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In chapter twelve of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, the British naval officer...

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elizabeth112195 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:29 AM via web

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In chapter twelve of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, the British naval officer says, "I should have thought that a pack of British boys...would have been able to put up a better show than that." How is this statement hypocritical?

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journeyto42 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 26, 2012 at 6:51 AM (Answer #1)

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The naval officer had the belief that the boys would be able to sustain themselves successfully on the island. He thought they would work together to get themselves saved. In his mind, they should have conducted and behaved themselves better. However, he himself is coming from a corrupt society. In the book, it is mentioned some sort of war is occuring in Britan. Being a naval officer, he is apart of that war, and not living up to the same expectation he set for the boys.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:58 PM (Answer #2)

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William Golding's Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel set on an isolated tropical island during World War II. The English schoolboys who survive a plane crash on the island devolve from proper, civilized boys into what Golding calls savages. As an allegory, the novel should be read as a microcosm (small example) of what is happening in the adult world away (though not very far ) from the island.

Several times the outside war intersects with the boys' world. At least one ship passes by (though the signal fire is out so the boys are not rescued), and a parachutist (a dead pilot from a nearby battle) lands on the island. The final intersection happens in the final chapter of the novel, when a naval commander arrives after seeing the smoke from the conflagration the savages made. 

Of course he does not take what he sees seriously, assuming the boys are just playing some kind of game or reenacting some of the adventures in a novel. When he says, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys—you’re all British, aren’t you?—would have been able to put up a better show than that," Ralph tries to explain what really happened but can find no words.

The hypocrisy of the officer's statement, then, is that he is the British commander of a naval destroyer which is actively fighting a world war. His implication that the British know better than to involve themselves in violent behavior is ludicrous, given his own involvement in war. His implication that (presumably) talking things out rationally is a far superior method of problem-solving than war (which he also laughingly accuses the boys of playing) is ridiculous, as he is evidence that talking does not always achieve peace or maintain civility.

His hypocrisy is certainly unintended, primarily because he does not know (and probably would not believe) the depths of savagery which these little boys have demonstrated.


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