Describe the fall of order in the book The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding.

Essay by ca5 March 2009

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Received a grade 1 in my fourth year of Scottish education. I'm not sure what that would be in England or America, but it's the best you can get here.

“Lord of the Flies” is a captivating novel by William Golding. It tells the story of a group of young British evacuees who, following a plane crash during a fictional war, are stranded on a deserted, tropical island. There are no surviving adults to take care of them so the boys have to think for themselves, be responsible for themselves, and try to find a way to attract attention so they can be rescued. They work well together until their miniature society and sense of moral law and order goes downhill and a division in the group appears. The main themes explored in the novel are the loss of innocence and the conflict between civilisation and savagery.

The main character, Ralph, and Piggy, a fat boy with asthma and glasses, are the first characters to be introduced in the novel.

While looking around and trying to discover what has happened they come across a conch shell. This is the first founding of order on the island. Piggy explains that the conch is a very valuable shell and can be used as a horn. Ralph uses to call an assembly with all the boys on the island.

During the meeting the boys discuss what has happened and what to do next. A new character, Jack Merridew is introduced along with his choir. He is an arrogant, blunt and self-centred choir leader who puts himself forward for the position of chief of the group. However, Ralph is democratically voted chief instead and to keep him happy, Jack is given command of his choir to be used as hunters.

The conch becomes a prominent representation of order, as the boys cannot present their thoughts at a meeting unless they are holding it. It is a symbol of the democratic society the boys represent and the order they associate with it. Ralph decides that in order to be rescued then they must create a signal fire at the top of the island’s mountain in the hope that a passing ship will see the smoke and rescue them. They quickly build a large fire on the side of the mountain and use Piggy’s glasses to set light to it. They build the fire so big that it swiftly gets out of control and burns half the mountain down. One of the little boys, referred to as ‘the boy with the birthmark’ as nobody knows his real name, vanishes after the fire, presumably he has been killed in the fire. This is a big indication of the order deteriorating, and how lacking the boys are in maturity, their lack of awareness and how much of a danger they are to themselves.

The Littleuns (the smaller boys) begin to have nightmares about a beast, and this unsettles all of the boys. The problem is discussed at various assemblies. Ralph also insists that improvements must me made to make their time on the island more civilised. He suggests building shelters for them to sleep in and to protect them from the monsoons, but due to the boys deficiency of self-motivation nothing they decide on at the assemblies gets any serious work done on it. He works with the intelligent observations and rational ideas that Piggy comes up with. Piggy becomes something close to his personal assistant and sane intelligence, and while the boys, including Ralph, mock Piggy for being fat and not doing any work he becomes Ralph’s closest friend on the island. Jack starts to obsess over hunting and having meat. He isn’t satisfied until he kills a pig. To begin with, he could not bring himself to do it but he forces himself to do it. The choir, who are supposed to be looking after the fire, are taken away on a hunt and the fire burns out so when a ship passes it does not see them. Ralph is furious. This is where the conflict between Ralph and Jack really starts.

“Ralph brought his arm down, fist clenched, and his voice shook.

‘There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!’ He took a step towards Jack who turned and faced him.

‘They might have seen us. We might have gone home-“Following this, Jack is unable to challenge Ralph and so he apologises to Ralph, gaining respect from the boys for his ‘noble deed’, and throws himself into the rebuilding of the fire. Ralph doesn’t respond, therefore not lowering himself to Jack’s level and reasserting his authority over the boys. This infuriates Jack and he punches Piggy in anger, breaking his glasses. This is a significant blow to the order on the island. Jack is effectively attacking Ralph’s brains. Ralph tries to regain authority during the next assembly. He stresses that the fire is the means to getting off the island and explains that they need to co-operate to survive. The anxiety of the potential for there being a beast on the island seems to boil over and Jack decides to organise a hunt to kill it as it is his area of expertise, hoping to undermine Ralph’s leadership by exposing him as a coward. This further widens the rift between the boys. When the boys find the beast at the top of the mountain (it is actually a dead parachutist which is being moved around by the wind) they are so terrified that they declare that the beast is real and try to avoid going up the mountain.

Jack challenges Ralph again at the next meeting, saying that Ralph is a coward and that he was the last to go up the mountain first to run away. He questions Ralph’s authority and ability as chief. He frenziedly tries to turn the assembly against him. He begins to further set himself apart from the group by announcing a vote for the people who want Ralph to give up as chief. Nobody votes and Jack gives up and he leaves with the verdict ‘I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you.’After that many boys slip away to join Jacks tribe, lured by the promise of hunting, meat and fun. Ralph’s group, who still cling to the ideals of the conch continue to operate with fairness and order, despite the fact that there are very few of the older boys left. Jack’s become savages, painting themselves with clay and leaving offerings for the beast. During a frenzied dance Simon, a boy from Ralph’s group who has realised that the beast is a figment of their young, immature imaginations, is beaten to death by the crowd. This is a critical moment in the novel as Golding expresses the idea that savagery and evil is a natural force within all of us.

The savages raid Ralph’s camp and steal Piggy’s glasses; after going to Jack’s camp to retrieve the glasses Piggy is pushed off a cliff and dies. Sam n’ Eric are forced to join join Jack’s tribe. Sam n’ Eric warn Ralph that Jack’s number two Roger is ‘Sharpening a stick at both ends’. This implies that Ralph is going to be hunted like a pig and then have his head stuck on a stake. This shows that Jack’s group has really devolved into savages and has no longer got any morals. Jack’s tribe begins to hunt Ralph and set fire to the island. The resulting smoke attracts the attention of a passing Royal Naval ship and an officer lands on the beach preventing Ralph’s death and the absolute collapse of everything good at the end of the book.

The boys at first attempt to set up civilised order from democratic and just Britain but things get slowly worse throughout their ethical voyage. Jack Merridew and his tribe become the prevailing group on the island and, along with simple immaturity, are the leading cause of the deterioration of order. At the end when they to kill Ralph it seems that they have totally become savages and have given up thinking about their actions.

The beast is a broad representation of the beast and the innate malevolence within us all rather than as actual creature. Simon, the only character showing aspects of natural goodness makes this discovery and realises why we fear it. The boy’s juvenile natures and the fact that they have been stranded without adults incredibly suddenly brings the beast into existence as a natural fear of the unknown which ultimately leads to the downfall of everything they had originally stood for.

Sources: The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding