Human and Savage Theme In "Lord of the Flies"Piggy asks in Chapter 5, “Are we humans or savages?” One theme present in the novel is that underneath the appearance of civilization, violence and...

Human and Savage Theme In "Lord of the Flies"

Piggy asks in Chapter 5, “Are we humans or savages?” One theme present in the novel is that underneath the appearance of civilization, violence and disorder are ever-present possibilities in human life. Can you please explain how this theme is conveyed in Lord of the Flies?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lord of the Flies, Golding stresses the complexity of human life. Due to Ralph's leadership, there is the appearance of civilization. While there is an appearance of civilization, underneath this appearance there is violence. Underneath this civilized appearance is disorder.

Jack loses all human civilized conditioning that he learned before landing on the island. His savage instincts are very real and are present in his actions. He is a cold-blooded murderer. He begins to enjoy the hunt. He begins to enjoy killing. When he and his hunters corner a wounded pig, they torture the sow. Roger twists his spear which he has forced into the anus of the sow. With all his weight, Roger twists his spear until the sow screams in agongy. Jack laughs hysterically and then cuts the pig's throat:

Jack begins to rub the blood on his hands onto Maurice, and then they notice Roger withdraw his spear. They become hysterical because he had pinned the sow by driving the spear through its anus. They reenact the slaughter until they grow tired.

At this point in the story, Jack and his hunters have become savages. They get pleasure out of killing. Even though these boys were once part of a civilized society, they are now revealing their savage instincts. They are cruel. They are no longer killing the pig out of necessity for meat. They are finding pleasure in the torturing of the sow. 

No doubt, Golding is stressing that underneath the appearance of civilization, there is violence at the heart of some human beings. Although Jack tries to hide his evil desires with paint for his face, his violent conduct is ever present. He decapitates the pig and hangs its head on a stick. He shows the pig no mercy. 

This kind of behavior is dangerous. First, Jack and his hunters torture pigs. Next, they torture Simon. They murder Simon with no remorse. Piggy dies at the hand of Roger. Ralph would have been next had not the British Naval officer rescued him. Truly, violence and disorder have filled Jack's heart. He and his hunters have revealed their savage instincts which have been present underneath the appearance of civilization.   

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Lord of the Flies

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