What are the conflicts in Lord of the Flies?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Lord of the Flies contains multiple conflicts throughout the course of the novel.

Man vs. Nature: 

The boys are stranded on a deserted island and must fend for themselves.  Facing difficulties of building shelters, maintaining fire, surviving the elements and battling hunger, Ralph feels the pressure of being the chief of the tribe.  The first pivotal scene featuring man vs. nature in the novel occur when the boys' first fire becomes out of control and burns down the mountain; the littlun with the birthmark mysteriously disappears.  The second significant man vs. nature moment deals with Jack's desire to hunt and provide food for the tribe; his first vicious kill of the sow suggests his will to dominate and control, even over the natural elements.

Man vs. Man

Ralph and Jack vie for  power continuously throughout Lord of the Flies.  Even at the first tribal meeting when Jack wants to be voted in for chief and Ralph is chosen instead, the reader can sense Jack's disappointment and his ambition to be leader.  Jack continually challenges Ralph, even up to his final split from the tribe in Chapter Eight, "A Gift for the Darkness."  The novel culminates in the violent climax of the novel as Jack and the other boys hunt Ralph down in the jungle.  Samneric tell Ralph that Jack has "sharpened a stick at both ends," suggestive of Jack's plan to eliminate Ralph as threat permanently.

Man vs. Self

Simon realizes that the Beast on the island might be more than just a scary product of the littluns' imagination.  Early on, he guesses "maybe its us," which hints at Golding's larger theme of man's predilection for evil.  Simon's conversation with the Lord of the Flies confirms this idea, as the head taunts Simon:

"You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason it's no go?  Why things are what they are?" (143)

The boys' descent into savagery has Ralph and Simon both questioning their morals and ability to survive.  The boys' struggle to maintain their ties to civilization and keep their moral code is at the heart of Lord of the Flies.