How does William Golding depict the loss of the "lawful world"? What results from a loss of civility on the island?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Golding illustrates the loss of a "lawful world" by depicting the boys' gradual descent into savagery. At the beginning of the novel, the boys democratically elect Ralph as their leader and work together to complete various tasks. They are still influenced by civilization and treat one another with considerable respect. As the novel progresses, the boys begin to neglect their agreed-upon duties, and their belief in a beast drastically affects the stability of the entire group. Jack gradually uses his position to influence the hunters and encourages their violent behavior. The hunters experience bloodlust after killing their first pig and begin to favor Jack over Ralph. After Jack attempts to usurp power from Ralph, the majority of the boys choose to join Jack's tribe at the other end of the island. Ralph, Piggy, Samneric, and Simon are the only boys who do not capitulate to Jack's rule. Toward the end of the novel, the boys brutally murder Simon after mistaking him for the beast, and Roger purposely kills Piggy. Brutality, savagery, and immorality take the place of civility on the island. Jack then commands his tribe of savages to hunt Ralph as the novel comes to an end. Fortunately, Ralph is able to survive and is saved when a British officer arrives on the beach.

Golding's use of symbols also reveals the loss of civility throughout the novel. The conch symbolizes civilization, democracy, and order. Initially, the boys obey the conch by allowing the person holding it to speak without interrupting them. As the novel progresses, Jack begins to break the rules regarding the conch by speaking out of turn. Eventually, Jack and his hunters reject the power of the conch and move to the other end of the island. Toward the end of the novel, the conch breaks when Piggy is brutally murdered. The broken conch symbolizes the complete destruction of civilization on the island.

In addition to the conch, Golding also uses the signal fire, clothing, and the length of the boys' hair to represent the loss of a "lawful world." The signal fire also represents civilization, hope, and rescue. As the novel progresses, the boys struggle to maintain the fire, and it eventually goes out. Similar to the broken conch, the inability to maintain a signal fire represents the boys' descent into savagery. The boys also begin to neglect their clothing, a remnant of their civilized past, and their hair begins to grow. Shaggy, unkempt hair symbolizes their developing savagery. Jack and the hunters also neglect their clothing and choose to paint themselves in tribal patterns. Clothing is a symbol of civilization, and the boys' decision to discard their clothes represents their deteriorating civility.

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Lord of the Flies

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