In what ways does Lord of the Flies reflect real life, and in what ways does it not?What passages and particular details support the answer?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the novel Lord of the Flies ends with the naval officer, a commander in a war that involves savage acts, appearing as the representative of civilization that has arrived to save the boys, it is dubious if Golding believes that civilization can control the inherent evil in man, or that anything,for that matter, can control the evil men do:

"Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!" sid the head [of the pig].  For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter.  "You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you?  Close, close, close!  I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?"

Golding tells the reader in his allegory that the evil in man in innate.  Whether in civilization or on a paradisaical island, this inherent evil emerges.  The arm of Roger has merely been controlled by civilization--

Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins--

his arm has conditioned, but civilization has not eradicated the evil from Roger.  Removed from the conditioning, the sadistic nature of Roger is given full rein and he picks up the stone,"that token of preposterous time," and throws it at innocent little Henry by the seaside.  The evil was always present in Roger.  Even Ralph possesses this evil.  In Chapter Two as he realizes that the boys fall still and silent,

he feels awe at the power set free below them.  The knowledge and the awe made him savage.

Of course, later on when Ralph participates in the hunt, he becomes rather savage then, too.  This is why he cries when the officer appears, for he "wept for the end of innocence" as Jack

starts forward, then changed his mind and stood still.

Even as the officer turns away for the boys to recover themselves, he allows his eyes to rest upon the trim cruiser in the distance, a symbol of war, with its death and savagery, an action that reflects man's intrinsic nature. This portrayal of the inherent evil of man is Golding's allegorical way of reflecting life.  Art does, indeed, imitate life in Lord of the Flies.

ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In writing Lord of the Flies, Golding set out to examine the true nature of humans, and was determined to prove that, in stressful situations such as the one on the island, savage behavior would be the end result.  Golding chooses children as his subjects, and isolated them on an island with no authority figures, to further prove this point.

The novel reflects real life if we believe that any humans in similar circumstances would act in the same way the boys.  Many critics draw parallels between the boys in the novel and Sigmund Freud's layers of the human psyche--the id, ego, and superego.  According to Freud, the id represents a person's primal instincts and desires for his/her basic needs to be met;  the ego is the part of the personality concerned with rules imposed by society; and the super-ego is somewhat of a conscience.  When in balance, and in a well-rounded human, these three layers of the personality work together. However, under extreme stress, the balance is lost.  In Lord of the Flies, almost all of the boys, and Jack in particular, succumb to the id and display savage behavior; in a sense, they must do so once their survival instincts kick in.  Even Ralph, the reasonable, responsible leader who is overly-concerned with order and who acts in opposition to Jack, finds himself caught up in the excitement of a pig-hunt in Chapter 7.  In this regard, the novel reflects real life--or, theoretically, what might happen to people who they find themselves in desperate situations.

Obviously, the contrived setting and circumstances of the novel do not reflect real life.  The boys are victims of a plane crash that killed the pilot (the only adult on the flight), and they land on an uninhabited island.  As noted before, though, Golding chose this setting to further illustrate his point. 

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Lord of the Flies

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