Jack and his hunters become less civilized after killing a pig in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. What activities in current culture seem to make people less civilized?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question. The primary theme of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is that men (or in this case boys) who live without the restraints and order of civilized society soon devolve into savages. The best example of this is what happens to Jack, the eventual chief of the savages on this island.

In chapter one, Jack has a chance to kill a pig with his knife, but he is unable to do it. When Ralph and Simon ask him why, Jack begins to make excuses; however, they all know the truth.  

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.

Eleven chapters later, Jack has deliberately killed several pigs, inadvertently killed one boy, and ordered the murder of his greatest rival, Ralph. Once he kills the first time, Jack has had less trouble killing again.

In current culture, we see awful things on television and in movies all the time. Seeing horrible crime scenes, real videos of shootings, and realistic depictions of murders and worse has inured us to the realities and horrors of violent death. Such scenes were once shown only in extraordinary circumstances or war coverage. Now they are seen in prime-time television, video games, and many of the most popular movies. Seeing such things so often has desensitized our culture regarding violence and death, which inevitably leads to an erosion of civility. 

akulinski | Student


1. having an advanced or humane culture, society, etc. 2. polite; well-bred; refined.

I think it is important to start here. Every culture has different ideas about what is civilized. Even within cultures there are different norms. There are also huge differences between norms, mores and laws.

In American culture it is normal to talk on the phone anywhere and everywhere. It does not bother most people that the practice is rude or offensive to the people around them. Depending on the age or technical prowess of the surrounding people, there are different mores. You might get a dirty look from an older person for example. There are, however, no laws against using a cell phone while riding home on the bus.

One of the reasons I enjoy this novel so much is the example of choice it shows. Every person everywhere gets to wake up and choose the kind of person they want to be every day. Not everyone has a choice about the circumstances they find themselves in, but their reaction to those circumstances is their own. The excellent part about this choice is that people get to make it on a constant basis.The choice to be civilized and what exactly that means is personal.

On a personal level, I abhor rudeness. Blathering loudly on a cell phone is rude, as is taking and returning text messages in the middle of a conversation. If you use that as an example, technology, or more specifically the impersonal nature of it, can make us less civilized.

The other side of that coin is the use of technology to bring people together. Look at this site and its ability to let people reach out to each other and broaden their outlook. Choices, choices, choices.


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Lord of the Flies

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