Evaluation Of The Lord Of The Flies

Essay, Research Paper

Evaluation of The Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is a 202 page long adventure story written by William

Golding in 1954 about a number of boys marooned on a tropical island and left to

fend for themselves. While on the island, they discover quite a bit of evil

within themselves.

A few years after World War 2, a planeful of boys as young as 5 or 6

but most no older than 11 or 12 crashes near an uninhabited tropical island. As

soon as they land, one of the eldest assumes leadership of the others, but not

before befriending an overweight, asthmatic boy nicknamed Piggy. Ralph takes

control of the boys and organizes a small expedition up the mountain. He meets

Jack Merridew, the chief antagonist. Jack is then a leader of choir boys, but

will soon turn into a leader of savages. On the mountain, Jack hunts but does

not kill a pig. He vows to kill it the next time. On their return, Ralph holds

an informational meeting and informs the boys that they will be safe, but that

they must start a signal fire and set up temporary shelters until help can be

found. A rumour of a beast is heard, but is quickly discounted as a nightmare.

It will later be a major theme in the book. On the mountain, fire is created,

but only through the use of Piggy’s glasses. After Jack goes off to hunt and

comes back, Ralph discusses the problems of people not working with Jack. Simon

goes into the jungle alone and contemplates. The boys become used to the daily

tasks on the island. The small children play all the time while the older ones

do most of the work. The first flash of Jack’s future warrior/hunter position as

leader is shown as he comes back to camp with his face painted. A ship is

spotted, but they find that the signal fire on the mountain has gone out, and

the ship passes them by. Jack finally kills a pig, but Piggy criticizes him. In

return, Jack slaps Piggy and breaks one of the lenses on his glasses. Ralph

warns Jack to stop this destructive behaviour. Jack starts roasting the pig he

had killed earlier. Jack does not initially give Ralph any food, but he does

finally get some. Ralph calls an assembly after the feast. He verbally attacks

all the boys for their neglect for the daily tasks that must be completed such

as building shelters and keeping the fire lit. The fear of the beast grows even

larger. Piggy begins to criticize them as the meeting turns anarchic and

disorderly, and Jack begins to shift towards leadership. That night, there is an

aerial battle above the island. In the half-asleep state of the boys, they

believe that the beast has come to kill them. An expedition is organized, but

finds nothing. They come to a part of the island that nobody had been to before

and they reflect quietly. Later, Jack and his growing army of hunters go off to

hunt another pig. Jack is wounded in the battle with the pig. The hunter boys

start a new dance-like ritual in which one of the boys pretends to be the pig

and their battle cry of “kill the pig” is repeated. At first, nobody is hurt in

the ritual, but eventually it becomes more and more brutal. Ralph, Roger, and

Jack continue to hunt for the beast. They discover a strange creature in the

shadows; it is in fact the dead pilot from the airplane that had crashed the

night before, but they do not realize this. Terror rapidly grows as news of the

beast is spread. Jack calls a meeting and publicly accuses Ralph of cowardice

and explains how he is unfit for leadership. Jack leaves, and many of the

hunters follow him. Piggy somehow manages to remain calm and helps Ralph regroup

after Jack leaves. Jack hunts and kills a pig, and leaves its bloody skull on a

pole as sacrifice. This skull is the symbolic Lord of the Flies in the novel.

Jack holds another pig-feast. Ralph and Piggy at first do not attend but are

eventually drawn to it mostly by hunger, but also in a fleeting attempt to

regain some control over the boys. Almost all of the boys have join Jack’s tribe

by this point. Simon has an extremely symbolic hallucinatory experience in the

jungle as he starts to believe that the head is speaking to him as an

incarnation of Satan, the Lord of the Flies. He eventually faints from terror.

He eventually revives himself and attempts to go to the mountain, although

significantly weakened by his experience with the Lord of the Flies. He finds

the dead pilot that had been mistaken for the beast. Back at the beach, Jack and

his tribe begin their ritualistic dance. Even Ralph and Piggy are drawn in to a

degree. Simon comes out of the jungle, but he is mistaken for the beast. The

boys beat and tear at him until he is dead. A storm hits and all run for cover.

In the morning, Ralph, Piggy, and Sam and Eric meet on the beach. They are the

only ones who have not joined Jack’s tribe. Piggy tries to explain away Simon’s

death. Ralph insists that it was a murder. At Castle Rock, Jack rules as a

dictator over the other boys. Roger carries out Jack’s sadistic orders upon the

boys who do not comply. Jack warns his tribe to be constantly watchful of the

beast as it is not really dead. Jack plots to steal fire from Ralph and Piggy on

the beach. As he does so, a fight breaks out. Piggy loses his eyeglasses as Jack

steals them to make fire. The next morning, Ralph and Piggy again attempt to

regroup. Ralph suggests going to Castle Rock, Jack’s fortress, to attempt to

reason with him. They take the conch with them as the last symbol of Ralph’s

authority. Ralph is mocked as he approaches and the conch is ignored. Ralph

demands that Jack give back Piggy’s glasses, but Jack refuses and orders his

tribe to attack Ralph and Piggy. A boulder is dropped on Piggy and he is killed.

The conch is destroyed as the boulder crushes it as well. Ralph is seriously

wounded by the hunters’ spears. Sam and Eric are forced to join the tribe,

leaving only Ralph free of Jack’s rule. Ralph hides in the jungle and nurses his

wounds. He runs across the pig’s head and takes the stick upon which it was

placed as a weapon. He tries to decide where to hide, and settles on hiding in

the brush and running if neccesary. He is soon discovered as he observes the

hunters and a violent chase ensues. As both Ralph and the hunters reach the

beach, they see a military officer who happened upon the island. He questions

Ralph and is appalled at the state of the boys. Ralph bursts into tears as the

novel closes and he recounts the events that have occurred.

The character I admire the most in the book is Piggy. He keeps his

clear-headed rationality until the very end of his life. Although he cannot

perform very much physical work, if it was not for his mental contributions

very little would have been possible on the island. He provides clear-headed yet

often cynical and biting remarks at several of the meetings, noticeably the

second one after the fire goes out. His glasses not only provide the literal

fire for the island, but also a symbolic fire that drives the rationality in

Ralph and the other boys. Unfortunately, he gradually loses that rational

control, and eventually not he but Jack becomes the possessor of the fire,

albeit a sadistic and tyrannical possessor.

The character whom I admire the least is not Jack as might be expected,

but Roger. Roger is the cruel, unthinking beast who mindlessly carries out the

orders of the leader who is at least bright enough to think, although not

particularly good thoughts. It is him and those like him who put the spear

through Ralph and dropped the stone on Piggy. If it was not for the Rogers of

the world, much of the mindless, cruel suffering which is so often explained

away through “But I was only following orders!” Although the military chain of

command can be important, it is also important that officers retain a mind of

their own and be able to think when it might not be the best idea to obey an

order. I firmly believe that if all of us could think a little more instead of

blindly doing what we are told, suffering in the world would be hundreds of

times less than what it is now.

Questions I would want to ask William Golding about his book if it were

possible mainly deal with why he chose certain symbolic elements. I would want

to know why he chose to have children as the characters; is it because they are

in truth the only innocents, or to show that not even the children are innocent?

Although I think it is clear that Golding is of the opinion that the basic human

condition is evil and that government and rules must be carefully imposed to

preserve order, like Hobbes, I would also be interested in knowing what his

other philosophical positions were as he wrote this novel. Finally, I would be

interested in knowing what particular event he witnessed or was part of in real

life drove him to write this book. Could it have been an experience he had in

World War II? What could have been so bad as to inspire a book of this

passionate intensity?

Although I disagree with Golding’s view of the world as basically evil,

his book is certainly a good argument for that position. It shockingly reveals

that none have innocence and even the best among us can be brought down to a

near-beast state, as even Ralph was by the end of the book, consigned to

mindless running from the evil. I find it interesting how Golding made the Beast,

the Lord of the Flies, the apparent evil in this book and the focus of the

hunter’s search, but in fact the Beast is the hunters themselves and the evil

they represent. I think that although the brutality in the book may be a bit

much for some, I do not think that Golding would have been able to get his point

across without it.


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