Literary Analysis: Julius Caesar v. The Lord of the Flies

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Literary Analysis: Julius Caesar v. The Lord of the Flies

In the 2008-2009 Florida Key Club District Convention Oratorical Contest, contestants were asked to answer the question: does one need power to make a difference in the world around them? Two of the three finalists answered with responses that said power, prestige, and wealth along with other esteemed qualities of our society are not necessary to make a difference. However, the other finalist and winner of the contest answered, "I am not trying to be cynical, but power is necessary to make a difference in the world around us. However, power is not having total control over those around you. Rather, power is the ability to influence those around you." Thinkers from all ages have pondered upon questions related to the nature of power, corruption and abuse because of power, methods of achieving power, and many other similar concepts. Simply put, these men and women around the world are trying to understand the dynamics of power. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding recounts the story of a colony of English schoolboys stranded on a deserted island from which three leaders will rise. Likewise, Shakespeare's Tragedy of Julius Caesar uses the story of history's most famous account of treason to explain these aforementioned dynamics of power. While both works use characterization and symbolism to communicate the theme of the dynamics of power, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar offers a better interpretation of this concept than does Lord of the Flies because it more accurately shows that some leaders act for just causes by letting Brutus contribute to the plot more so than Piggy; it describes abuses of power more realistically through Antony's treachery rather than the naïve abuses Jack from Lord of the Flies commits; additionally, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar also conveys the idea that a unifying force, like Julius Caesar, can prevent anarchy more logically than does the "conch" from the Lord of the Flies; on top of this, Jack and Ralph create a horribly skewed balance of power as compared to the two opposing armies of Brutus and the Conspirators and Antony and the Second Triumvirate; lastly, The Lord of the Flies displays any application of power as being futile while The Tragedy of Julius Caesar shows how power truly affects the lives of those involved.

From the start, one sees that Golding characterizes Piggy as weak and unhealthy and excludes him from the government of the group of stranded boys, thus proposing that intelligence and just motivation are masked by physical appearance and instinct, while Shakespeare creates a more accurate description of a just, intelligent person in power with the character, Brutus, who is attributed to be respected by many. One might argue that there is no difference between Brutus and Piggy besides their age and physical appearance. Yes, one could say that they both acted with just causes and based off reason. Likewise, one could go even farther to say their participation in the separate plots added a touch of romanticism because their authors characterized them as "Christ-like figures", Piggy working to help the boys escape but later dying at their hands and Brutus losing the respect of all of Rome after he killed Caesar for their protection. However, this last point truly shows the difference between Golding's concept and Shakespeare's concept of how much power and how the power of a just leader is used. When ever Piggy attempts to speak at the meetings, he is barraged by insults and verbal attacks such as "Shut up!", "Your always scared-yah Fatty!", and "Who cares what you believe-Fatty!" In short, Piggy, because he is different and breaks away from the crowd, is thought of as a nuisance. Jack feels that Piggy is entirely useless because he is too unhealthy to participate in the pig hunts and attempts to put Piggy down and silence him at assemblies because he feels that Piggy has no right to speak because of the aforementioned reasons and is just a bore. In the end, Jack finally saw that Piggy was silenced. When Piggy, Ralph, and the Twins go to Castle Rock, an argument ensues during which "...Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever... Then the monstrous red thing [rock] bounded across the neck and he [Ralph] flung himself flat...The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee...Then, the sea breathed again in a long slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone." At many points, wise and virtuous leaders can be rejected along with their ideas. One sees this with politicians like Mike Huckabee or with reformers like Martin Luther King, Jr. Rejection and opposition are normal to these just leaders, but there is very much a difference. In the Lord of the Flies, the treatment of Piggy was almost unrealistic. In the novel, even Ralph, the calmer-headed of the two leaders, did not respect Piggy, refusing to learn and call him by his real name, and even felt Piggy was a nuisance at times. Situations like these, where logic and rationality are rejected, occur only in microcosms. At the end of the novel, one can assume that this does not reflect real society because the naval officer who finds the island says in a shocked tone, "I should have thought that a pack of British boys....would have been able to put up a better show than that-I mean," thus confirming the insanity and unusual conditions on the island. In contrast, Shakespeare portrays Brutus as the "Mike Huckabee" of Rome. In the words of Antony, an enemy of Brutus, Brutus was "...the noblest roman of them all. (Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act V, Sc. 5, 68)" and to what Nature would say, "This was a man!" (Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act V, Sc. 5, ex. 75). As one can clearly see, this contrasts with the mental image one can imagine from Golding's description of Piggy, and, unlike Piggy, his enemies saw some worth in him and had some respect for him. In political campaigns, international disputes, or even in the halls of one's own high school, one will recognize some virtue or favorable quality in an enemy even if it is out of spite one notices it. Additionally, Brutus plays a great role in the decision making process of the Conspirators than does Piggy with the stranded boys. Before the Conspirators start planning their assassination, a Conspirator, specifically Cinna, says, "0 Cassius, if you could\ But win the noble Brutus to our party-" (Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act I, Sc. 3, 140-141) meaning that the Conspirators want the help of one of the aforementioned "just leaders" (Brutus) before they do anything. Taking this even farther, the Conspirators feel that Brutus's sense of justice and wisdom could add to their cause. Later on, they even head Brutus's advice to not be "butchers" and spare Antony and let Antony speak at Caesar's funeral even after Cassius's prodding not to. This directly contrasts the way the other characters treat Piggy. If Piggy is allowed to talk at all, they do not take what he says with "a grain of salt"; rather, they ignore it completely since it does not involve their personal gratification. In short, Shakespeare's Tragedy of Julius Caesar offers a more realistic view of the power and authority granted to a just leader since Brutus is offered respect and sought after for advice, as in reality, while Golding creates an implausible situation where the logical and rational such as Piggy are stifled.

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Additionally, Shakespeare more realistically explores abuses of power (the other end of this spectrum of its effects) by characterizing Marc Antony with a manipulative and vindictive side that he developed upon gaining power while Golding's abusive leader, Jack, acts out on a whim for no apparent reason. When he names himself chief, Jack acts in a very naïve, juvenile way, viewing it as a fun way to pass the time, acting nothing like the vindictive Antony. To Jack, being stranded is an exciting game and nothing else. Throughout the story, Ralph sought to take a reasonable approach for organizing life ...

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