Poetic Justice?Was there or wasn't there poetic justice in Lord of the Flies?

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I agree that there is no poetic justice in this novel, and I'm okay with that. I appreciate the major point Golding is making, which is that unchecked human nature will grow selfish and self-serving enough to use violence to get its way. The naval officer does not seem to be the man who will mete out any kind of justice; in fact, he cannot even understand what he sees as it stands before him. Piggy hopes for justice throughout the novel, but of course he does not get any there is no indication that it will happen now that he is gone. It would not be a more satisfying ending to know that those who committed such heinous acts will be officially punished for them. The punishment they will all have to live with is the awful understanding of the beast which lies within them.  

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Plenty of reasonable arguments have been made in the posts above suggesting that there is no poetic justice (or justice of any kind) presented in this novel. I find the argument made in the fifth post especially interesting and compelling. 

I'd offer one idea though in favor of some potentially earned comeupence inLord of the Flies. 

Ralph is betrayed by the group after having been voted leadder. However, Ralph does not have a special skill for leadership and only happened to be on hand when Piggy found the conch shell. Ralph's rather arbitrary rise to power does not justify his righteous attitude later when he persists in demanding respect for his position. He was right, of course, in his behavior and in his plans for securing rescue, but he was also a somewhat false authority. 

Being betrayed by the wild savageness that he attempted to ward off through his leadership seems a bit like poetic justice. 

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There is no justice, poetic or otherwise, in Lord of the Flies. As others have said, innocent people die (including the mulberry birthmark boy) and no one pays the price for that within the pages in the novel, anyway. The actions of these young savages, at least the older ones, will haunt them for many years, but that is not really a form of justice.

While there is plenty of irony in Golding's novel, there is not much in the way of poetic justice.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Golding's Lord of the Flies is an allegory,not a romance; therefore, there is no poetic justice.   Written as a response to the romantized Victorian novel, The Coral Island in which the civilized British boys prevail over the savage indigenous people who inhabit the island, Golding's message is that evil and savagery are inherent in all people, not just primitive ones.  This "beast" is not one that has been removed through the evolutionary process or through the process of civilization; it has only been controlled as the character Roger demonstrates when he first does not hit Henry, but later wields the pink granite rock that hurls Piggy to his death.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that a major point of the novel is that there really isn't justice in the world.  It is saying that human nature is fairly brutal and justice does not always prevail.  Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a lack of poetic justice in the novel.

At the end of the novel, there is nothing to imply that virtue is going to be rewarded and vice punished.  The naval officer does not seem to be trying to distinguish between the good and the bad.  He simply seems to think that they have all failed to be good Englishmen.

So I see no poetic justice in the book and I think that Golding does this to help make his point about human nature.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Poetic justice means that the "victim" got what he/she deserved because of some prior actions.  In order to answer your questions you need to think about the victims in the novel, and then you need to reveiw their actions and determine if they did anything that deserved punishment.

Victim:  Simon

Did Simon do anything to hurt others?  Did he do anything the night he died that deserved his being killed the way he was?  I would say no.  He was quiet and peaceful.  He helped the littluns get food.  He was quietly intelligent and came to an understanding of what was wrong on the island -- the boys own evil inside them was the beastie they all feared.  But he died before he could even share his insights.  He was killed because the boys were caught up in a frenzy at the feast and the subsequent reinactment.  He dies for no legitimate reason.  There is no poetic justice here.

Victim:  Piggy

Did Piggy hurt anyone? No.  He was actually one of the smartest boys on the island, but he was a bit whiney and immature.  He annoyed Jack with his talk and behavior, but he certainly never did anything to deserve being outright murdered by Jack's tribe.  His death, even more than Simon's, is an out-and-out premeditated murder.  There are no unusual circumstances surrounding that rock coming down on Piggy.  He had been physically and mentally abused through the whole novel.

 

lavendergreen's profile pic

lavendergreen | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The text is silent about the ultimate justice in Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'.  I too find this an exasperating part of the plot.  However, given that the recurring cry of Piggy is for a return to 'British values' I think that the reader should assume that Jack and his friends received some good British discipline upon their return home.

To answer this question in an academic text, if I were you I would refer to Piggy and his constant cry for justice (British rules and British justice) and to the fact that Ralph was saved by the British Navy.

The text is silent after Ralph's rescue, but what the reader must do is some 'inferential thinking' - and that is to assume that the Navy officer asked the boys what was going on, returned them to their respective homes, and that some good old-fashioned British justice was administered.

As well, don't forget the philosophical reflective - the boys must all live with the choices that they made on the island.

Perhaps only Ralph will be able to sleep at night.

 

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