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Lord Of The Flies Critical Literary Essay

Essay, Research Paper

Lord of the Flies Critical Literary Essay

Even apparently rational and civilized people will turn evil. This is true with some characters in the novel, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Jack and Ralph are two characters that demonstrate this theme in the novel.

In the beginning, Jack appears to be rational and civilized. He is first introduced into the story as the leader of the choirboys. It seems as though he has a good sense of responsibility. Jack, along with Ralph and Piggy, is a candidate for chief. The other boys see them as having the most leadership qualities of all the boys. Although Jack isn’t chosen as chief, he still demonstrates responsible and civil behavior. Jack is placed in charge of the hunters, and shows rational behavior by not killing a piglet. He is not yet ready to cut into living flesh. This proves he still has his humanity in him. Jack begins to lose his civilized ways when a little boy introduces fear into the group, by telling them he saw a really big snake that comes out in the dark. Jack rallies the boys into the idea that they will kill the snake. Once Jack kills a pig for the first time, he becomes obsessed with hunting. All Jack can think about is killing a pig. He begins to show even more evil and irresponsibility when he puts clay and charcoal on his face to make himself camouflaged in order to kill a pig. Jack leads the hunters in a chant, “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood” (LoF 69). Critic, Frederick R. Karl, believes that the boys on the island lose their civilized ways in order to show reality of life. Karl comments, “The stranded boys in Lord of the Flies, for example, almost entirely shake off civilized behavior. . . . What Golding senses is that institutions and order imposed from without are temporary, but that man’s irrationality and urge for destruction are enduring. . . .” (Frederick R. Karl, “The Metaphysical Novels of William Golding,” in his, A Reader’s Guide to the contemporary English Novel 254-60).

At the start of the novel, Ralph, the chief of the group, seems to be rational and civilized. The other boys elect him chief, because of his good leadership qualities. Ralph tries to create a sense of order among the boys, by using the conch as a tool of social order. He states that only the boy who holds the conch is permitted to speak. This idea works. In fact the boys are very much into taking care of themselves and being responsible without any adults around. Ralph shows responsibility by wanting to build shelters as soon as possible. He explains to the others that they need them for protection from the rain, and also from the “beasties.” Ralph begins to become uncivilized when he chases a pig and kills it for food. Ralph gets a thrill out of doing this, and becomes interested in hunting. When Ralph starts to behave the slightest bit like the other boys, things begin to fall apart on him. Ralph eventually loses all control over the boys, and the conch no longer has any meaning. Jack forms his own tribe and becomes chief. Most of the boys follow Jack, and Ralph cannot do anything about it. In time, Ralph and piggy must resort to joining Jacks tribe, in order to eat, and in hope of surviving. Ralph most strongly realizes how irresponsible he has become, when the officer tells him he would have expected better behavior from a group of British boys. ” It was like that at first,” said Ralph, “before things-” he stopped. “We were together then-” (LoF 202). Critic, Walter Allen feels that Golding’s horrific novel, Lord of the Flies, shows how evil is only natural in mankind. Allen states, “The fact is, its apprehension of evil is such that it touches the nerve of contemporary horror as no English novel of its time has done; it takes us, with the greatest dramatic power and through the most poignant symbolism, into a world of active, proliferating evil which is seen, one feels, as the natural condition of man and which is bound to remind the reader of the vilest manifestations of Nazi regression” (Walter Allen, in his The Modern Novel 288-92).

Deep within every person, somewhere beyond the rational and civilized ways of man, there is a natural source of evil. This idea is strongly and successfully brought across in Lord of the Flies.