Novel Review Paper on Lord of the Flies

In William Golding's 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding expresses post-World War II feelings by portraying ideas conjured from the war. Though the ’50s, being the aftermath era of World War II, are coined the “Golden Age,” the reality was that globally, political structures were in shambles, economies were in turmoil, war trials were ongoing, and the world was still recuperating from the significant loss of life and horrors from World War II. Although controversial, Golding accurately depicts post-World War II feelings of human nature being inherently evil through the use of fictional children. However, Steve Taylor, a psychologist writer for PsychologyToday, disagrees with Golding in his article, "An Alternative View” that “the "good" side of our nature is much more deep-rooted than the “evil" side." (par.9) Taylor, explains throughout his article on how human nature has a history of being egalitarian in its social structures and how only in the new aspect of human history have only these "evil" tendencies and dark natures been shown. Nonetheless, Golding’s claim prevails as he portrays in his Lord of the Flies, on how competition among groups can lead to wickedness and savagery; competition being just as deep-rooted and preceding in our nature just as any other living organism in the natural world. The example of Lord of the Flies expands on the notion that human nature has a history of being inherently selfish and "evil."
Historically, philosophical thinkers have always juggled with the perception of human nature. Through Socrates, John Locke, and even Robert Stevenson, in his 1886 novel, Jekyll and Hyde, have ideas such as inherent greed and the duality of man been at play. Furthermore, only after the toll from both World Wars were these ideas on human nature rejuvenated again globally, due to the mass deaths and horrors reaped from the wars. It was out of this that Golding chose to write his 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, to convey the message of the brutality of humanity and how innate it is in our nature to be malicious. For, through the use of repurposing R. M. Ballantyne's novel, The Coral Island, did Golding apply post-World War II thought onto his take of how the reality of the "Coral Island" situation would play out, and thus Lord of the Flies was born. (Presley)
In this novel, Golding utilizes Jack to represent the evil nature of humanity, a direct counterpart to Ralph’s symbolism of order and civil structure. Throughout the novel, Golding depicts Jack to be the most dynamic character; Jack experiences the most character development out of all the others as he is shown to be twisted, corrupt, violent, and power lusting. Golding’s portrayal of Jack’s descent into chaos can be seen in his description of the bonfire dance: "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. .... The mask compelled them." (Golding 65)
Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies, has taken to great success since its first publication back in 1954. Since then, the novel has been challenged by international school boards for its controversial themes and labelled blasphemy. (Banned Library) Though coined a “banned book” the education continues to recycle Lord of the Flies through English courses as it introduces the "duality of man" ideal and brings light to how literature was affected by the WWII era. Nonetheless, Golding has influenced millions and left behind a legacy, as mentioned in his bibliography:
First published in 1954, this classic novel has sold millions of copies worldwide (more than 25 million in English alone). It has been translated into all the major languages, and many minor ones (Georgian, Basque, Catalan). It has been adapted for radio, made into two films, dramatized for the stage by Nigel Williams and in an innovative ballet by Matthew Bourne. (Lord of the Flies [B])
Stemming from his success, Golding received a Nobel Prize in 1983 for his novel Lord of the Flies. Furthermore, since 1955, Golding has been a member of the Royal Society of Literature and has received several awards. (Swedish Academy 14) Golding also won the Booker Prize Award and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. (Lord of the Flies [B]) His work became popularized due to his controversial and dark themes, yet also because of his skillful writing. The Nobel Prize also explains how Golding’s history attributes to his novel by stating:
In one of his essays, he describes how, as a young man, he took an optimistic view of existence. He believed that man would be able to perfect himself by improving society and eventually doing away with all social evil. His optimism was akin to that of other utopians, for instance, H.G. Wells. The second world war changed his outlook. He discovered what one human being is really able to do to another. (Swedish Academy 4)
Through his own traumatic experiences, Golding utilized symbols throughout his novel, Lord of the Flies, to communicate and critique on how human nature is inherently evil.
One of the symbols, Golding utilizes to convey the inherently evil human nature is that of “The Signal Fire” in Lord of the Flies. Golding uses the signal fire to convey hope, which is something that the antagonist, Jack, is trying to destroy throughout the novel. In the novel, the sensible protagonist, Ralph, stresses the importance of the signal fire to the group of boys:
The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going? Is a fire too much for us to make? Look at us! How many are we? And yet we can’t keep a fire going to make smoke. Don’t you understand? Can’t you see we ought to-- ought to die before we let the fire out? (Golding 80)
Here, Ralph attempts to reason with Jack and the boys, about the significance of the signal fire, along with the correlation between keeping the fire stoked and imminent rescue. Ralph also confronts Jack about his priorities and begins to understand that Jack and his hunters aren’t going to be reliable with their responsibility attributing to rescue. Later on, Jack continues to not provide for the group and undermines Ralph which inevitably lets the fire die out, condemning the group, leading to Ralph angrily stating, “‘There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!” He took a step toward Jack, who turned and faced him.”’ (Golding 99) Once again, Golding reveals that Jack has been occupying himself with hunting instead of tending the signal fire like he was instructed to do by "Chief" Ralph. It is through this crisis that Golding depicts the shift in power, where Jack has more leverage over the group of boys than Ralph, and it is through this that it becomes clear to Ralph that rescue is not coming anytime soon, and all hope is lost. Furthermore, it increasingly becomes more and more evident on how Ralph's attempts to keep the group together is growing evermore futile, as literary academic Trent Lorcher writes:
The fire, initially, is important in the novel. As the boys grow more savage, the fire becomes less important to them. Jack and the hunters let the fire go out in order to hunt. Ralph’s effort to keep the fire going are consistent but unsuccessful, in the same way, his efforts to restore order are unsuccessful. At times the signal fire rages out of control, symbolic of the boys themselves. (Lorcher 5)
In this quote, Lorcher supports the argument by commenting on how initially the signal fire is essential to all of the boys, but over time it becomes less critical as Jack takes power and reprioritizes the survival needs. Lorcher also makes the connection to how the boys are similar to the wildfire that broke out, as both are destructive and chaotic, smothering out all remaining hope. Golding demonstrates the boy's destructive chaos when the Mulberry Littlun dies in the wildfire that the boys started and everyone acts indifferently about the grim situation, revealing that death does not come as a shock to them anymore. (Golding 64) Overall, Golding effectively uses symbolism to express the destructive nature of mankind.
Another symbol, Golding uses to demonstrate the idea of an inherently destructive human nature is that of “The Scar” in Lord of the Flies. In Golding’s depiction of “The Scar”, he demonstrates how mankind, being the plane crash, destroys nature and paradise, being the island. Again, it becomes increasingly more evident when Golding writes, “All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another (Golding 7) Here it can be seen how not only the life living on the island was affected by the boy's plane crash, as shown by the crying bird, but it is also alluded to through personifying The Island, it too was damaged and “scarred" by the boy’s arrival. Furthermore, this is similar to how after World War II, the imagery of the war, scarred the soldiers returning home, coinciding with the rest of the recovering world. Even more so, Golding supports his own argument that humans have an innate cause for destructive behavior towards nature, leaving a long-lasting mark wherever "they encroach". Similarly to how, like “The Scar" on The Island was permanent, reminiscent of the boy’s arrival, the horrors of World War II would always be a permanent reminder to the world, encapsulating humanity's innate savagery.
Another symbol, Golding uses to demonstrate the idea of an inherently savage human nature is that of “The Beast” in Lord of the Flies. In Golding’s portrayal of human’s innate savagery, he gradually reveals the boy’s descent into savagery. Backed up by academic, Amal Gedleh’s writing, Gedleh supports Golding’s notation of The Beast by writing:
The Beast devised by the boys is imaginary, symbolizing the savage instinct within the hearts of all people. The introduction of the Beast signals the beginning of savagery, and as the boys grow more savage their belief in the beast increases correspondingly. When the boys reach the climax of their savagery they begin worshipping the Beast and attributing inhuman qualities, such as shape-shifting, to it, and their savagery increases to the point where they kill an innocent boy.
The idea of the Beast can also be understood as propaganda used by Jack to attain a totalitarian government. By scaring the boys by telling them that the Beast exists, and by accusing Ralph of doing a poor job of protecting the children, Jack achieves leadership of a new 'tribe' in which he will rule like a tyrant. (Gedleh 7)
Here, Gedleh supports Golding's argument by stating how Jack, the antagonist, takes advantage of the boy's fear to take hold of power over the protagonist, Ralph. This being no coincidence to the allusion Golding draws by comparing Jack to Adolf Hitler of World War II. Gedleh also comments on how, as the boy's savagery and brutality continued so did their downfall into madness and deception. Overall, through the use of symbolism Golding effectively communicates the similarity of cruelty and horror between both the Lord of The Flies and World War II.
Another symbol Golding uses to show the similarity between Lord of the Flies and World War II regarding humanity's innate evil nature is that of “The Boys”. In Goldings depiction of the boys, he distinguishes some of the boys from the group to symbolize their importance. Again academic writer, Trent Lorcher picks up on Golding’s actions and comments, “The boys also stand as symbols: Simon represents goodness; Ralph and Piggy symbolize law and order; Jack and Roger stand for evil; The big kids represent the ruling classes; and the littluns symbolize common folk.” (Lorcher 12) Here it can denoted on how similar the breakdown of World War II can be seen, in translation to Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies. This being on how Lorcher’s interpretation of the antagonists, Jack and Roger, symbolize Hitler and the Nazi’s, through their deception to the littluns, the "common folk", and through their extensive use of brutality, savagery and cruelty to those who do not fall in order or to those who resist the anarchy that Jack and Roger have created. Furthermore Lorcher supports Golding's claims, by depicting the opposite side of the spectrum being Ralph and Piggy, who symbolize the allies through their attempts to keep civilized order alive.
In his final symbol, Golding uses "The Conch" to symbolize the failing attempt to indoctrinate civilization and order, as the boys succumb to the innate savagery of human nature.
Though Ralph and Piggy don't possess enough knowledge to sustain a fully functioning civilized society, they continue to operate to the best of their ability, despite the malicious behavior of Jack and Roger. Once again, academic writer, Trent Lorcher supports Golding’s claim of the “downfall of democracy” in his analysis of Lord of the Flies by writing:
Ralph and Piggy find the conch shortly after landing on the island. It soon becomes the symbol of authority and law and order. The conch is used to call assemblies and only the person holding the conch could speak at the meetings.
Ralph and Piggy respected the symbol of the conch until it is smashed to bits by Roger, one of Jack’s followers. The destruction of the conch symbolizes the destruction of what little civilization the boys possessed. (Lorcher 2)
Here, Lorcher demonstrates how in their desire for power and all other innate human greed, Jack and Roger destroyed the only sense of civilization that held the boys together. Furthermore, Lorcher supports Golding’s overall argument that human nature is inherently evil, by connecting how when given the chance to take power, Jack deceptively undermined Ralph and ruled out Piggy’s “democratic” influence by getting him murdered, before ultimately attempting to assassinate Ralph, for trying to save the boys from savagery.
Due to the controversial state of Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, he has drawn adversaries towards his work. One of his opponents being, S.E. Smith, an academic writer, who critiques Golding for his use of racial slurs in his novel. For instance, in her article, "This Ain't Livin'", Smith writes:
Lord of the Flies is accused of containing racist content, and it does. You have a group of white boys very much framed as such who ‘go savage’ when left to their own devices, suggesting that ‘primitive cultures’ where people wear face paint and dance around fires lie deep in all of us, but that this is, ultimately, not British. There is no escaping the racism in the book, but it is also apparent and thus provides much room for conversation and discussion. One can talk, for example, about colonialism and the framing of indigenous people and the efforts made by many white people to position themselves as ‘more civilized.’ (Par.3)
Here, Smith’s claim that Golding uses racism in his novel, Lord of the Flies, is backed up by the reinforcement of the post-colonialism thought, where natives and other “non-refined” peoples were looked down upon and taken advantage of, like they always have throughout history, especially since Britain was the most significant colonial power in the Twentieth Century. Furthermore, this statement is backed up by Golding’s text, writing, “Which is better -- to be a pack of painted nigger like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is” (Golding, 189) Overall, through the exposure of Golding’s use of racist slurs, Smith is able to support her viable argument for being an adversary to Lord of the Flies.
Another opponent to Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, is a veteran journalist,
Esther Lombardi who criticizes Golding for his excessive use of violence throughout the novel, as she writes:
A major theme of the novel is that human nature is violent and that there isn't any hope for redemption for humankind. The last page of the novel includes this line: "Ralph [the initial leader of the group of boys] wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy." Piggy was one of the characters killed in the book. (Lombardi 5)
Here Lombardi reflects how the main theme of Golding's novel is based around the concept of human nature is innately evil. Lombardi connects how empty and hollow the readers feel after finishing the book, as there is no redemption or hope shown in the light of human nature. Furthermore, Golding draws attention to Lombardi’s as his novel, Lord of the Flies, quotes. “Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across that square, red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed.” (Golding 200) Here, Golding demonstrates the description of the violence he portrayed in his novel along with his other quote, “The pointed end of a stick appeared. In panic, Ralph thrust his stick through the crack and struck with all his might.” (Golding 215) Overall, Golding not only conveys violence but death and brutality throughout his novel through the use of young children, making it increasingly more disturbing to audience members and supporting Lombardi’s viable claim.
The final opponent to Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies is the American Library Association who criticizes Golding for his use of innuendos about rape. In a catalog regarding why Lord of the Flies has joined many banned books, the ALA comments “A Challenged in the Waterloo, IA schools (1992) because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled.” (ALA section 7) Here, ALA provides documentation to describe the effects of Golding’s use of sexual references, especially during passages where Golding hints to rape like scenarios. For instance, in Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding writes:
Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her. (Golding 135)
Here, Golding’s description of the sow’s murder has been interpreted by many to be symbolism to rape. This being more evident as Golding brands the boy’s dedication to killing the sow as them being locked in "wedded in lust". Furthermore, another critique pushes the point further as educator Tressa Beahan writes, “In this description, Golding describes a symbolic rape of the pig. The phallic symbolism of the knife and spear are also clear indications that Golding intends for readers to interpret the scene in this way.” (Beahan 3) Overall, though hidden and merely suggestive, Golding communicates innuendos regarding sexual encounters and rape-like intentions.
However, though Golding uses subtle sexual references these claims and suggestions made by critics like Beahan, are still up to interpretation, as Golding does not make these cases appear in his novel. Furthermore, even if Golding is liable for the accusations of including rape-like scenarios in his novel, he still has the authority to support himself, as he is merely demonstrating how human nature is innately evil. This is evident where Golding writes, “A little apart from the rest, sunk in deep maternal bliss, lay the largest sow of the lot. She was black and pink, and the great bladder of her belly was fringed with a row of piglets that slept or burrowed and squeaked.” (Golding 132) Here, Golding reveals that not only was the sow peacefully sleeping, but she was also a mother to many piglets. And through their innate brutality, Jack and his hunters condemned the piglets as they chased the sow into the forest to torture and kill her. Though, Golding uses graphic imagery to signify the "rape", he does so to communicate how, when pushed to savagery, humans are innately evil.
At another glimpse, Golding also uses violence in his novel to further communicate the nature of humanity, this being on par with the violence he was exposed to in World War II. Evidently in his novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding writes, “Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.” (Golding 125) Here, Golding dismisses Lombardi’s claim, that Golding uses excessive violence in his novel, Lord of the Flies, because like Beahan’s claim of his use of rape-like scenarios, Golding utilized violence to communicate the dark aspects of human nature. Demonstrated by the quote, when pushed to hunger and caught up in the mob mentality, even the protagonist and symbol of civilization, Ralph, felt the urge to cause harm and join the savagery. Though Golding controversially uses fictitious children to depict the violence from World War II, he does so in a manner, to communicate the evil nature of humanity.
Lastly, Golding’s final opponent, S.E. Smith, argues the issue of racism in Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies. Smith points out that Golding uses native-like qualities and mannerisms to identify savagery, supported by Golding’s quote, “Which is better -- to be a pack of painted nigger like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is” (Golding, 189) However, while Smith does have a claim, that Golding used racist slurs to portray natives as being less than westernized people, in Golding’s defense the novel was republished with the removal of that line, in order to correct the mistake Golding made in 1948. Furthermore, though Golding expressed racism, Smith’s claim of racism was made in 1988, a much different time and era then the world Golding grew up in several decades earlier. For, while Golding does make these remarks, it is not fair or even truly valid to hold Golding accountable for displaying what was "acceptable" back in the 1940s, not to mention the fact that he did correct his mistake once it was brought to his attention.
Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, is essential to literature as it explores the idea of human nature. Unlike most utopia’s that came out before the World Wars, Golding’s novel was one of the many dystopian novels that came out of the World War II era. Due to the creative symbolism used in his novel, Golding accurately explains how he believes human nature is innately evil. Though Golding's novel has faced many forms of opposition for his controversial themes, he strategically communicated post-World War II thoughts through his novel, Lord of the Flies. Overall, while Golding draws focus to the evil of human nature, he does not ask the bigger question on how people can prevent the evil from taking hold, similarly to how could people have prevented World War II. 2019-11-21 18:26:05
Women weren’t treated equally in the 1850s and to this day, they still aren’t. Sojourner Truth is an African American woman who gave the speech “Ain’t I a Woman’’ at the Woman’s Convention in Arkon, Ohio (1851). She speaks about how women are treated differently than men, even though they demonstrate the same strengths as them. Sojourner Truth uses a(n) outraged tone to show that women are as strong as men, which shows, that assumptions of women manipulate the perspective of respect and equality.
Truth gives her speech in an outraged manner, this helps the reader understand her struggle and the pain that she has been feeling her whole life. To start, Sojourner Truth uses Pathos to create an emotional feel for her audience, this helps the reader feel connected and feel sympathy for Truth. One example of this is when she explains “I have borne thirteen children and seen them most of all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me!” (Truth 410). When Truth uses words such as “cried out” or “none but Jesus heard me!” it gives the reader a sense of sorrow, realizing that Truth has lost most of her children because of slavery. The reader understands Truth’s outraged tone because of her loss. Secondly, Truth uses the repetition of the rhetorical Question “Aint I a woman?” to develop a racial/gender contrast. “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?” (Truth 410). Truth explains to us how women should be treated, or the “stereotype” that men have created. Truth uses listing to help the reader understand her outraged tone when asking the question. This can help give the reader details of what it was like in the 1850s. In the 1850’s slavery was a big issue. Sojourner Truth being a part of it uses a symbol (her arm) to demonstrate strength, courage, and bravery. "Look at me! Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!" (Truth 410). The symbol "look at my arm!" represents strength and courage because she is pointing out that her arm is strong after all these years of slavery. This also demonstrates her outraged tone because she is screaming out “Look at me! Look at my arm!” the details after this help the reader understand why she is so mad and disappointed with society.
Truth gives her speech in an angry way, pointing out all the ways that women are equally as strong as men. People in the 1800s were racist, and sexist toward African American women, this gave women and people of color a sense of disbelief and discontent, realizing that they weren't respected and treated equally. Sexism should not be an issue in 2019, everybody should be treated equally and respected, no matter what race, religion or gender that they are.
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