Is it the fact that Roger represents what could happen without class, economic and social barriers? There are psychoanalytical aspects of this too, which the author mentions in passing – Roger represents the human “id”, present within everyone but which rules and boundaries keep contained. Overall, the points made are generally pertinent and interesting, but the author should link back to Marxism more (even in just a passing phrase to keep the essay on track) and extend analysis to using quotes and picking imagery and themes from these quotes. Evaluation is hinted at when the author considers different points throughout, but a conclusion should have been used to summarise and evaluate which point is most important and to answer the question. By the end of the essay the reader still doesn't know whether the author believes LOTF is Marxist.

There is to some extent a focus on Marxism throughout the essay, and the introduction clearly defines what the writer considers Marxism to be. However, the introduction is crucially missing an explanation of the overall conclusion which will be made and the structure of the essay. This makes the reader confused from the very beginning as to what the essay is actually trying to say. Indeed, the essay often strays from Marxism and considers philosophical questions without linking it back to Marxism.