Lord Of The Flies. Things Are Breaking Up Essay, Research Paper
Things are breaking up
With Reference to specific incidents and characters, show how this statement can be justified and explain how life on the island has changed for the boys since their arrival.
I believe that the boys’ society was doomed from the beginning. The greatest mistake the boys’ made from the start, is to try to replicate adult society as it would be back home. There are no adults on the island, and the boys are used to having order, and rules, so they try to make things like they were at home. This could never work, because they are not adults, they are children, and children don’t think and act like adults do. This is demonstrated on page 30:
“This toy of voting was almost as pleasing as the conch.”
The way that the vote is described as a “toy”, a game, shows how the boys are not really taking it seriously. It is just some entertainment for them, they don’t think of it as something important and necessary.
Ralph is voted chief at the first meeting, but Jack also wanted to be chief. This no doubt gives Jack a deep resentment towards Ralph, even if it is not at first apparent. Ralph has no desire to turn Jack against him, so he gives him command over the choir. This is a kind gesture from Ralph, intended to stop Jack from feeling too hurt about losing the vote for chief. However, as we see later, Jack always wants to be chief, and never really forgives Ralph. It is also a mistake by Ralph. By giving Jack control of some of the boys, he has effectively split the group into two halves, each with a different leader. For things to work out properly, I think that there should be one leader.
When Ralph chose Jack and Simon to come exploring with him, Piggy also wants to come. Ralph tells him straight out, but not rudely that he can’t come:
“You’re no good on a job like this.” (page 32)
However, Jack is not so understanding:
“We don’t want you,” said Jack, flatly. “Three’s enough.” (page 32)
I think that the way Jack treats Piggy shows that he believes himself to be superior to him, even though he is not chief. In a society, people need to treat each other with respect, or things will not work out.
After climbing the mountain, and discovering that they are actually on an island, Ralph, Jack, and Simon come across a pig trapped in some creepers (page 40). Jack drew his knife with intent to kill the pig:
“The pause was only long enough for them to understand what an enormity the downward stroke would be.”
The pig escapes and runs away. Jack tries to excuse how he didn’t kill it by saying,
‘“ I was choosing a place. Next time — !” He snatched his knife out of the sheath and slammed it into a tree trunk. Next time there would be no mercy. He looked round fiercely, daring them to contradict.’ (page 41)
This is the beginning of Jack’s obsession with killing pigs. He feels defeated by the pig, and will not let it remain that way. He considers it a challenge to kill a pig, something that takes priority over everything else. This attitude has dire consequences for the boys’ society later on.
On page 42 the boys hold their second meeting. Jack Ralph and Simon describe the pig they saw, and how they nearly killed it. Jack tries to cover up the real reason that he did not kill it.
‘Jack slammed his knife into a tree and looked round challengingly’ (Page 43).
This is the second time in as many pages, that Jack has dared someone to challenge his excuse for not killing the pig. His use of the knife, slamming it into a tree, shows his underlying violence, and I think he uses it as a deterrent for anyone that would maybe have spoken against him.
In this meeting, Ralph attempts to create more order by devising a system by which only the person holding the conch may speak. This is another way of making things more like home, where no one argues, and everything happens in an orderly and predictable way. Like I said earlier, this just will not work. Ralph is referring to whoever is holding the conch when he says,
“And he won’t be interrupted by anyone. Except by me.” (page 44)
Ralph is holding the conch, and as soon as he has said that, Jack shouts out:
“We’ll have rules!….” (page 44)
Ralph’s new rule is immediately disregarded, and most other rules will be too, later on.
Ralph and most of the other boys want to have fun. There are no adults, no one to tell them what to do. If they are that glad that there is no authority around, why are they making rules, and why is there a chief? The only reason must surely be that really, perhaps subconsciously, they want order, they need control over their lives. However, they continue to act like they haven’t a care in the world. Piggy takes the conch and reminds them of a big problem they have to consider:
“who knows we’re here? Eh?” (page 44)
Piggy seems to be the only one who is thinking about the reality of the situation, that they need to be rescued. Ralph basically accepts this and says that it doesn’t matter, because it is a “good island” (page 45). This is significant because it is probably the first time many of the boys have thought about rescue, they all assumed they could have fun until they were picked up by a convenient passing ship. From this point on, I think that the boys will perceive their situation slightly differently.
The meeting continues, and a littl’un unwillingly steps forward to speak. Piggy listens to the boy’s mutterings and tells the rest of the group.
“He wants to know what you are going to do about the snake-thing.”…“now he says it was a beastie.” (page 46)
The beastie is a highly significant part of the story, it seems to be the one thing that it is wrong with the island, something that the boys can’t see, but they know it is there. It is also something that causes great unrest in the boys’ society. Normally, back home, if something was wrong, if there was a problem, an adult would sort it out. But here on the island, the boys are alone with the beastie, and there are no adults to protect them.
In my opinion, the first major sign of the society breaking down (even before it is actually formed) happens on page 49. Ralph says:
“…we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire.”
The boys are so enthused by this idea, that they all jump to their feet and rush off to the mountain, following Jack :
‘Jack clamoured among them, the conch forgotten.’
The conch is a symbol of order, unity, and leadership. The way in which the boys, and especially Jack, disregard this, shows again how they will not respect the rules and ideals that they themselves try to create. However much they try to replicate life at home, it just can’t happen, because they are no longer at home.
Jack is the one who encourages the boys:
“Come on! Follow me!” (page 49)
He sees that Ralph has not taken any action, so he jumps in and grabs the authority for himself. Clearly Jack still wishes to have leadership over the group, and will take every chance he gets to control the boys.
Piggy says on page 50,
“I bet it’s gone tea-time…”
This is his way of holding onto life back home, by trying to keep a schedule like he was used to. It highlights another way in which the society may not work; because the boys would or could not properly adjust to their new situation.
All the boys rush off up the mountain and start a fire. They hurriedly build it and light it with Piggy’s glasses. The fire soon goes out, and Piggy criticises their efforts. Jack insults Piggy, and Piggy tells Jack to let him speak, because he has the conch. Jack says,
“The conch doesn’t count on the top of the mountain, so you shut up.” (page 54)
Apart from Jack being abusive to Piggy, I think that this is another way in which Jack tries to be a leader. He tries to alter the rules, and so assert his leadership upon Piggy. Jack’s rivalry with Ralph is not so apparent at first, because he doesn’t actually directly defy him, or speak against him. However, as we see here, Jack does try to take control whenever he can.
A quite significant point is raised by Jack on page 55
“After all, we’re not savages. We’re English; and the English are best at everything…”
This is another example of how Jack, and no doubt the rest of the boys, want to create a nice peaceful, ‘English’ society. What Jack said is repeated again on page 113. However later in the book, It seems that the opposite of what Jack says is true.
The result of the boys’ over eagerness to light a fire is shown on page 56. Piggy looks down the “unfriendly side” of the mountain, and says,
“You got your small fire alright.”
Sparks from the failed attempt at a fire on top of the mountain had set the forest on fire. Ralph tells Piggy to shut up on page 57, when he repeats,
“You got your small fire alright.”
Referring to Ralph, it says:
‘The knowledge and the awe made him savage.’
This savageness is caused by seeing the power of the forest fire below him. It is probably the first example of how the island itself changes the boys, or how the boys change to fit into the island. They have suddenly found themselves ruling an island, but they use they power over it to destroy it.
The idea of knowledge making one savage also applies to humans in general, I think. As far as we know, we, as humans, are the most intelligent species on Earth. We are also the most destructive. With intelligence, or “knowledge” as it is described above, comes the ability to destroy, and cause harm – be it to ourselves or to other things. After all, many of the greatest scientific break-throughs have been in weaponry, in finding new ways to kill each other. I think that this point is very relevant, and the idea of Humans as a species being flawed and at fault is developed further on in the book and in this essay.
It is Piggy who points out that one of the littl’uns is missing. It is implied that he has fallen victim to the fire:
‘Ralph muttered the reply as if in shame. “Perhaps he went back to the, the — “’(page 60)
This should surely act as a wake up call to they boys. Their lack of foresight has been the cause of the death of one of them. But they clearly do not dwell upon it, for by the next chapter it is as though nothing happened. The boys’ care less attitude is just another factor that will contribute to the break up of their society.
Chapter 3 begins with a description of Jack hunting, on page 61. ‘Then, dog-like…’ (page 61)
‘[he] became less a hunter than a furtive thing, ape-like among the tangle of trees’(page 62)
The way in which Jack is described as an animal reveals how the island has changed him. It has made him more violent and he has regressed back to primitive ways. The society that the boys are trying to establish is a civilised one, like at home, but surely a civilised society cannot exist if it is populated by uncivilised people. Even a few people that cause trouble, will disrupt the whole group.
Jack’s overwhelming desire to kill a pig, which is a cause of conflict within the group, is illustrated on page 63:
‘…a quick, hard patter of hoofs, a castanet sound, seductive, maddening – the promise of meat.’
It is clear that killing pigs is taking over Jack’s entire life, which will cause problems later on.
Ralph tells Jack how nobody is helping to build the huts:
“And they keep running off. You remember the meeting? How everyone was going to work hard until the shelters were finished.” (page 64)
“They’re off bathing, or eating, or playing.”
“When the meeting was over they’d work for five minutes then wander off or go hunting.”
All this is a clear indication of most of the boys’ unwillingness to work to build their society. It is probably not their fault though, back home things were done for them, adults did the work. So again, children just cannot make an adult society, it won’t work out, as we are now seeing.
A slight conflict occurs between the two leaders, Ralph and Jack, on page 65. Ralph criticises Jack for not successfully hunting a pig. This is a topic of great importance to Jack, and I think that Ralph’s criticism will only act to strengthen Jack’s desire to kill a pig. It is the first time that they have actually argued, and is the beginning of more conflicts.
The beastie features again on page 67. Ralph tells Jack how the boys, especially the littl’uns are becoming afraid of the beastie. This has and will cause problems for the boys and their society. It is the one bad thing on the island, but it spoils all of the good things.
The way in which society back home still holds onto the boys, or vice versa, can be seen in chapter 4:
‘Nevertheless, the northern European tradition of work, play, and food right through the day, made it impossible for them to adjust wholly to this new rhythm.’(page74)
‘Now, though there was no parent to let fall a heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrong-doing’(page76, after Maurice had followed Roger, kicking down the littl’uns castles.)
A very good example of society’s continuing, but perhaps decreasing influence on the boys involves Roger, and is on page 78:
‘Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Rogers arm was conditioned by a civilisation that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.’
The thin barrier protecting Henry from the stones is Roger’s memories of society, and his conscience (like Maurice, above) For now, the barrier is holding up, but the longer the boys are without society, surely the invisible protection of life back home will weaken.
Jack’s change from civilised to more primitive, becomes slightly more defined on page 79. Jack paints his face for camouflage so that he can hopefully hunt a pig with success. However when he sees his face reflected in some water,
‘He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger.’
The physical change seems to set off a mental change:
‘He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarl.’
‘…and the mask was a thing on it’s own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.’
It is as though the mask takes away all the restrictions on what Jack can do. He is free from rules and boundaries, because the mask will hide him. He is beyond the law, because the mask hides him from any punishments that might result.
I think that this is quite a major change for Jack, when the few remaining ties with society back home begin to weaken.
The greatest single event to contribute to the break up of the boys’ fragile society, is the fire being let out. A ship is seen on the horizon on page 82, but the fire is not lit, so there is no smoke to draw attention to themselves. On page 55 Jack volunteered to be in charge of keeping the fire going, he would assign his hunters to the task, taking it in turns. But Jack had taken all of his hunters with him to hunt pigs, so there was no one left to tend to the fire. Ralph, Simon, Piggy, and, Maurice are at the top of the mountain when the hunters return, with a dead pig. Jack is deliriously happy with the kill, and he becomes very angry when Ralph and the others spoil his fun by telling that he should have kept the fire going.
‘Piggy began again.
“You didn’t ought to have let that fire out. You said you’d keep the smoke going –“
This from Piggy, and the wails of agreement from some of the hunters drove Jack to violence. The bolting look came into his blue eyes. He took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy’s stomach.’(page 89)
Jack then knocks Piggy’s glasses off, and one lens breaks. Piggy’s glasses are a symbol of civilisation, Piggy is the one who acts the most sensibly, and who stays connected with life back home the most. The breaking of half of the glasses is symbolic of order and control beginning to break down.
The fire is rebuilt, but the relationship between Jack and Ralph is not: ‘By the time the pile was built, they were on different sides of a high barrier.’(page 91)
A new alliance is formed at this point, between Piggy and Ralph:
‘Not even Ralph knew how a link between him and Jack had been broken and fastened elsewhere.’ (page 91)
In this way, the two groups, under the two leaders, Jack and Ralph, become further away from each other.
On page 94, the hunters are reliving their adventure of killing the pig. They dance and sing about it. They treat it as if it were a game, a lot like they way voting was referred to as a “toy” (page 30). The boys clearly still do not take important matters seriously, and probably never will. This is another piece of evidence to show the boys, who think and act like children, can’t make an adult society work properly.
Ralph calls a meeting in chapter 5. After addressing issues such as the fire, water, and shelter, Ralph says,
“Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then — ”… “Then people started getting frightened.” (page 102)
What Ralph said sums up the situation quite well, for it is fear that forces them apart, be it fear of the beastie, or fear of each other. Piggy makes the latter point on page 105: “Unless we get frightened of people.” The boys laugh, but nervously, because they all know there is truth in what he says.
Ralph lays down the conch on page 102-103 to signify that he has finished speaking. Jack takes the conch and starts ranting about the beastie to the littl’uns, saying it does not exist. The conch goes to Piggy, Phil, and Simon. When Ralph lets other people talk, the meeting soon degrades into little more than an argument. Ralph and the conch are both symbols of leadership, unity, and stability. It was Ralph who blew the conch to bring them all together in the first place, and one has to be holding the conch in order to talk in a meeting. However it seems like both of these symbols need to be combined, and used together, to have the desired effect. Ralph on his own is not always obeyed, and no one respects the rule stating that one can only speak when you have the conch, unless Ralph has it.
The idea of the beastie takes a new turn on page 109-110, where Maurice suggests that the beast might come from the sea:
“Daddy said they haven’t found all the animals in the sea yet.”
This proposal causes a great disturbance among the group:
‘In a moment the platform was full of arguing, gesticulating shadows. To Ralph, seated, this seemed like the breaking-up of sanity.’(page 110)
Ralph’s perception here seems right to me. The way the boys behave proves that they cannot keep order without Ralph and the conch together.
Simon, who has rarely spoken in assemblies, tries to describe his view of the beast on page 111:
“What I mean is…maybe it’s only us.”
This is a lot like how Piggy said there is nothing for them to be afraid of, unless they become afraid of each other.
‘Simon became inarticulate in his effort to describe man kind’s essential illness.’
“Man kind’s essential illness” is what I was basically referring to on page 4, how humans are a flawed species and we are naturally going to cause harm to each other. It seems that Simon has the best idea of what is going on in the group, and what the beast really is. He understands the beast, but no one understands him, or the point he is trying to get across:
‘Simon’s effort fell about him in ruins; the laughter beat him cruelly and he shrank away defenceless to his seat.’ (page 111)
The other boys are trying to find a physical cause for their fear. They cannot stop the fear or even control it, so they blame it on something external, something beyond their immediate control – the beast. They think that the beast, and therefore their fear, is something that can be hunted down and conquered:
“We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat –” (Jack, page 114)
Despite the beast being the cause of nightmares and terror, the boys still believe that it can be killed. If the fear is caused by something outside of them (the beast), then they can deal with it, or at least try to. If the cause of the fear is within themselves, there is nothing that can be done about it.
Another accurate description of what is happening is made on page 113:
‘The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away.’
The connections and restraints of society back home are definitely breaking down now. Piggy tries to save what is left of them by saying,
“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What’s grown-ups going to think? Going off—hunting pigs—letting fires out—and now!”(page 113)
This is a repetition of Jack’s quote on page 55:
“After all, we’re not savages. We’re English; and the English are best at everything…”
Notice that Jack states that they are not savages, where as Piggy, questions that they are humans or savages. It seems that now it is harder to distinguish whether the boys are civilised humans, or savage and primitive animals.
Jack, Ralph’s rival for leadership, finally directly speaks up against Ralph on page 113:
“And you shut up! Who are you, anyway? Sitting there-telling people what to do. You can’t hunt, you can’t sing — ”
… “The rules!” shouted Ralph, “you’re breaking the rules!”
“Who cares?” (Jack)
… “Because the rules are the only thing we’ve got!”
Here we see that Ralph is still desperately trying to cling onto the rules, onto law and order. Jack has opted to defy the rules, to bring about anarchy and mutiny.
The boys run off in a craze following Jack, leaving Ralph, Piggy, and Simon at the meeting place. They talk about how wonderful it would be to be an adult:
“They wouldn’t quarrel—” (page 117)
The truth of that statement is quite to the contrary. After all, as the boys argue childishly on the island, the adults are engaged in war, basically just an argument on a grand scale. So perhaps it is not Jack’s fault that two sides are emerging, maybe it’s not because no one is willing to help Ralph, and work. The conflict on the island cannot be put down to any one boy, or event. The reason is not that they are children, instead of adults. It is because of the human nature that is unavoidably rooted inside of them. This takes us back to Ralph’s experience during the forest fire (described on page 4), and Simon’s idea of the beast and fear, (discussed on page 7). Having discussed the many and varied reasons for conflict between the boys, I think that one phrase can be used to describe all of the reasons; the phrase used to describe what Simon is trying to get across to the other boys: Mankind’s essential illness.
I interpret ‘Mankind’s essential illness’ as certain characteristics in human nature. It is the ‘bad’ side of our nature, the side that makes us cause harm to others. It is as though society and all the rules and laws that go with it, is a thin veneer covering over this side of man. When society is removed, Mankind’s essential illness is exposed.