In Lord of the Flies, Piggy is supposed to be rather intelligent, so how should I explain his rather childish use of the language?
Piggy is quite intelligent, but that does not make him mature. Piggy is immature. He pouts when he cannot get Jack and the others to listen to him. He is afraid of the beast and refuses to go look for it.
Piggy is an intellectual, rational type of character, but his excess weight and asthma cause the other boys to ridicule Piggy. Of course, Piggy is sensitive and acts out childishly as the others makes jokes about him.
Piggy frets and whines and this is due to his immaturity. He does not contain the leadership skills that Ralph has. Piggy is weak physically. For this reason, the others do not respect him. His weakened physical condition causes the others to mock Piggy:
For all his intellectual powers, however, Piggy is basically ineffectual without Ralph. Piggy is a man of thought, not of action, and he is physically weak because of his asthma.
Piggy reacts in childish manner. He whines to Ralph and insists that Ralph make the others listen to him. He does not have a commanding leadership personality.
Piggy is smart enough to know that the conch should be a sign of respect, but Piggy himself does not have the personality to be a leader. He is annoying and the others make fun of him throughout the story:
Without his spectacles, he is blind and helpless. After Jack has broken one lens from his glasses and stolen the other, Piggy is doomed in a society where irrational fears and physical strength are more respected than science, law, and dialogue.
It is Piggy's weakened physical condition that causes the others to disrespect him so. Piggy is intelligent, but he is weak physically. The others do no respect Piggy because he is sickly. Perhaps his weakened conditioned causes him to appear immature.
Piggy's use of language is substandard. For instance, he mispronounces words, saying "Ass-mar" for asthma, and his misues pronouns such as in the phrase "Them fruit" which should employ the demonstrative adjective that instead. Further, he misuses verb tenses as in this sentence, "And this is what the cabin done" which should be "And this is what the cabin did."
Rather than indicating a childish use of the language, Piggy's language usage points to a background from a lower socio-economic class as he uses grammatical forms that would come from a social level that is beneath that of the other boys at the school he attends. Perhaps because he lives with his aunt, Piggy may have spent his childhood in an environment that differs from that of the other boys. At any rate, the implication is that Piggy's early childhood in which he formed his language patterns was spent with adults who were uneducated.
This lack of proper language education mitigates any respect that Piggy will attain. In Chapter One, for example, when Piggy says that his auntie told him not to run because of his asthma, Ralph repeats what he says, "Ass-mar?" questioningly and surely with a mocking tone. Thus, added to his obesity and other health deficiencies, Piggy's improper use of the English language contributes to his being placed outside the circle of the other boys. He is, then, less respected for his intrinsic intelligence and reasoning ability and becomes, therefore, ineffectual in many situations.
One more question. If you accept the fact that his use of the language points to a background from a lower socio-economic class, how then is it possible that he ends up in a boarding school? Especially given the fact that England was such a class-oriented society.
Thank you, that's a very helpful answer. His upbringing could indeed explain his use of the language. I never even considered that possibility since they were all boarding school boys.
Thanks for your prompt answer. I understand Piggy is not mature yet. It's just that I don't really understand why especially his language is so terribly childish. In the Dutch translation it's even worse. It seems like such a contadiction. I'll have to ponder this.