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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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Lord Of The Flies Civilization Vs Savagery Quotes

What are three examples in Lord of the the Flies that support the theme of Christianity/Civilization and Savagery?

The theme of civilization vs. savagery is explored through many scenes and symbols throughout the novel—obviously, "savagery" becomes more prominent over the course of the book. Two objects that initially symbolize civilization are the conch and Piggy's glasses, both of which are eventually shattered. The boys' descent into savagery is also depicted by the levels of violence they perpetrate against each other. In chapter 4, Roger throws rocks at littluns, aiming to miss, since he doesn't want to actually hurt anybody; but, by chapter 9, the boys are bloodthirsty, and they brutally descend on Simon and take his life. 

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1. In chapter 4, Roger spots several littluns playing in the sand on the beach and begins to throw stones in their direction. Interestingly, Roger purposely aims to miss. Golding writes,

"Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins" (87).

At this point in the novel, the boys have not completely descended into savagery and are still heavily influenced by civilization. Essentially, Roger aims to miss because he is "conditioned" by society to not throw stones at other people, because it is wrong. As the novel progresses, the boys become increasingly savage and unapologetically satisfy their primitive desires.

2. Later on, Jack takes a significant step towards becoming a complete "savage" by painting his face. Golding writes,

"Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness" (89).

The mask allows Jack and the other hunters to feel unashamed of their actions as they begin acting like brutal savages. The terrible sight of the mask correlates with the barbaric behavior of Jack and his hunters. With the inception of the painted masks, the boys rapidly descend into savagery.

3. Towards the end of chapter 9, Jack and his hunters work themselves into a frenzy as a tropical storm hits the island. The boys mistake Simon for the beast and brutally attack him as he crawls onto the beach. Golding writes,

"The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws" (222).

The brutal nature of Simon's death signifies the loss of civility on the island and illustrates the point of no return. The boys have completely descended into savagery by murdering Simon. This scene depicts the savage nature and inherent wickedness of each boy on the island, which supports the theme of savagery throughout the novel.

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Civilization Examples from Lord of the Flies:

I centered all three of the civilization examples around the symbolism of the conch. 

1. Ralph establishes rules in their meeting:

"If I blow the conch and they don't come back;"And another thing. We can't have everybody talking at once. We'll have to have 'Hands up' like at school" (33).

In this scene, Ralph established the conch as the symbol for order and civilization.  He uses the shell as an icon in their meetings for taking turns and speaking.  The power of the conch calls the boys to assembly and then maintains order during the meeting.  The boys treat it reverently, many of them remembering back to the first day when it called them all together.  They treated Ralph and the conch with "the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones" (18).

2. Scene when Jack and the other boys challenge the rules and leave the meeting to hunt the beast in chapter six:


"If I blow the conch and they don't come back; then we've had it.  We shan't keep the fire going.  We'll be like animals. We'll never be rescued" (93).  


This quote really reveals Ralph's perception of the relationship between the conch, the fire, and rescue.  He connects the idea of maintaining order through the conch to the consistent maintenance of a signal fire.  For Ralph, all of these ideas represent attempts to reconnect to civilization; he fears the other boys', particularly Jack's, easy drift toward the savage hunting lifestyle.

3. Piggy's Death at Castle Rock

"By him stood Piggy still hodling out the talisman, the fragile, shining beauty of the shell," but when Roger sends the boulder crashing into Piggy, "the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist (180-181).

Golding uses the conch throughout the novel as a symbol for the fragility of civilization.  In Lord of the Flies, maintaining order and law among the boys requires a delicate, careful balance. Roger's easy destruction of the conch reflects Golding's belief that savagery and violence can quickly disrupt or even destroy civilization.  Piggy's tragic death and the conch's destruction signals the end of any attempt at civilization on the island and reinforces the dominant role of violence and savagery in the boys' new lifestyle.

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