What has principally interested you in your study of Lord of the Flies so far?
(Having read up to page 47)
Firstly, I intend to explain why, over anything else, Golding s reflection of the macrocosm within a microcosm has particularly intrigued me. I also hope to convey my interest in the way many of the large factors in this novel are intertwined with others (often ironic) for example, that the paradise the boys seek to create becomes simply a replication of the warring, chaotic world they emerged from. Finally, I want to show why I find the characters so compelling, and show how many have elements that any reader can empathise with, and show why their complex interaction fascinates me.
Golding seems to write to dramatise the conflict between the civilising instinct and the barbarian instinct that exist in all human beings. Every time Golding moves to describe the scenery, the weather, or even the atmosphere surrounding the boys, his choice of words seeks to represent this conflict that occurs worldwide. His dramatic technique is to show the rise and swift fall of an isolated, impromptu civilisation. So far as I have read, Golding seems to be establishing the parameters in which his civilisation will function.
Golding’s choice to make his characters boys is significant: young boys are only half-formed, perched between culture and savagery in such a way as to better dramatise the novel’s thematic conflict. Golding’s assumption throughout the novel is that the constraints of morality and society are learned rather than innate–that is, the human tendency to obey rules, behave peacefully, and follow orders is imposed by systems of power and control, and is not in itself a fundamental part of human nature. Young boys illustrate this premise, as they exist in a constant state of tension with regard to the rules and regulations they are expected to follow; left on their own, they often behave with instinctive cruelty and violence:
Ralph shrieked with laughter. He jumped up.
Piggy clasped his hands in apprehension.
I didn t want
Ralph danced out into the hot air of the beach and then returned s a fighter-plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned piggy.
This is an excellent demonstration of Ralph s insensitivity, and is visible in all the characters, especially when they later murder Simon.
I enjoy the way that I can, as well as empathising with the characters, see a parallel with their society – by making his civilisation a product of preadolescent boys’ social instincts, Golding endangers it from the beginning. As this is something akin to a growing child, which without parental guidance would simply destroy itself.
With reference to the characters, the two main roles which can be seen as Good and Bad are played by Ralph and Jack Merridew. Ralph, the novel’s protagonist, is a twelve-year-old. Marooned on a tropical island with a group of boys, Ralph is elected leader of the group and attempts to co-ordinate efforts to build a miniature civilisation on the island, as well as to attract the attention of rescuers by maintaining a signal fire on a mountain. I believe that everyone has some part of goodness in them, and can thus empathise with Ralph s attempts to create order. Ralph s character also inspires pity in the reader, later on because of the futility of his attempts. I greatly admire Golding s ability to manipulate his reader s emotions so subtly.
Jack Merridew is the novel s antagonistic element, and can be seen as almost the exact opposite of Ralph. Jack longs for overarching power; he becomes increasingly wild, barbarous, and cruel as the novel progresses. Even the most peaceful reader can, at some stage, remember just a few seconds of pure aggression, and Jack seems to be Golding s embodiment of this.
Piggy is Ralph s lieutenant – a whiny, intellectual boy whose inventiveness frequently leads to innovation, such as the makeshift sundial. Just as Ralph represents the civilising instinct, and Jack the barbaric instinct, Piggy represents the scientific, rational side of civilisation, and this side of civilisation is, I believe, something that just as with good and bad exists within all of us.
The contrast between the characters is clearly visible, for example, here:
We got to do something.
Ralph said nothing. Here was a coral island. Protected from the sun, ignoring Piggy s ill-omened talk, he dreamed pleasantly.
Ralph s initial hedonistic attitude runs parallel to Jacks, but later he evolves, and matures, and seems to realise the truth behind Piggy s words. Just as Ralph has Piggy s scientific, methodical attitude behind him, Jack has Roger s sadistic, cruel attitude behind him. Jack seems to me to represent a fascist leader interested in keeping power to himself. I see Ralph as a socialist, blissfully unaware that because of the unkind attitude that develops in humans often inherited from generation to generation sees a socialist society as the answer to this unstable society Golding has created.
In conclusion, I enjoy Golding s parallels to a political state that exist in the group marooned on the island, and the ease with which anyone can empathise with his characters. During the 1950s and 1960s, a number of readings of the book attempted to connect it with extraordinarily grand historical, religious, and psychological schemes, claiming that the book dramatised the history of civilisation or the history of religion, or the struggle between the Freudian components of unconscious identity – id, ego, and superego. Personally, I can infer references to the latter analysis, although I cannot totally agree, because the complexity of a mental analysis needed to dramatise these states only exists in Jack and Ralph.
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