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The boys' descent into savagery is one of the most important aspects of Lord of the Flies. From the very beginning of the novel, Golding illustrates how life on the island strips away the boys' connection to civilization. The scene in which Ralph and Piggy first meet up in the jungle and peel away their school uniforms contributes to the theme of exterior appearances versus reality:
"The sand was thick over his black shoes and the heat hit him. He became conscious of the weight of clothes, kicked his shoes off fiercely, and ripped off each stocking with its elastic garter in a single movement" (10).
Shedding their clothes is the boys' first act toward savagery, and it is important to note that Ralph does not casually remove his garments, but rips them off "fiercely," revealing his eagerness to free himself from the restraints of civilization and his old life. Only moments later, Ralph pulls off his shirt, and Golding includes the detail of the "green shadows from the palms and forest sliding over his skin" (10). From this description, Golding makes it seem as though Ralph has merged with the jungle.
Another telling moment in the novel is when Jack first tries to make a mask for hunting:
"He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but an awesome stranger. [...] He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and consciousness" (63-64).
Just as the boys felt freed by the act of tossing away their old school uniforms, Jack feels even more "liberated" by concealing his face under the hunting mask. Wearing masks empowers the boys to act even more savagely than before.
Toward the end of the novel, when Ralph visits Castle Rock to protest the theft of Piggy's glasses, the narrator remarks that "savages appeared, painted out of recognition" (175). The paint strips away the boys' very identities, until all that is left behind is the savage and his spear.
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