Lord of the Flies: Themes | Spark's notes (2023)

Themes are basic and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

Civilization against wildness

Central concernLord of the Fliesit is a conflict between two competing impulses that exist in every human being: the instinct to live by the rules, to act peacefully, to follow moral dictates, and to value the good of the group versus the instinct to satisfy immediate desires, to act violently to gain supremacy over others and enforce one's will. This conflict can be expressed in many ways: civilization versus savagery, order versus chaos, reason versus impulse, law versus anarchy, or more broadly, good versus evil. Throughout the novel, Golding associates the instinct of civilization with good and the instinct of wildness with evil. The conflict between these two instincts is the driving force behind the novel, which is explored through the decay of the civilized, moral and disciplined behavior of young Englishmen as they become accustomed to wild, brutal and barbaric life in the desert.

Lord of the Fliesit is an allegorical novel, meaning that Golding conveys many of its central ideas and themes through symbolic figures and objects. It depicts the conflict of civilization and savagery in the conflict between the novel's two main characters: Ralph, the main character, representing order and leadership; and Jack, an antagonist who represents wildness and lust for power. As the novel progresses, Golding shows how different people are affected by the instincts of civilization and savagery to varying degrees. Piggy, for example, has no wild feelings, while Roger is barely able to understand the rules of civilization. Overall, however, Golding suggests that the wild instinct is much more primitive and fundamental to the human psyche than the civilization instinct.

Golding sees moral behavior in many cases as something that civilization imposes on the individual, rather than a natural expression of human individuality. Left to their own devices, says Golding, men naturally resort to cruelty, savagery and barbarism. This idea of ​​inherent human evil is the keyLord of the Flies,and finds expression in several important symbols, notably the beast and the head of the sow on the pillar. Of all the characters, only Simon seems to possess some sort of natural, innate goodness.

loss of virginity

As the boys of the island transform from well-behaved, tidy children who yearn for salvation to ruthless, bloodthirsty hunters with no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence they had at the beginning of the novel. The savages depicted in chapter 12, who hunted, tortured and killed animals and people, are very different from the innocent children swimming in the lake in chapter 3. But Golding does not portray this loss of innocence as something done to children; rather, it comes naturally from their ever-increasing openness to the inherent evil and savagery that has always existed within them. Golding suggests that civilization can mitigate, but never eliminate, the inherent evil that exists in all people. The clearing in the woods where Simon sits in chapter 3 symbolizes this loss of innocence. At first it is a place of natural beauty and serenity, but when Simon returns later in the novel, he discovers a sow's bloodied head impaled on a spike in the middle of the clearing. The beast's bloody sacrifice disrupted a pre-existing paradise - a powerful symbol of the innate wickedness of humanity, disrupting the innocence of children.

Read more about how the loss of virginity shapes the characters in Khaled Hosseini's Dragon Hunter.

The struggle to build a civilization

The main conflict is the struggle to build a civilizationLord of the Flies. Ralph and Piggy consider structure, rules, and keeping the warmonger to be top priorities, while Jack believes that hunting, violence, and fun should take precedence over safety, security, and planning for the future. Although initially the boys, including Jack, agreed to respect Ralph's principles and democratic decision-making, the slow, deliberate process of building an orderly society proved too difficult for many boys. They don't want to help build a shelter, run a fire alarm or look after the little ones. The direct fun and emotional rewards of hunting, singing and dancing around the campfire are more appealing than working to build a sustainable society. By the end of the novel, even Ralph is tempted by Jack's overbearing regime, regularly forgetting why firemen and rescue are so important.

The inherent evil of man

The fact that the main charactersLord of the FliesThe book They Are Boys suggests that the potential for evil lies even in small children. For example, Jack initially likes rules and politeness, but becomes obsessed with hunting, frightened and empowered by the promise of violence. Jack's desire for control and submission proves stronger than his desire for empathy, intellect, and civilization, and Jack becomes a brutal leader. Even Ralph and Piggy, struggling to retain their sense of humanity, participate in Simon's mass murder, briefly succumbing to the thrill of violence and mass hysteria. While Piggy tries to ignore their involvement, Ralph is devastated to realize that he is no better than Jack and Roger and that he too has darkness within him.

You can read more about the nature of evil in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

However, Simon's character suggests that people can resist their innate tendencies to violence. The only boy who has never been involved in the madness on the island, Simon has the purest moral code and manages to remain an individual at all times.Lord of the Flies. While others consider him weak and strange, Simon defends Piglet and the little ones, helps Ralph build shelters, and provides a careful and insightful assessment of their situation. Simon realizes that the beast is not a physical beast, but perhaps the inherent darkness and brutality of the boys themselves. After a terrifying conversation with Lord of the Flies, Simon recognizes the paratrooper as a symbol of fear and the boys as agents of evil, then runs off to tell the others. But Simon will never be able to explain it properly to the other boys before they beat him to death in their frenzied excitement and fear.

The dangers of crowd mentality

Lord of the Fliesexplores the dangers of mob mentality in horrific scenes of violence and torture.At the beginning, the boys sing "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Shed her blood" after a successful hunt, elevating their joint act of violence to a solemn song. Teaming up as a mob, the boys turn the disturbing experience of killing an animal into a bonding ritual. Working as a group, the boys are able to commit increasingly worse crimes by deceiving each other into believing that the potential threat of the beast justifies their violence. Likewise, boys wear battle paint to conceal their identities and avoid personal responsibility. Ralph, Piggy and Samneric fear the hunters and envy them for being "let loose". Their desire to belong to the group leads them to voluntarily participate in the ritual dance and brutal murder of Simon. The mob's irrational fear and violent tendencies result in a devastating act of extreme cruelty.

War and the future of humanity

The action takes place during a global war, Lord of the Fliesgives an insight into what a society trying to recover from a large-scale man-made disaster might look like. Trying to rebuild society, the boys cannot agree to the new order and fall into savagery. Ralph realizes that social order, justice and prudence are of little value in a world where struggle is the primary survival, such as after a devastating war. The paratrooper landing on the island reminds the reader that while the boys struggle to survive peacefully on the island, there is still war going on around the world. Even in isolation and youth, boys cannot avoid violence. As they plunge into torture and murder, they reflect a world at war around them.


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