Is Lord of the Flies a utopia or a dystopia?

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I have to admit, when I was a kid (and I was a pretty rule-abiding and easy kid), I imagined a world much like the one in Lord of the Flies. No adults telling me what to do. No homework. The ability to be outside all day and do whatever I wanted. This seemed pretty perfect to me.

Of course, to obtain that ideal world, I would have to make some pretty significant sacrifices. And if I thought about it further, I couldn't simply play all day in a world without adults and have food to eat when I was hungry. I couldn't enjoy things like electricity because adults were the ones who took care of all those little luxuries.

This, then, is the impossibility that any imagined, perfect (Utopian) society faces. In a perfect world, there is only goodness. People are only happy. There is never any conflict. At first thought, all of these things sound, well, pretty perfect.

But if people are always happy, how do they react when something bad happens? How do they react to death? With happiness?

A Utopian society is impossible because in order to create a "perfect" world, citizens have to give up a lot of personal freedoms. In some pieces of literature, the government has taken complete control, even over emotions. In other books, citizens have memories that don't allow them to recall things that aren't pleasant. And in others, the society is so strictly organized that people are only allowed to experience superficial happiness.

How does all of this apply to Lord of the Flies? This all means that a Utopia isn't possible, so by default, all societies that strive for this perfect state are instead dystopian. On the island, it may seem like a perfect society for kids to live in a world with no adults and no rules, but their society quickly degenerates into savagery and murder (certainly not ideal in a "perfect" world). The boys split into factions that cannot get along, and there is a growing conflict between them throughout the novel with Jack looking to force his way into a position of power, even if he has to kill everyone in his path.

Lord of the Flies is a dystopian world because a perfect world simply isn't possible.

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A utopia is an imagined place or state where everything is stable, comfortable, and perfect. The setting of the uninhabited tropical island is originally a utopia. The weather is beautiful, the island is not threatening, and there is an abundance of food. Allegorically, the peaceful tropical island symbolically represents paradise or the Garden of Eden. Despite the original utopia, the boys rapidly descend into savagery, and Jack eventually usurps power. Under Jack's reign, the society cultivated on the island is considered a dystopia.

The violent, hostile society established on the uninhabited tropical island is an example of a dystopia, where citizens are oppressed, live in fear, and experience injustice on a regular basis. In the dystopian society cultivated on the tropical island, Jack rules as a ruthless tyrant, who is obsessed with hunting pigs and engaging in violent behavior. Jack is the leader of a lawless society, where weak, innocent, and defenseless boys are murdered in an instant. Simon is brutally beaten to death, Piggy is crushed to death by a massive boulder, and Ralph is hunted like an animal throughout the island. The other boys have no individual rights and fear Jack and his powerful cohorts. If any boy disobeys Jack, he risks being tortured or killed. Under Jack's rule, nobody lives in peace, and anarchy reigns supreme. The threatening, hostile environment that Jack cultivates and establishes on the island is an example of a dystopia.

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It is dystopian. The boys end up fighting and some die; hardly an ideal of utopia.

The setting and circumstances are utopian; children living free of the impositions of adults on an idyllic tropical island. The fact that the boys crash on a desert island is meant to propose that it is utopian because they come from a world engaged in atomic war. (The corollary is WWII). The boys work together at the start but quickly devolve into fighting factions; all arguing over the rules and fighting over the means of survival; namely Piggy’s glasses.

Even utopian works can be interpreted as dystopian. Utopia is an ideal society (so ideal that it is hard to imagine). Fittingly, it means “no place.” The Lord of the Flies is on an island and this is a direct reference to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia which was set on an island. Ralph is a reference to Raphael in More’s book which may be a reference to the archangel Raphael. In Christianity, Raphael means ‘healer.” In Islam, he is responsible for signaling Judgment Day by blowing the horn (Sur) to send out a blast of Truth. This is a clear reference to the conch as the means of restoring order. This also illustrates that Ralph and Piggy in particular (The Lord of the Flies) are characters which expose the Truth that this is not a Utopian island. Both More’s and Golding’s books are satires since they metaphorically comment on their own historical context. The Lord of the Flies is certainly dystopian. And some might argue that More’s Utopia is also dystopian, certainly in historical hindsight because it endorses slavery, severe punishment for adultery, and euthanasia. So, even utopian ideas tend to be fraught with contradictions.

Other dystopian novels: Brave New World, 1984, Anthem, Animal Farm, A Clockwork Orange, The Giver.

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