Lord Of The Flies Character Analysis Essay

, Research Paper Lord of the Flies – Character Changes In his first novel, William Golding used a group of boys stranded on a tropical island to illustrate the malicious nature of mankind. Lord of the Flies dealt with changes

, Research Paper

Lord of the Flies – Character Changes

In his first novel, William Golding used a group of boys stranded on a tropical

island to illustrate the malicious nature of mankind. Lord of the Flies dealt with changes

that the boys underwent as they gradually adapted to the isolated freedom from society.

Three main characters depicted different effects on certain individuals under those

circumstances. Jack Merridew began as the arrogant and self-righteous leader of a choir.

The freedom of the island allowed him to further develop the darker side of his personality

as the Chief of a savage tribe. Ralph started as a self-assured boy whose confidence in

himself came from the acceptance of his peers. He had a fair nature as he was willing to

listen to Piggy. He became increasingly dependent on Piggy’s wisdom and became lost in

the confusion around him. Towards the end of the story his rejection from their society of

savage boys forced him to fend for himself. Piggy was an educated boy who had grown

up as an outcast. Due to his academic childhood, he was more mature than the others and

retained his civilized behaviour. But his experiences on the island gave him a more

realistic understanding of the cruelty possessed by some people.

The ordeals of the three boys on the island made them more aware of

the evil inside themselves and in some cases, made the false politeness that had clothed

them dissipate. However, the changes experienced by one boy differed from those

endured by another. This is attributable to the physical and mental dissimilarities between


Jack was first described with an ugly sense of cruelty that made him

naturally unlikeable. As leader of the choir and one of the tallest boys on the island, Jack’s

physical height and authority matched his arrogant personality. His desire to be Chief was

clearly evident in his first appearance. When the idea of having a Chief was mentioned

Jack spoke out immediately. “I ought to be chief,” said Jack with simple arrogance,

“because I’m chapter chorister and head boy.” He led his choir by administering much

discipline resulting in forced obedience from the cloaked boys. His ill-nature was well

expressed through his impoliteness of saying, “Shut up, Fatty.” at Piggy. (p. 23)

However, despite his unpleasant personality, his lack of courage and his conscience

prevented him from killing the first pig they encountered. “They knew very well why he

hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh;

because of the unbearable blood.” (p. 34) Even at the meetings, Jack was able to contain

himself under the leadership of Ralph. He had even suggested the implementation of rules

to regulate themselves. This was a Jack who was proud to be British, and who was

shaped and still bound by the laws of a civilized society. The freedom offered to him by

the island allowed Jack to express the darker sides of his personality that he hid from the

ideals of his past environment. Without adults as a superior and responsible authority, he

began to lose his fear of being punished for improper actions and behaviours. This

freedom coupled with his malicious and arrogant personality made it possible for him to

quickly degenerate into a savage. He put on paint, first to camouflage himself from the

pigs. But he discovered that the paint allowed him to hide the forbidden thoughts in his

mind that his facial expressions would otherwise betray. “The mask was a thing on its

own behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.” (p. 69)

Through hunting, Jack lost his fear of blood and of killing living animals. He reached a

point where he actually enjoyed the sensation of hunting a prey afraid of his spear

and knife. His natural desire for blood and violence was brought out by his hunting of

pigs. As Ralph became lost in his own confusion, Jack began to assert himself as chief.

The boys realizing that Jack was a stronger and more self-assured leader gave in easily to

the freedom of Jack’s savagery. Placed in a position of power and with his followers

sharing his crazed hunger for violence, Jack gained encouragement to commit the vile acts

of thievery and murder. Freed from the conditions of a regulated society, Jack gradually

became more violent and the rules and proper behaviour by which he was brought up

were forgotten. The freedom given to him unveiled his true self under the clothing worn

by civilized people to hide his darker characteristics.

Ralph was introduced as a fair and likeable boy whose self-assured

mad him feel secure even on the island without any adults. His interaction with Piggy

demonstrated his pleasant nature as he did not call him names with hateful intent as Jack

had. His good physique allowed him to be well accepted among his peers, and

this gave him enough confidence to speak out readily in public. His handsome features

and the conch as a symbol of power and order pointed him out from the crowd of boys

and proclaimed him Chief. “There was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him

out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most

powerful, there was the conch.” (p. 24) From the quick decisions he made as Chief near

the beginning of the novel, it could be seen that Ralph was well-organized. But even so,

Ralph began repeatedly to long and daydream of his civilized and regular past. Gradually,

Ralph became confused and began to lose clarity in his thoughts and speeches. “Ralph

was puzzled by the shutter that flickered in his brain. There was something he wanted to

say; then the shutter had come down.” (p. 156) He started to feel lost in their new

environment as the boys, with the exception of Piggy began to change and adapt to

their freedom. As he did not lose his sense of responsibility, his viewpoints and priorities

began to differ from the savages’. He was more influenced by Piggy than by Jack, who in

a way could be viewed as a source of evil. Even though the significance of the fire as a

rescue signal was slowly dismissed, Ralph continued to stress the importance of the fire at

the mountaintop. He also tried to reestablish the organization that had helped to keep the

island clean and free of potential fire hazards. This difference made most of the

boys less convinced of the integrity of Ralph. As his supporters became fewer and Jack’s

insistence on being chief grew, his strength as a leader diminished. But even though Ralph

had retained much of his past social conditioning, he too was not spared from the evil

released by the freedom from rules and adults. During the play-fight after their

unsuccessful hunt in the course of their search for the beast, Ralph for the first time, had

an opportunity to join the hunters and share their desire for violence. “Ralph too was

fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to

squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.” (p. 126) Without rules to limit them, they were

free to make their game as real as they wanted. Ralph did not understand the hatred Jack

had for him, nor did he fully comprehend why their small and simple society deteriorated.

This confusion removed his self-confidence and made him more dependent on Piggy’s

judgement, until Piggy began prompting him on what needed to be said and done.

Towards the end of the novel, Ralph was forced into independence when he lost all his

followers to Jack’s savagery, and when Piggy and the conch were smashed by Roger’s

boulder. He was forced to determine how to avoid Jack’s savage hunters alone. Ralph’s

more responsible behaviour set him apart from the other savage boys and made it difficult

for him to accept and realize the changes they were undergoing. Becoming lost in his

exposure to their inherent evil, Ralph’s confusion brought about the deterioration of his

initial self-assurance and ordered temperament, allowing him to experience brief outbursts

of his beastly self.

Piggy was an educated boy rejected by the kids of his age group on

account of his being overweight. It was his academic background and his isolation from

the savage boys that had allowed him to remain mostly unchanged from his primitive

experiences on the island. His unattractive attributes segregated him from the other

boys on the island. He was not welcomed on their first exploratory trip of the island. “We

don’t want you,” Jack had said to Piggy. (p. 26) Piggy was like an observer learning from

the actions of others. His status in their society allowed him to look at the boys from an

outsider’s perspective. He could learn of the hatred being brought out of the boys without

having to experience the thirst for blood that Ralph was exposed to. Although he was

easily intimidated by the other boys, especially by Jack, he did not lack the self-confidence

to protest or speak out against the indignities from the boys as the shy former choirboy

Simon did. This self-confidence differed from that of Ralph’s as it did not come from his

acceptance by their peers nor did it come from the authority and power Jack had grown

accustomed to. It came from the pride in having accumulated the wisdom that was

obviously greater than that of most of the other kids at his age. Piggy not only knew what

the rules were, as all the other boys did, but he also had the patience to at least wonder

why the rules existed. This intuition made Piggy not only more aware of why the rules

were imposed, thereby ensuring that he would abide by them even when they were not

enforced. When the boys flocked to the mountaintop to build their fire, Piggy shouted

after them, “Acting like a crowd of kids!” (p. 42) Piggy was a very liable person who

could look ahead and plan carefully of the future. He shouted at the boys’ immature

recklessness, “The first thing we ought to have made was shelters down there by the

beach… Then when you get here you build a bonfire that isn’t no use. Now you been and

set the whole island on fire.” (p. 50)

Like Ralph, his sense of responsibility set him apart from the other

boys. The author used the image of long hair to illustrate Piggy’s sustenance of his

civilized behaviour. “He was the only boy on the island whose hair never seemed to

grow.” (p. 70) The author’s description of his baldness also presented an image of old age

and made Piggy seem to lack the strength of youth. The increasing injustice Piggy

endured towards the end of the novel was far greater than any that he had encountered

previously. In his fit of anger, Piggy cried out, “I don’t ask for my glasses back, not as a

favour. I don’t ask you to be a sport, I’ll say, not because you’re strong, but because

what’s right’s right.” (p. 189) This new standard of harshness brought tears out of him as

the suffering became intolerable. For a brief moment, Piggy’s anger at the unfairness and

his helplessness robbed him of his usual logical reasoning, which returned when he was

confronted with his fear of the savages. Piggy was an intelligent boy with a good

understanding of their situation on the island. He was able to think clearly and plan ahead

with caution so that even in the freedom of their unregulated world, his wisdom and his

isolation from the savage boys kept him from giving into the evil that had so easily

consumed Jack and his followers. The resulting cruelty Jack inflicted upon him taught

Piggy how much more pain there was in the world.

Lord of the flies used changes experienced by boys on an uninhabited

island to show the evil nature of man. By using different characters the author was able

to portray various types of people found in our society. Their true selves were revealed in

the freedom from the laws and punishment of a world with adults. Under the power

and regulations of their former society, Jack’s inner evil was suppressed. But when the

rules no longer existed, he was free to do what malice he desired. Ralph had grown so

used to the regularity of a civilized world, that the changes they underwent were difficult

for him to comprehend. He became confused and less capable of thinking clearly and

independently. Although he too had experienced the urge for violence that had driven

Jack and the hunters to momentary peaks of madness, his more sensitive personality and

his sense of obligation saved him from complete savagery. These two traits also helped to

keep Piggy from becoming primitive in behaviour. He was made an outcast by his

undesirable physique and his superior intelligence. This isolation and wisdom also helped

Piggy to retain his civilized behaviour. As well, he was made painfully more aware of the

great amount of injustice in the world. From these three characters, it could be seen that

under the same circumstances, different individuals can develop in different ways

depending on the factors within themselves and how they interacted with each other.

Their personalities and what they knew can determine how they would interpret and adapt

to a new environment such as the tropical island. Not everyone has so much malevolence

hidden inside themselves as to become complete savages when released from the

boundaries of our society. Some people will, because of the ways they were conditioned,

remember and abide by the rules they had depended on for social organization and


Lord of the Flies, William Golding