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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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In Lord of the Flies, why do the boys rarely listen to Piggy despite his useful ideas, and how does Golding use Piggy to advance the novel's themes?

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Piggy is by far the most intelligent, rational boy on the island and vehemently supports Ralph's leadership. Piggy attempts to solve problems pragmatically and offers several logical solutions to improve the standard of living on the island. Piggy suggests that they make a list of names, supports Ralph's rule regarding the conch, and attempts to logically solve the problem concerning the beast's identity.

Piggy also suggests that they make a sundial, continually reminds Ralph about the importance of a signal fire, and even proposes that they start a new fire by the platform instead of on the top of the mountain. Piggy's character symbolically represents knowledge, rational thought, and civility, but he is continually criticized, mocked, and ridiculed by the other boys on the island.

One of the primary reasons Piggy is ridiculed by the other boys concerns his physical appearance. Piggy is unattractive, significantly overweight, and out of shape. Piggy is also rather annoying and is continually voicing his opinion on every subject. He constantly argues with Jack and chastises the boys for disobeying Ralph. The conflict between Piggy and Jack advances Golding's theme regarding civilization versus savagery.

Piggy's character represents civilization while Jack and his hunters represent savagery. Their ongoing conflict highlights Golding's theme, and Piggy's death illustrates Golding's underlying message regarding mankind's inherent savagery. In the story, Golding suggests that humanity's primitive, savage nature will flourish in an environment without rules and regulations.

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When Ralph realizes that he is on what resembles Ballatyne's Coral Island, he is thrilled, casting off his clothes in a gesture symbolic of his rejection of the restrictions of the life at the boys' school from which he has been evacuated. But, it is the voice of reason in Piggy, who immediately is concerned that order be established. However, he is ineffectual at creating this order because of his physical appearance--he has thinning hair like an older man, and also more like an older man, he is fat--and because it is Ralph who finds the conch and blows it, summoning the other boys. Moreover, Ralph seems more suited to the role of leader because he is "the golden boy," handsome, confident, and appealing as a model to the others, while Piggy is intimidated by the appearance of the red-haired Jack Merridew, leader of the choir in his formidable black uniform.

Along with Piggy's physical appearance which works against him, there is his apparent weakness as evinced by his intimidation of Jack. Certainly, with his asthma and extra weight, he cannot compete against the more athletic boys such as Ralph and Jack. For, example, when the boys make a rescue fire, Piggy arrives too late to assist with this work. And, while he is more rational than the others, he is unable to put into action some of his more reasonable ideas because Jack heckles him, telling him such things as that the conch has no significance on the mountain, thus undermining Piggy's authority to speak. Later, he berates Piggy when he criticizes both him and Ralph in Chapter Eight,

“[Ralph is] like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief.”

Jack alludes to Piggy's criticisms of the "small fire" that got out of hand, and other disparaging remarks that he makes after something has happened. Besides Piggy's negativity, the indiscriminate power of brute force works against Piggy. For, the young boys ignore Piggy's warnings and urgings because the stronger Jack intimidates them; Jack cruelly takes Piggy's glasses from him; and even Ralph succumbs to the seduction of the hunt, leaving Piggy alone.

Certainly, the "white magic" of the conch does not maintain order on the island. Later, Piggy and Ralph talk with one another. Ralph asks in Chapter Eight,

"…I mean…what makes things break up like they do?
Piggy rubbed his glasses slowly and thought […].
"I dunno, Ralph. I expect it's him."
"Jack." A taboo was evolving round that word too.
Ralph nodded solemnly.
"Yes," he said, "I suppose it must be."

 But, it is not Jack alone who is the reason that Piggy and Ralph are ineffectual. There is a rebellion in the boys against authority and science, which Piggy represents with his rational thinking, older appearance, and glasses. Without any accepted symbols for authority, the boys attempt to use the conch, but the rebellious Jack and the sadistic Roger ignore such things as the conch and Piggy's glasses and adult appearance.  As Simon discerns, it is the "beast" within them that drives the boys to act as they do, the inherent evil in their human nature. Indeed, it is this inherent evil which the rules of society no longer deter that drives Roger to ignore Piggy as he urges the hunters to stop their savage actions and, instead, unleash his sadism by unleashing the granite rock upon Piggy, hurling him down the mountain into the bloody water, representing the end of reason and foreshadowing the bloody injuries and murderous attempts upon Ralph.

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Piggy is the perfect bully-victim archetype. Golding paints him as the typical sort on which bullies apparently seem to thrive. He is obviously overweight, wears glasses, is not physically agile and has a health condition. Furthermore, his repeated references to his aunt, his 'ass-mar' and the fact that he insists on not being called 'Piggy' makes him an object of the boys' mockery. It is for these reasons that he does not gain the respect which is, in fact, his due. Golding uses Piggy to emphasize society's obsession with the strong and its philosophy of 'only the fittest survive.' His death later further epitomizes this approach.     

Piggy is a realist and he uses reason to figure things out. The boys, on the other hand, do not think ahead. They are impulsive and seek only pleasure. It is for this reason that most of them neglect their tasks. The fact that Piggy regularly moans about their ill-discipline and lack of commitment makes him a further target for their abuse. He is generally seen as a nag. The boys resent his adult approach for they wish to be free of that kind of authority. Although he recognizes the danger of an existence without authority, the other boys, especially Jack, do not have the same depth of thought.

Golding uses Piggy as a symbol for order and stability. He acts as a foil to the other boys who lack the desire to maintain a civilized existence as much as he does. In this, the author satirizes the contrasts in human society. Those who seek order and discipline are mostly opposed by the malevolent forces which thrive on chaos and destruction. Piggy seeks rescue and desires a saviour, whilst the other boys are careless and live on instinct. They are driven by an innate lust to hurt and to maim. As such, they become savages.  

Furthermore, even though Piggy is seen as a nuisance by the other boys, it is his presence that creates, at least, a semblance of civilization on the island. He advises Ralph who sometimes responds to his guidance and passes this on to the other boys. Piggy also provides him with some foundation and strengthens his crumbling leadership. 

Piggy's death signifies a dramatic turning-point in the novel. With his demise, chaos takes the upper-hand. Ralph is left vulnerable and Jack and his savages begin hunting him as if he were an animal. Ironically, it is the arrival of an adult, another symbol of authority, that restores order.

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Of all the characters, it is Piggy who most often has useful ideas and sees the correct way for the boys to organize themselves. Yet the other boys rarely listen to him and frequently abuse him. Why do you think this is the case? In what ways does Golding use Piggy to advance the novel's themes?

Piggy is by far the most intelligent, organized boy on the island. He is also a proponent of civility and a loyal supporter of Ralph. Piggy continually comes up with brilliant ideas that would increase the boys' chances of survival on the island and contribute to establishing a civil society. Unfortunately, Piggy is physically weak, overweight, and extremely annoying. The other boys find Piggy to be an easy target and constantly pick on him. They are not intimidated by Piggy, and they find his nagging to be irritating. Jack continually argues with Piggy, interrupts him when he is speaking, and even physically strikes him. Essentially, the boys have no respect for Piggy, because of his physical weakness and irritating personality.

Golding utilizes Piggy's character to emphasize the theme of civility versus savagery. Piggy symbolically represents society, democracy, and rationality, while Jack represents savagery, inherent wickedness, and anarchy, which are completely different sets of ideals. Through Piggy and Jack's conflict, Golding highlights the struggle between civility and savagery, which symbolically represents the duality of human nature. Piggy's character is also used to emphasize the importance of civility as well as to provide a gauge to track the boys' descent into savagery. Piggy's character is also closely associated with the conch, which is an important symbol of civility. Piggy carries the conch wherever he goes and holds it in high esteem. Despite Piggy's affinity for the conch, Jack refuses to obey it, and it is eventually destroyed when Piggy is brutally murdered. Piggy's death and the destruction of the conch represent the point of no return, as the island erupts into chaos.

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Of all the characters, it is Piggy who most often has useful ideas and sees the correct way for the boys to organize themselves. Yet the other boys rarely listen to him and frequently abuse him. Why do you think this is the case? In what ways does Golding use Piggy to advance the novel's themes?

Piggy is overweight, asthmatic, and even when he offers good advice, it sounds preachy coming from him. Ralph and Jack, on the other hand, are lanky, in shape, charismatic, and commanding. They have typical leadership qualities. And they also appeal to the boys' superficial understanding of what a leader should look and sound like. So, Piggy is mistreated because of his appearance. He is physically weak and soft. As a leader, he has the right answers, but throughout his life, he has been picked on. So, his mentality in offering advice usually comes out frustrated and conciliatory rather than in the commanding way that Jack and Ralph speak. 

Ralph leads by fairness and confidence. Jack leads by intimidation and arrogance. Both boys also have the physical and athletic qualities young boys look up to and admire. Piggy has none of these qualities. So, it is for mostly superficial reasons that Piggy is not treated with the same respect. And as a result of being picked on, Piggy addresses the others with more of a sense of pleading than commanding. Even though he is the most intelligent and reasonable boy of the bunch, his physical appearance and personal quirks strike most of the boys as signs of weakness. 

If the other boys were more reasonable, they would listen to Piggy. As they devolve into more savage behavior, they become even less likely to listen to Piggy. Note the transition from organization to chaos as a parallel to Piggy's demise. First, he loses one lens of his glasses, then another. He becomes more weak, less able to see. The other boys "see" him as this weakening character. 

The theme of how quickly civilized people can devolve into violence is illustrated in the progressive way the boys treat Piggy. At first, they at least listen to some of his ideas (the conch), but as the story goes on, he seems weaker and more ineffectual in their eyes. As the boys lose interest in reason and organization, they also lose interest and any respect they may have had in the reasonable, organized boy: Piggy. 

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Of all the characters in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Piggy is the one who most often has useful ideas and perceives the most logical way in which the boys should organize themselves; yet the other boys rarely listen to him and frequently abuse him. Why?  

It is true that Piggy is the most intellectual and logical of all the characters in William Golding's Lord of the Flies; it is also true that the boys listen to him less than any other character in the novel. Though these are all proper English schoolboys who are accustomed to obeying rules and acting with decorum, they are also just boys who are now on an island where there are no rules and no grownups to scold them if they are unkind. 

Though Piggy is a good thinker, he is also a perfect target for ridicule and abuse by his peers. He is fat, has asthma, and wears thick glasses, just to start. On top of that he wants to organize everyone, and it is clear that these boys are too impatient for that--especially Jack. Piggy is simply trying to repeat every boy's name when he is interrupted. “You’re talking too much,” said Jack Merridew. “Shut up, Fatty.”

Clearly Jack feels nothing disdain for Piggy, and by calling him "Fatty" we understand that Jack feels this way because of how Piggy looks. On the other hand, the boys vote for Ralph primarily because he looks like a leader to them. Just as Ralph does nothing to earn a position of leadership, so Piggy has done nothing to earn the boys' disdain. 

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