In the novel Lord of the Flies, how do the boys transform from civilians to savages?Explain in terms of their appearance and their act of savagery

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Immediately following the plane crash that has stranded the boys on the island, the narrator describes Ralph as being dressed in a gray shirt, pants, belt, stockings with an elastic garter, and black shoes. After he blows into the conch, boys start appearing on the beach

"dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed, or jerseyed. There were badges, mottoes even, stripes of color in stockings and pullovers."

Also, when Jack arrives with the choir, 

"each boy wore a square black cap with a silver badge on it. Their bodies, from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross on the left breast and each neck was finished off with a ham-bone frill."

Through their garb, Golding emphasizes that the boys have come from a highly civilized, formal society with expectations for unity and conformity.

As the boys realize that they no longer have to answer to authority in the form of parents, teachers, police, or adult society's expectations, their collective Id takes over.  The choir becomes Jack's band of savage hunters, and their appearance changes.  The school uniforms and choir robes disappear, and "some of the boys wore black caps but otherwise they were almost naked."  Their hair grows long and unkempt, and as they lose their civility, they paint themselves with clay and smudges of blood.  

The delight with which the hunters first pursue and kill a pig reflects a troubling savagery.  After they hunt and butcher her, their rehashing of the event and re-enactment that includes dancing and chanting "Kill the pig, cut her throat, bash her in" demonstrates that their hunting goes beyond what is necessary to supplement their diet of fruit. This savagery is deepened with the death of the second pig, whose head they cut off and impale on a stick as as offering to the Beast. The savage death of Simon, whom the crazed boys believe to be the Beast, is the precursor to the overt act of murder when Piggy is killed. 

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the boys begin the novel as civilized British school boys and end the novel as savages.  The novel is set in the future and the boys are fleeing the war when they end up on the island with no adults.  Ralph tries to keep the meetings democratic by using the conch for those who speak and setting up the signal  fire to signal anyone looking for them.  The descent begins when Jack and the hunters start hunting and enjoy the killing.  They begin to dress as hunters by painting their faces with mud, think as hunters, and convince many of the others to follow them.  The conflict between Ralph and Jack adds to the tension as Jack advocates hunting as the solution to their problems and lets the signal fire go out. They kill a pig in a very savage way, cut off the head and put it on a stick.  Eventually, the hunting of animals becomes the hunting of humans with the death of Piggy  so that at the end of the book, Ralph is saved from death only by the arrival of the naval officer from the outside world of war.

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Lord of the Flies

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