What is the theme of freedom and loss of innocence in Lord of the Flies?

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The book is about a group of boys who end up stranded on a deserted island in the middle of a war when their plane crashes.  They have no adults, since the only adults die in the plane crash and no one knows where they are.  The theme of freedom...

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The book is about a group of boys who end up stranded on a deserted island in the middle of a war when their plane crashes.  They have no adults, since the only adults die in the plane crash and no one knows where they are.  The theme of freedom and loss of innocence is explored by the boys’ reaction to their situation. 

The boys have to set up a little society on their island.  They begin by electing a leader.  They choose Ralph because he found a conch shell and blew it, bringing them all together.  This symbolic leadership is all they have.  

They obeyed the summons of the conch, partly because Ralph blew it, and he was big enough to be a link with the adult world of authority; and partly because they enjoyed the entertainment of the assemblies. But otherwise they seldom bothered with the biguns and their passionately emotional and corporate life was their own. (Ch. 4) 

Ralph has trouble keeping everyone in line. He can’t get things accomplished.  He wants to get a signal fire going and tended.  He wants to get shelters built.  He wants to keep the boys together and organized.  Unfortunately, it is sort of like herding cats.  The older ones are uncooperative and the younger ones are ditzy. 

The other complication in the boys’ efforts to enjoy their freedom, and directly related to their loss of innocence, is the contrasting personalities of Jack and Ralph.  Ralph wants order and democracy.  Jack wants adventure and control.  Ralph tries to placate him by assigning him the leader of the hunters, but this is the beginning of the end for the boys. 

The descent into anarchy and loss of innocence the boys experience is a direct result of their inability to compromise.  Jack and Ralph cannot agree, and Ralph has no leadership skills to speak of.  The hunts for the pig become more and more violent.  The boys begin celebrating with pig dances.

Then Maurice pretended to be the pig and ran squealing into the center, and the hunters, circling still, pretended to beat him. As they danced, they sang.

“Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in.”

Ralph watched them, envious and resentful. (Ch. 4) 

Especially as war paint gets involved, the pig hunts become symbolic of the lifestyle the boys are turning to.  It is less about democracy and maintaining order, and more about the fun of the hunt, the taste of the meat, and the pull of the savagery.  The first time the dance gets out of hand, the boys kill Simon imagining he is the Beastie.

After the death of Simon, the schism is complete and Ralph knows he has lost.  Any connection to the civilized world, and the innocent nature of the boys' past, is gone.  By the time Piggy is killed, it is not much of a shock to the reader.

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