Discuss how the author of Lord of the Flies uses a fictional society to convey important ideas about mankind and society in general.  In some literary works such as setting, the author creates a...

Discuss how the author of Lord of the Flies uses a fictional society to convey important ideas about mankind and society in general.


In some literary works such as setting, the author creates a unique society or community in order to make an important point about humanity.  What is Golding's point?

- Be sure to clearly identify the “important ideas” they express.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the writings of the French philosopher Henri Rousseau, there is the concept of the "noble savage"; that is, Rousseau contends, man is born innocent, but it is society that corrupts him.  In a 1988 movie entitled Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger portrays such a novle savage; he is a young man who has spent his life on a beautiful tropical island far from any society, and he has remained ingenuous.

However, in Golding's allegory, the boys who are removed from the corruption of society do not remain innocent and good.  Instead, many of them degenerate into savages, an occurrence that suggests the concept that within man there lies an intrinsic evil. This intrinsic evil is represented in the novel as the pig's head that is given the nomenclature "lord of the flies," who is Beelezebub. 

This degeneration of the boys comes about as the vestiges of society disappear.  That is, as their hair grows longer and they remove their shoes and shirts, the boys become less concerned about their appearance as well as the other trappings of society.  Bereft of any adult influence, the small ones cry and huddle together for security.   In Chapter Four, the sadistic Roger whose arm is controlled "by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins," picks up stones ["that token of preposterous time"] and throws them all around little Henry who sits at the water's edge, playing with the little crabs that wash in.  The aggressive Jack has made a mask from charcoal stick and white and red clay.  At first, Jack's "breathing toubled the mirror" when he looks at his reflection; however, after a while he sees "an awesome stranger."  He leeps to his feet, and he laughs with excitement and "liberation from shame."  Jack's savage nature is set free.  And, when the others see him, "[T]he mask compelled them." 

Later, Jack's brute force, along with Roger and his sadistic proclivities,  is given free rein by his intimidation which allows him to control the boys who join the hunters.  When Piggy appeals to reason, Jack always replies with force as an action.  He smacks Piggy and breaks his glasses, signifying the breakdown in reason.  For instance, in their meeting about the "beast" that they have seen on one of the mountains, Jack insists that he and the other hunters can kill it.  And, after he has intuitively realized the existence of of evil in the boys, Simon vainly tries to communicate this knowledge; he "became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind's essential illness."  But, before he can articulate his message, the sinister Jack and the other hunters, bludgeon Simon to death and beat the boys who do not wish to comply with orders.

Finally, Jack and the hunters capture the fire, the element which represents rescue, and the "half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life."  The "lord of the flies" knows that the adult world does not possess enough order to conquer the evil that the boys do.  After all, the warship that comes and the naval officer--the adult world--lack something of civilization themselves.

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Lord of the Flies

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