The Uglier Side of Man

Essay by pjchungHigh School, 11th gradeA, May 2007

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American historian and philosopher William Durant believed, “Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.” Many civilizations have sprouted and gone down on that principle. The roots of this principle trace all the way back to the ancient Greeks, whose mythology, telling of the ages of man presents the very idea of glorious birth and horrible demise. Later on, another such civilization was the Romans who grew at an astonishing pace, but in the end fell apart from social and political deterioration. Much later, British naval officer, teacher, and author William Golding also believed in this principle of civilization as he authored Lord of the Flies, a novel entailing a microcosmic island of marooned boys. In his allegorical novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding uses the language of the novel and behavior of the boys to correlate the different Ages of Man to specific sections in the plot.

In his allegorical novel, Golding correlates the Golden Age to the introductory phase of the plot. Similar to the Golden Age when men walked the earth naked and free, some boys “were naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked” (Golding 18). Liberated from the chains of society, the boys are no longer conscious about bodily garments. More characteristics can be traced to the Golden Age when boy-chief Ralph exclaims, “ ‘This [the island] belongs to us’ ” (Golding 29). Like the men of the Golden Age who did not own private bounds, Ralph and the boys share the island together. In addition, when Ralph describes the activities of the other boys, he states, “ ‘They’re off bathing, or eating, or playing’ ” (Golding 50). As the men in the mythology who were carefree and ate fruits from the earth, the boys at the current stage played and ate fruits at will. Furthermore, all the boys believed that “to keep a clean flag of flame flying on the mountain was the immediate end and no one looked further” (Golding 41). Similarly to the Golden Age men who worked for the common store, all the boys are naturally disposed to the good of their miniature community. Moreover, Golding uses colorful depictions that give the readers a sense of bright, golden imagery. For example, as Ralph swam in a natural pool, “a golden light danced and shattered just over his face” (Golding 13). The adjective “golden” gives a presence of warmth, safety, and bliss. Thus, the introductory phase of the plot correlates to the Golden Age of Man and gradually seeps into the Silver Age.

In his allegorical novel, Golding correlates the Silver Age to the developing phase of the plot. Accordingly to the Silver Age when men started to build shelter, Ralph declares, “ ‘We need shelters’ ” (Golding 51). Silver Age was the phase in which men started to form what people today recognize as “civilization”; the boys are building structures for their microcosmic society. In addition, another scene mirrors the Silver Age when “the bolting look came into his [Jack’s] eyes. He took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy’s stomach” (Golding 71). Jack, the co-captain and eventual nemesis of Ralph, is found in conflict with other members of the community like the men in the mythological Silver Age who always wrongs others. As with the Golden Age, Golding applies silvery colors to allow the readers to detect an air of uncertainty that surrounds the boys. For instance, he describes, “the disk of the sun was dull silver as though it were nearer and not so hot…” (Golding 131). The visual word “silver,” along with dull, creates a mood in which Ralph and his remaining company (some ran away with Jack) are all unsettled by. Subsequently, the developing phase of the plot correlates to the Silver Age of Man and degrades into the Bronze Age.

In his allegorical novel, Golding correlates the Bronze Age to the intensifying phase of the plot. As seen in the Bronze Age in which men were constantly indulging in violence, Jack’s group of boys show potential for violence as they repeat, “ ‘We’ll hunt’ ” (Golding 133). More specifically, the almost-menacing phrase is fully realized when Jack and his boys display extreme violence and savagery in their hunt for a pig:Roger ran round the heap [sow], prodding with his spear whenever pig flesh appeared. 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 the hot blood spouted over his hands. (Golding 135)The bloodthirsty boys show more desire in the merciless killing rather than killing for survival. This scene also adheres to the men of the Bronze Age who did not settle for “weak” and petty food such as bread (fruits in the boys’ case). In addition, Golding retains his consistency of imagery by including some visuals of bronze. For example, the once golden and silvery sky is now “a brassy sky” (Golding 146). It promoted the similarity even further as it turned into “a sky of thunderous brass that rang with the storm-coming” (Golding 149). Both skies that look down upon once carefree boys now turned bloodthirsty savages and the latter reinforces the negativity of the Bronze Age by using words such as “thunderous” and “storm-coming.” Therefore, the intensifying phase of the plot correlates to the Bronze Age of Man and effectively sets the stage for the worst of all, the Iron Age.

In his allegorical novel, Golding correlates the Iron Age to the climactic phase of the plot. Appropriately, Golding boldly mimics the vicious defects of the Iron Age when Jack leads a skirmish to steal the eyeglasses of Piggy, the intelligent adviser of Ralph, “he was a chief now in truth; and he made stabbing motions with his spear. From his left hand dangled Piggy’s broken glasses” (Golding 168). The two groups of boys are now clearly defined and already in “war” with each other as the men of the Iron Age had been. Also the glasses are symbolic of the plunder the men took after frequent wars. Furthermore, mirroring the Iron men who had private territories they fiercely protected, the two groups have an imaginary boundary as Jack repels, “ ‘you go away, Ralph. You keep to your end. This is my end and my tribe’ ” (Golding 176). Clearly, the once commonly-owned island is divided in two territories. Moreover, the peak of human evil is reached after the murder of Piggy, Eric, one of Jack’s tribe members, says, “ ‘They [Jack and his satanic sidekick Roger] hate you, Ralph. They’re going to do you’ ” (Golding 188). Like the Iron men who hurt the worthy and admire evil, senseless killing of Jack and Roger is fueled by anger and hatred, which are in essence the boys’ own making. In addition, Golding uses imagery to aid the mood when he describes Ralph’s conscience as having “this leaden feeling about the heart” (Golding 184). Lead, although not iron, has the same color and produces the same gravitating effect. Clearly, the climactic phase of the plot correlates to the Iron Age of Man.

Conclusively, in his allegorical novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding uses the language of the novel and behavior of the boys to correlate the different Ages of Man to specific sections in the plot. Like the Romans and like the gods in Greek mythology, Ralph, Jack, and the boys energetically established a society based on higher values and prospered subsequently. Ultimately, elusive success proved only temporary as each failed to realize the fragile and hideous truth about the human condition which lurks in the hearts of all. Water and sun the seed of liberty carefully, as it may develop into a bold sprout of order, or the wicked sap of chaos is what may grow in its place.