How does Golding portray the loss of civilization on the island in The Lord of the Flies?

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omconnelly eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the text there are many ways Golding demonstrates the loss of civilization on the island. 

Initially, the boys abandon simple things like bathing regularly, their uniforms, and keeping themselves neat. But there are a couple of key moments that symbolize the loss of civilization on the island.

1. When the hunters kill the sow on the island and have a feast. This hunt is particularly brutal and gruesome. Until this point, the boys hunt because it is like a game, and they are hungry. But once the boys kill the sow, they enjoy the dominance they have over another being, and they thoroughly take pleasure in killing another living thing. When civilization was present on the island, this would not be possible. The hunters would feel too ashamed or responsible to take pleasure out of this event. 

2. When the boys cause Simon's death as they "dance." During Jack's feast to celebrate the hunt and his leadership, the boys (including Ralph and Piggy), begin to dance around the fire and chant, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” They become more animalistic and primal as they dance, and the storm intensifies. Initially, they do not realize that Simon is coming out of the woods (ironically to report that there is no beast; it is a dead pilot that ejected from his plane). They surround and attack him relentlessly. When he tries to break free the group surrounds him once more and with "no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws" (219). Although they do not stop killing "the beast," they are aware that they are not attacking an animal but another human being. This is reiterated in chapter ten as Piggy and Ralph discuss the previous night's events. Because Simon symbolizes innate goodness, when Simon is murdered, all good leaves the island. This is one step closer to an island devoid of civilization.

3. The final scene that represents a total loss of civilization is when Piggy is killed. Piggy symbolizes a connection to the logical society the boys left behind. He is constantly relying on "rules and order" to maintain a semblance of his former life and to protect him from the bullying of the other boys. Piggy depends on items like the conch (an item that he finds and instructs Ralph how to use), in order to help maintain order and a hierarchy on the island. This is illustrated when Piggy decides he will go to Castle Rock to fetch his glasses back from Jack. 

“I’m going to him with this conch in my hands. I’m going to hold it out. Look, I’m goin’ to say, you’re stronger than I am and you haven’t got asthma. You can see, I’m goin’ to say, and with both eyes. But I don’t ask for my glasses back, not as a favor. I don’t ask you to be a sport, I’ll say, not because you’re strong, but because what’s right’s right. Give me my glasses, I’m going to say—you got to!” (246)

Unfortunately, Piggy will meet his demise at Castle Rock. While standing at the base of Castle Rock, Piggy argues with the hunters, “Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?” (259). These are the final words that Piggy will utter. Ralph with "delirious abandonment" hurls a boulder that kills Piggy and crushes the conch. When Piggy dies and the conch is crushed, all logic and ties to the former civilization are destroyed. The island is now a savage place with savage boys.

From this point on Ralph is alone. The hunters are "in charge" and will hunt Ralph. They are only saved by accident: the fire they begin to "smoke out" Ralph burns out of control. It destroys most of the island and signals a ship. But when the boys approached by the sailor, they are barely recognizable as proper English boys. The sailor remarks, "I should have thought that a pack of British boys—you’re all British, aren’t you?—would have been able to put up a better show than that—I mean—” (290).

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Lord of the Flies

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