Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How can Lord of the Flies be seen to trace the defects of society back to the defects of the individual?

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In Chapter 4 as Roger contemplates hitting the unsuspecting Henry, who sits and plays with the "detritus of landward life, there is the first indication of the evil in men's hearts. It is only the vestiges of society that prevent Roger from striking Henry with a stone, "that token of preposterous time":

Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them.  Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yeards in diameter, into which he dare not throw.  Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life.  Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and  school and policemen and the law.  Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.

As an allegory, "Lord of the Flies" traces the defects of society as represented by the different boys, back to the defects of the individuals.  Roger is a predator, but he has been conditioned by society.  Piggy represents pure reason, but pure reason cannot survive against the primal urges of man. In the ending chapters, the savagery has emerged in the hunters and Piggy is murdered as his head crashes against the stones, the tokens of "preposterous time." Earlier in the novel when the intuitive Simon wishes to communicate that he knows the "evil that men do," he, too, is eliminated.  Finally, then, it is Jack and the hunters, the savage, primitive men who control the activities of the island.  Ralph, the only rational man is trapped and will be killed.  But in an act much like the deus ex machina of Greek plays, Ralph is saved by society, albeit a marred one, as it is the military officer who appears.

The defects of humanity arrive in the person of this man, for he is less than perfect.  A man of war, he turns and looks at his warship while the boys crowd around him, crying for the loss of their innocence.  Even in civilized society there is war.  As the boys have proven in this allegory, violence thrives.

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