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Perhaps the largest theme of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is that of the nature of human instinct and the dark impulses that seem to lurk beneath our carefully constructed social masks. Golding executes this theme by detailing the transformation of a group of young boys who are left stranded alone on an island, conveying their descent from innocent children into bloodthirsty savages.
This dynamic is particularly highlighted through the presence of Ralph--the boy who first assumes the role of leadership--and Jack--the boy who starts a coup that separates the tribe into rivaling factions. While Ralph represents civility and order, Jack symbolizes the thirst for power and the depravity of mankind. The separation of the tribes, the creation of an imagined beast who terrorizes the island, and the eventual murder of Piggy and Simon all suggest that human goodness is an illusion, one that barely masks the truth of what lies beneath: the impulse to seek control, to subjugate others, and to resort to cruelty as a means of serving one's personal interests.
The themes of Lord of the Flies are classic, not clich`e. It is clearly a story of good vs. evil, and the conflict between the boys and nature speaks volumes about human nature and the social contract in modern society.
Readers do not often discuss the phenomenon of mob psychology as it relates to the choir/hunters and the deaths of Simon and Piggy. How do their words, actions, and habits support anonymity as part of a mob? Does it pardon their actions?
A good theme statement for Lord of the Flies would be as follows: innocence is an illusion and human nature tends toward evil. Children are thought to be innocent and good, but when the kids from the novel are stranded, they end up tormenting and murdering each other. While they start out in an organized way, the ever important power struggle erupts between the two leaders (Ralph and Jack) and then quickly effects all the other boys.
Readers must remember that Golding wrote LOTF in response to horrible things that he had experienced in the Navy during WWII. Golding's novel serves as a harsh commentary on the weakness of humanity and the rotting effect of power. Golding's young characters crash land on a virtual garden of Eden, but by the time they leave they have turned the island into a gutted, flaming Hell.
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