Long story short - I had a discussion with my freshmen today (to whom I taught LOTF last year as 8th graders) about what the most important form of conflict in LOTF is. Most of them maintain that it is man vs. man because of the line between Ralph and Jack. I thought I made a pretty good case for man vs. society (although arguing with a pack of 15 year olds is a made to lose situation). They all thought that man vs. nature was in the novel, but not the most important one, and everyone of them said man vs. self was the least apparent. Your opinions - what is the most important conflict in this novel?
I would agree with post #4, the most central conflict in Lord of the Flies is man vs. self. Golding uses the construct of the boys trapped on the island to explore the larger theme of man's capability for savagery and destruction. The boys on the island all struggle (some more than others) with staying true to how they were raised, like Jack says:
"We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything. So we've got to do the right things" (43).
Of course, we all see how well Jack maintains this stance as the story progresses.
The thematic conflict is most centrally man vs. himself, I think. I'd back you up on that one.
This conflict is the first established in the text and is most consistently presented, as Ralph and Piggy initially articulate the choice the boys all will have to make in the book's first discussion - to play and be free or to keep order, create rules, and stay organized.
This choice is what brings the boys together and it is what tears them apart.
From a more narrative stand-point, however, it's hard to argue that the physical battle is not the central most conflict as characters die and the novel's climax features a literal man-hunt.
I am going to go with man versus nature because I feel like nature is the undercurrent stirring the conflict from page one when Ralph is tangled in the "creepers". The boys struggle with themselves and each other, but nature seems to always be at the heart of their conflicts. They battle nature for food, fire, and shelter, which generates conflicts among the boys and among themselves constantly throughout the novel. Their battle against the jungle spurs these other conflicts and power struggles. While man versus self and man versus society are very apparent conflicts, I feel that they would not be quite as stark without their conflicts with nature.
Love this topic!
I think that perhaps man versus self is the most important one, as each individual character in the novel must struggle with this and essentially choose to retain their 'civilization' or join with the 'savages'. You could argue that each person is influenced by the group dynamics (society), but ultimately if you believe in free will, you'd have to say that each boy has a choice to make on the island. So, the ultimate most important conflict is man vs. self.
man vs. society. any suggestions?