How is the theme that underneath the appearance of civilization, violence and disorder are ever-present possibilities in human life conveyed in Lord of the Flies?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When the group of boys is abandoned on an island away from adults and all the trappings of civilization, it does not take long for things to turn to chaos.  Although at first the boys try to organize themselves, choose a leader, make rules, and designate responsibilities, it is not as easy as it sounds.  The message seems to be that it is much harder to contain people than it might seem.

The boundaries of civilization keep us contained.  They prevent us from acting however we want.  When we do not have these, we act in our own best interests and not in the best interest of the group.  In chapter 2, Ralph preempts Piggy’s comment in chapter 5 about savages.

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. (ch 2)

It is ironic that Jack equates a lack of rules with savagery, when he is the one who first behaves savagely by wanting to enforce rules with violence.  Piggy is worried that the attempts to make them more accountable are also causing the degeneration of their little society.

“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What’s grown-ups going to think? Going off—hunting pigs—letting fires out—and now!” (ch 5)

The boys do not acknowledge the comment.  Instead, they tell him to shut up.  It is easy to make fun of Piggy, and not listen to what he is trying to tell them.  He is in many ways the most civilized of all of them, because he is capable of making connections to the world they came from due to his intelligence and introspectiveness. 

The initial arguments about the beast also create the savage incidents.  This makes sense, because the beast is really what is inside them.  It is the innate tendency to not listen, not look out for others, and not inhibit our violent tendencies.

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