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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Explain the societal conflict in Lord of The Flies, comparing the island and the civilized world.

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In the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Jack appears to be at the head of one type of society and Ralph at the head of the other. It seems that Jack's society represents a hedonistic, selfish "every man for himself" kind of society where the boys indulge their own impluses and drives to have fun and pursue bloodthirsty sports. This they do even at the expense of ensuring shelter and structure. Ralph's society (as he would like to see it) involves prudent forward planning, putting selfish leisure pursuits aside to make enough time for survival strategies such as shelter building, fresh water and rescue beacons - Piggy endorses this and they both look out for the vulnerable too in protecting the littluns.

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Perhaps the most telling passage of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is in the description of the actions of the character Roger, the "slight furtive boy whom no one knew":

When Henry tired of his play and wandered off along the beach, Roger followed him, keeping beneath the palms and drifting casually in the same direction....Roger stooped, pickd up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry--threw it to miss.  The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounced five yards to Henry's right and fell in the water....there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dared 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.

This passage about the sadistic Roger illuminates the struggle that a civilized world has against the innate evil in the nature of man.  For, once the trappings of society are removed, or masked, as they first are on the island, man easily degenerates to his inherently evil nature.  In another passage, when Jack first smears on the colored clay and turns his half-concealed face to Roger, "Roger understood and nodded gravely."  For, the mask "liberated from shame and self-consciousness" the rules of society.

That society in a civilized world is not, of itself, good either is evidenced by the "parents, schools, policemen, and law" that must condition and recondition people.  This fact is symbolized by the naval officer who rescues Ralph as he is "a little embarrassed" and turns his eyes to "rest on the trim cuiser in the distance," the warship. 

Without the restraints of a civilized world--those trappings in the form of the rational and more mature Piggy who is killed by the sadistic Roger--there is anarchy and evil.  Only Simon recognizeds the innate evil in the boys, represented by Roger "whom no one knew," who wields the rock, the symbol of "preposterous time."  But, Simon cannot communicate this knowledge of evil, and he, too, is killed by the hunters of whom Roger is a part.


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