Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
Start Your Free Trial

At what point did the boys descend into savagery in Lord of the Flies? Explain the event.

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write8,951 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

I would argue that once the boys go off on a pig hunt, then it's pretty much downhill from there. It's not so much the hunting that's the problem; after all, the boys do need to eat. It's that they actually seem to enjoy inflicting suffering on a harmless animal. There's a real sense of bloodlust involved, as if the boys are not so much concerned with the mundane business of finding something to eat, but killing pigs just for the sheer fun of it. The irony is that one certainly can't imagine so-called savages—the insulting term given by the white man to indigenous people—acting this way.

It doesn't automatically follow that once the boys develop a taste for pig's blood they'll descend into outright savagery, but in retrospect that's exactly what appears to have happened. Once the boys have established in their own minds that the shedding of blood is an enjoyable activity, then it's almost inevitable that the time will come when killing animals won't be enough to satisfy their sadistic cravings. Only human blood will do.

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial
Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write2,471 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Lord of the Flies, Golding deliberately develops the boys' descent into savagery slowly, as to reveal the dangerous and seductive nature of giving over to base urges and animalistic desires.  The boys arrive on the island as proper English school boys, complete in their privage school uniforms and choir togs, but even during their first day on the island, the reader can see how the environment of the island challenges the boys' former preconceptions of proper social behavior.  For example, the oppressive heat immediately has the boys stripping out of their school clothes to be more comfortable; in normal society, running around naked would be strictly taboo, but on the island, of course, the boys begin to accept their nudity as a practical matter. 

The boys' shedding their clothes is the first major indicator of their transformation into savages, but perhaps the most shocking example of true savagery occurs in Chapter Eight, "Gift for the Darkness," as the hunters ruthlessly and violently hunt and kill the sow.  Hunting in itself is not an indicator of true savagery, but the boys' violent actions, exultation, and sheer enjoyment of the brutality during the act suggests that they have completely transformed into violent savages.  The boys feel an inherent thrill as they stalk their victim during the hunt and work themselves practically into a frenzy as they jab their spears at the sow.  Roger, particularly, derives enjoyment from the sows' shrill squeal as he drives his spear in further.  The shocking blood-lust demonstrated by Jack, Roger, and the other hunters not only reveals their true savage natures, but also foreshadows future scenes of death, such as Simon's tragic end.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now