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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What message does William Golding convey in Lord of the Flies and how?

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In Lord of the Flies, Golding conveys the idea that civilization and civility are fragile structures. As social norms break down on the island, Golding shows that humans harbor primal instincts that can make them behave savagely. The isolated setting of the island is meant to illustrate that a group of normal, generally well-behaved boys will revert to animalistic behavior when the rule of law is dissolved.

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The primary message that Golding is trying to convey throughout Lord of the Flies is that humans are inherently wicked, violent beings and will revert back to their primitive, savage instincts in an environment void of laws, restrictions, and order. Golding conveys this message by exploring the theme of civilization versus savagery, depicting the violent transformation of the civilized British schoolboys, and setting the story against the backdrop of a world war. Golding's personal experiences during WWII influenced his negative perception of humanity as he witnessed firsthand the destructive nature of mankind. The boys' harrowing, violent experience on the island is a microcosm of what is happening in the outside world.

In the story, Golding depicts the boys' significant transformation into savages by illustrating their refusal to follow Ralph's orders, their affinity for hunting pigs, and their complete disregard for the signal fire. Despite Ralph's attempt to establish a civil society, Jack undermines his authority and champions hunting pigs over completing essential tasks. Simon's enlightening interaction with the Lord of the Flies also conveys Golding's message and the true identity of the "beast" underscores his belief that all humans are inherently evil.

Important symbols like the signal fire, Piggy's glasses, and the conch shell gauge the boys' level of civility and depict their gradual regression. The reader recognizes that savagery reigns supreme once the signal fire goes out, Piggy's glasses are stolen, and the conch shell shatters. Under Jack's leadership, the boys paint their faces, develop a bloodlust, and contribute to the murders of Simon and Piggy.

By the end of the story, the savages hunt Ralph throughout the island and start a forest fire that threatens to destroy the entire island. The former innocent British schoolboys transform into bloodthirsty savages in an environment without adults, laws, and order. Their dramatic transformation and violent crimes convey Golding's main message that human beings are inherently wicked, violent beings and will embrace their primitive instincts if left to their own devices.

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Golding's message throughout the novel Lord of the Flies is that fear is the catalyst for violence and the destruction of civil societies. Fear is a major theme throughout the novel and is the reason behind the boys' loss of innocence. The boys fear what they do not understand, and Jack uses this fear to convince the majority of the boys to join his tribe. The boys fear the unknown "beastie" and look towards Jack and his hunters for protection. When Simon comes out of the forest, they mistake him for the beast and brutally murder him out of fear. Jack underminds Ralph's leadership by calling him a coward because he was scared to go first up the mountain to look for the beast. When Jack gains control of the boys, he uses fear and intimidation to control them. Golding draws comparisons to totalitarian governments who use similar methods to control their populations. Golding suggests that fear is an inherent quality in humans and portrays the damage irrational fears can have on individuals and society. 

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The message that Golding is trying to convey is that it is hard, if not impossible, for human beings to ultimately master their more primitive and savage instincts. Even when there is an attempt at maintaining order, civilized society and social co-operation, it is liable to break down. This idea of the primitive savage and anarchic tendencies of humans lying under a veneer of civilization is one that is common to much modern literature, particularly in the period around the two world wars and the specter of a potential nuclear holocaust. This, of course, is when Lord of the Flies was written.

Golding chooses to convey this message by portraying what happens when a marooned group of boys try to set up their own society. In the end, this valiant attempt is overrun by the forces of chaos when the violence of Jack and his hunting group takes over. Golding simply narrates what happens and doesn't make any direct statement of the theme. He lets the grim action of the book speak for itself and also inserts some symbolism in the form of the sow's head, the "Lord of the Flies" - a euphemism for the devil - which the visionary Simon imagines is speaking to him.

Although Golding focuses on boys rather than adults, what happens to the boys also mirrors what has happened in the world of adult civilization: they are marooned in the first place as the result of a global conflict.

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In Lord of the Flies, William Golding is conveying the message that human beings must have rules, authority and government in order to maintain a safe environment.

Left to their own, with freedom from discipline, rules, and governmental regulations, Jack and his tribal warriors return to animal instincts. They lose respect for human life. Jack and his boys are so free from control until they have lost their sense of right and wrong. They get carried away in the frenzy of the hunting dance until they attack Simon and kill him with their bare hands and teeth.

Likewise, Roger, one of the most vicious of Jack's hunters is losing his respect for human life and throws rocks at Piggy, thus sending him down to his death into the rocks below in the sea.

Without rules, authority and government, the boys become disorderly, vicious, and evil. Golding proves that mankind needs some form of government with authority figures enforcing the rules. Golding proves the utter chaos that can happen in a society which is not governed.

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What message is William Golding trying to convey in Lord of the Flies? How does he carry it out throughout the book?

In Lord of the Flies, William Golding reveals the frightening absurdity of barbaric human behavior that results from a lack of order and civilized thinking. Left alone on the island, the boys are certain to self-destruct. Through a detailed characterization of several young boys whose plane crashed on the island, Golding conveys humanity's tendency toward chaos. 

At first, the boys begin to build shelter and find food for survival. Ralph is the leader who realizes that he must keep a fire going to alert a passing ship of the boys’ need for rescue. Eventually, Ralph begins to feel that his efforts are futile because he cannot maintain order without the support of the arrogant choir leader, Jack. Ultimately, Jack becomes blood thirsty and strangely focused on hunting pigs. He loses all respect for human kind as he leads one group of the boys to challenge and attack the order or structure of civilization.

Golding contrasts Ralph and Jack to convey the message that dangerous chaos can result from a lack of authority. 

Throughout the story, Golding reveals Jack’s dangerous character through Jack’s evil obsessions and actions, which parallel the war being fought by adults in the larger world.

While isolated from civilization, the boys’ behavior leads to a dreary outcome. Golding examines mankind’s basic instinctive behavior to destroy itself. This is manifested in the actions of Jack and his hunters as they forget civility and plunge into savage, barbaric actions. No doubt, Golding, who has experienced the destructive behavior of mankind as he served in World War II, has come to the conclusion that society has a bleak future.

Through the contrasting of characters, Golding conveys that there is a clash between those who respect civilized human actions and those who lose any semblance of civilized, orderly, safe behavior. The novel is an examination of good versus evil. The various characters display opposite behaviors:

Ralph, Piggy, Simon, Sam and Eric see the need for order and civilization, while Jack and his hunters become obsessed with the ideas of finding meat and protecting the littluns from the beast.

Ultimately, the boys are divided and abandon safety and a desire to be rescued. Golding is conveying the message that mankind will destroy itself if left to the innate, barbaric savagery that is directly below the surface of human thinking. Human nature is not to be trusted. The atomic warfare going on all around the boys at this time proves that when mankind is left alone to carry out his destructive innate behaviors, civilization does not stand a chance. Hopefully, Golding’s message, a powerful truth, was shocking enough to cause mankind to sit up and pay attention to the destructive savagery that could cause mankind to cease to exist in any civilized manner. Golding proves this when Jack and Roger become murderers of their own choir school brothers. Things become so bleak on the island that even Ralph cries in the face of rescue. He realizes the naval officer represents the ideas of destruction through uncivilized atomic warfare and Ralph is not sure he wants to be rescued from the savagery that exists in mankind.  

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What is the writer's message in Lord of the Flies book?

Lord of the Flies' primary message focuses on the root of evil within humanity.  Golding uses the boys' struggle on the island away from the comfort of their parents and civilization to draw a picture why how things fall apart--one of the most revealing moments in the novel occurs during Simon's dialogue with the beast:

"Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! 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?”

Rather than being some outside force of evil on the island, the true nature of the beast , Simon realizes, is within the boys themselves--that human nature is essentially flawed.  Without the influence of law and civilization, the boys descend into savagery by the end of the novel.

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