Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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Of all the characters in Lord of the Flies, it is Piggy who most often has useful ideas and sees the correct way for the boys to organize themselves. Yet the other boys rarely listen to him and frequently abuse him. Why do you think this is the case? In what ways does Golding use Piggy to advance the novel's themes?

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Piggy is by far the most intelligent, rational boy on the island and vehemently supports Ralph 's leadership. Piggy attempts to solve problems pragmatically and offers several logical solutions to improve the standard of living on the island. Piggy suggests that they make a list of names, supports Ralph's rule...

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Piggy is by far the most intelligent, rational boy on the island and vehemently supports Ralph's leadership. Piggy attempts to solve problems pragmatically and offers several logical solutions to improve the standard of living on the island. Piggy suggests that they make a list of names, supports Ralph's rule regarding the conch, and attempts to logically solve the problem concerning the beast's identity.

Piggy also suggests that they make a sundial, continually reminds Ralph about the importance of a signal fire, and even proposes that they start a new fire by the platform instead of on the top of the mountain. Piggy's character symbolically represents knowledge, rational thought, and civility, but he is continually criticized, mocked, and ridiculed by the other boys on the island.

One of the primary reasons Piggy is ridiculed by the other boys concerns his physical appearance. Piggy is unattractive, significantly overweight, and out of shape. Piggy is also rather annoying and is continually voicing his opinion on every subject. He constantly argues with Jack and chastises the boys for disobeying Ralph. The conflict between Piggy and Jack advances Golding's theme regarding civilization versus savagery.

Piggy's character represents civilization while Jack and his hunters represent savagery. Their ongoing conflict highlights Golding's theme, and Piggy's death illustrates Golding's underlying message regarding mankind's inherent savagery. In the story, Golding suggests that humanity's primitive, savage nature will flourish in an environment without rules and regulations.

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When Ralph realizes that he is on what resembles Ballatyne's Coral Island, he is thrilled, casting off his clothes in a gesture symbolic of his rejection of the restrictions of the life at the boys' school from which he has been evacuated. But, it is the voice of reason in Piggy, who immediately is concerned that order be established. However, he is ineffectual at creating this order because of his physical appearance--he has thinning hair like an older man, and also more like an older man, he is fat--and because it is Ralph who finds the conch and blows it, summoning the other boys. Moreover, Ralph seems more suited to the role of leader because he is "the golden boy," handsome, confident, and appealing as a model to the others, while Piggy is intimidated by the appearance of the red-haired Jack Merridew, leader of the choir in his formidable black uniform.

Along with Piggy's physical appearance which works against him, there is his apparent weakness as evinced by his intimidation of Jack. Certainly, with his asthma and extra weight, he cannot compete against the more athletic boys such as Ralph and Jack. For, example, when the boys make a rescue fire, Piggy arrives too late to assist with this work. And, while he is more rational than the others, he is unable to put into action some of his more reasonable ideas because Jack heckles him, telling him such things as that the conch has no significance on the mountain, thus undermining Piggy's authority to speak. Later, he berates Piggy when he criticizes both him and Ralph in Chapter Eight,

“[Ralph is] like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief.”

Jack alludes to Piggy's criticisms of the "small fire" that got out of hand, and other disparaging remarks that he makes after something has happened. Besides Piggy's negativity, the indiscriminate power of brute force works against Piggy. For, the young boys ignore Piggy's warnings and urgings because the stronger Jack intimidates them; Jack cruelly takes Piggy's glasses from him; and even Ralph succumbs to the seduction of the hunt, leaving Piggy alone.

Certainly, the "white magic" of the conch does not maintain order on the island. Later, Piggy and Ralph talk with one another. Ralph asks in Chapter Eight,

"…I mean…what makes things break up like they do?
Piggy rubbed his glasses slowly and thought […].
"I dunno, Ralph. I expect it's him."
"Jack?"
"Jack." A taboo was evolving round that word too.
Ralph nodded solemnly.
"Yes," he said, "I suppose it must be."

 But, it is not Jack alone who is the reason that Piggy and Ralph are ineffectual. There is a rebellion in the boys against authority and science, which Piggy represents with his rational thinking, older appearance, and glasses. Without any accepted symbols for authority, the boys attempt to use the conch, but the rebellious Jack and the sadistic Roger ignore such things as the conch and Piggy's glasses and adult appearance.  As Simon discerns, it is the "beast" within them that drives the boys to act as they do, the inherent evil in their human nature. Indeed, it is this inherent evil which the rules of society no longer deter that drives Roger to ignore Piggy as he urges the hunters to stop their savage actions and, instead, unleash his sadism by unleashing the granite rock upon Piggy, hurling him down the mountain into the bloody water, representing the end of reason and foreshadowing the bloody injuries and murderous attempts upon Ralph.

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Piggy is the perfect bully-victim archetype. Golding paints him as the typical sort on which bullies apparently seem to thrive. He is obviously overweight, wears glasses, is not physically agile and has a health condition. Furthermore, his repeated references to his aunt, his 'ass-mar' and the fact that he insists on not being called 'Piggy' makes him an object of the boys' mockery. It is for these reasons that he does not gain the respect which is, in fact, his due. Golding uses Piggy to emphasize society's obsession with the strong and its philosophy of 'only the fittest survive.' His death later further epitomizes this approach.     

Piggy is a realist and he uses reason to figure things out. The boys, on the other hand, do not think ahead. They are impulsive and seek only pleasure. It is for this reason that most of them neglect their tasks. The fact that Piggy regularly moans about their ill-discipline and lack of commitment makes him a further target for their abuse. He is generally seen as a nag. The boys resent his adult approach for they wish to be free of that kind of authority. Although he recognizes the danger of an existence without authority, the other boys, especially Jack, do not have the same depth of thought.

Golding uses Piggy as a symbol for order and stability. He acts as a foil to the other boys who lack the desire to maintain a civilized existence as much as he does. In this, the author satirizes the contrasts in human society. Those who seek order and discipline are mostly opposed by the malevolent forces which thrive on chaos and destruction. Piggy seeks rescue and desires a saviour, whilst the other boys are careless and live on instinct. They are driven by an innate lust to hurt and to maim. As such, they become savages.  

Furthermore, even though Piggy is seen as a nuisance by the other boys, it is his presence that creates, at least, a semblance of civilization on the island. He advises Ralph who sometimes responds to his guidance and passes this on to the other boys. Piggy also provides him with some foundation and strengthens his crumbling leadership. 

Piggy's death signifies a dramatic turning-point in the novel. With his demise, chaos takes the upper-hand. Ralph is left vulnerable and Jack and his savages begin hunting him as if he were an animal. Ironically, it is the arrival of an adult, another symbol of authority, that restores order.

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