Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What early signs does the reader see that society is breaking down and the boys' attempts at civilization are not working?

Yes, the reader sees the boys' attempts at civilization are not working. The reason being they are breaking the rules they set up.

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If one is asking about the boys' tentative attemts at forming a society on the island and not society at large, there are plenty of examples: physically the boys' hair along with their clothes have become ragged and dirty, their toilet habits have come carelessly close to their bathing area, they...

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have stopped almost all work on their living quarters and the schedule thatRalph has set up for maintaining the rescue fire is not being followed.

Mentally, the best example to give would be the rock throwing incident between the littleun and  Roger. The line between civilization and anarchy- good vs evil - is getting thinner.  The old rules of Mr. Policeman and Misses Teacher are becoming fainter. Thus, the rule of "Don't throw rocks at people!" is barely remembered, but still there. As that rule and others that keep the inner beast at bay are forgotten, and as more time passes by on the island, beware, the rocks will start to strike the bodies. 

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You want the early signs only? Well, these start on the first page: the fact that the boys are stranded alone on the island, without adults. Almost as soon, you get the fact that they heard rumors of war, perhaps atomic. This is followed by the world seeming to turn upside down—Ralph standing on his head—and then by almost all the first details. (Things fall apart very quickly.) To list just a few of them, Ralph, Jack, and Simon follow a trail made by animals as they explore the island (following in the footsteps of animals). Ralph establishes the rule that only the boy holding the conch may speak—but immediately violates it. They start a fire to signal ships—but can't maintain group focus long enough, and it gets out of control, much as the entire situation and their less civilized drives will.


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