Were the boys' actions in Lord of the Flies merely an attempt to survive in difficult conditions or acts of savagery?  Were the boys actions in Lord of the Flies merely an attempt to survive in...

Were the boys' actions in Lord of the Flies merely an attempt to survive in difficult conditions or acts of savagery?  

Were the boys actions in Lord of the Flies merely an attempt to survive in difficult conditions or acts of savagery?



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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that Jack and his boys have committed acts of savagery. When they kill the pig and then hang its head on a stick, they are apparently cruel. From the hunt to the actual killing of the pig, the boys are laughing and enjoying obvious cruelty:

While chasing the sow, she fell in the sand:

[The pig] squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror. Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his spear wherever pigflesh appeared. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgement for his point and began to push until he was leaning with his whole weight (his spear was up the sow's rectum). The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spurted over his hands.

Jack begins giggling. He flicked blood on the boys who laughed at his "reeking palms." Roger withdrew his spear and the boys noticed that his spear was up the sow's rectum. They began to cry with laughter. They are not merely killing this sow to survive. They are enjoying every minute of torture that they perform on the sow. The act of cruelty is reprehensible. It is one thing to kill the sow, but it is another to torture and torment the poor sow and then giggle and laugh as if it is not an unmerciful act.

No one is as cruel as Roger:

Roger is particularly cruel, driving in his spear slowly by leaning his weight upon it until the sow screams in agony.

Jack and his boys have become savages. They are cruel in their hunting. They laugh and giggle at their unnecessary cruelty. Their hunting is more than just survival in difficult times. They enjoy the pain and suffering the sow is going through. Then they take her head and put it on a stake. They do not properly dispose of the remains. They cheer and present the sow's head as if it were all a game.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think there is any way that you can really argue that their acts were merely an attempt to survive.  Ralph's efforts to lead and his efforts to keep the fire going did not threaten Jack and his gang's ability to survive. 

I suppose you could argue that they needed to stick together and feel a common purpose in order to survive.  If you believe that, then maybe Ralph and Piggy served as a common enemy to give the rest of the boys a feeling of solidarity and belonging.  Fighting Ralph's group and killing some of them, in this view, would be a way of pulling the boys together so they could survive.

I don't really buy that, but if I were required to argue that they were just trying to survive, that's what I'd say.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main point of Golding's allegory is the demonstration of how man is intrinsically flawed, even evil.  This is exemplified throughout the narrative, beginning with Roger's sadistic desire to harm little Henry, who sits innocently by the seashore playing with the little crabs that run back and forth:

Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.

Later in the plot, Roger has lost this conditioning as he sadistically laughs as he pushes the huge granite boulder off onto Piggy's head, sending him hurling to the ocean.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with post #2 with that great example.  I think it is important to consider that the boys original motivation is survival -- pigs are food.  But the fear of the "beast" and the thrill of the hunt and kill send the boys to another psychological place where their actions turned savage.  They feel powerless in their situation (alone on the island with no adults and rescue) but the killing of the pigs gives them a sense of power and control over their situation.  It doesn't make the actions less savage, but it makes them understandable.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since the objective of the author is to illustrate--in a rather brutal way--that raw human nature is prone to savagery more than to enlightenment, it would be very difficult to defend an argument that the boys were only trying to survive. The immoral and savage scramble for power and tyranny rose to the fore on the island just as it does anywhere else, the difference being that Golding isolated it for examination.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with other editors. The allegorical nature of this text is made explicit in numerous locations of the novel. The beauty or genius of this work is the way in which Golding has devised a setting where man's true nature can show itself, free from the various restrictions or checks of civilisation. Without adults to be accountable to, the boys show themselves to be little better than savages or animals.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Out-and-out murder is usually not an act of survival, and the torture that Jack and his boys used on various boys and animals was unnecessarily cruel. Their attempt to kill Ralph was nothing short of premeditated murder--an attempt to rid Jack of the final threat to his dominance. Most of the violence had nothing to do with survivial, but, instead, to the blood lust to which many of the boys succumbed.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first murder on the island is accidental--the burning of the birthmarked boy in the runaway fire. Jack is reluctant to use his knife at first, but soon he is crawling around on the ground sniffing pig droppings so he can kill pigs. It's a matter of desensitization as well as savagery. The joy with which Jack and the others kill and hurt people says it's savagery more than survival.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think that it was neither survival nor savagery, exactly. It was groupthink an mob mentality. When. People get in groups, especially children, their individual sense of right and wrong is replaced with the anonymity of the group, and the group's motivations. People in groups often say they didn't think, they just did what everyone else did.
Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although many of the boys' acts were defensible acts of survival, like killing the pigs, Jack and Roger crossed the line, especially in the death of Piggy, the torture of Wilfred, the torture of Samneric, and the manhunt to kill Ralph.  Jack's tribe became more about domination and control than mere survival.

valie77 | Student

i think that jack and his friendsare savages where as piggy and simon are just trying to survive !!!

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Lord of the Flies

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