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The story - Lord of the Flies




Plot

Lord of the Flies is a story that revolves around a central theme, which is that human nature is savage-like and anarchic without the confines of society. The story begins when a group of British school boys crash on a tropical island while being transported to a safer location during war time. Ironically, the only adult on the Island, the pilot, is dead. At the beginning of the book, a boy named Ralph finds a conch and blows it. Immediately the boys group into an assembly, and discuss who should be leader. Ralph is chosen as the leader, even with the strong disagreement with a boy named Jack. During the first part of the book, the boys strive for order and organisation, but this soon starts to diminish. Ralph and his friends, Piggy and Simon, try to accomplish the task of building shelter on the island. They are alone doing this, for many of the boys are too young to help. Jack and his choir group go off hunting small pigs which populate the island. The disagreement about hunting causes great tension between Ralph and Jack during the book.

As the book progresses, the group of boys forget their civilised ways, and there soon becomes a lack of order. Ralph and Piggy had the idea that a fire should be kept going at all times on the mountain on the island, so that they have a better chance of being rescued. They seem to be unable to accomplish this task, for many of the boys do not care about keeping the fire going and would rather go and play. They use Piggy's glasses to accomplish the task to lighting the fire, and the glasses become a very important symbol of power later in the book.



Jack and his choir group, who are now known as 'the hunters' become increasingly obsessed with hunting and killing pigs. To them, it is the most important task on the island. All the young children are preoccupied with the Beast, which they believe in as some kind of animal living on the island. Jack says that he's been everywhere, and there is no beast, and Piggy says that a beast can't exist in a world with science. During an assembly, Jack tries brings up the fact that Ralph isn't a good chief, because he can't hunt or sing. Piggy and others are against the idea, but Jack is starting to become more and more savage and overpowering. Jack, Ralph and Simon attempt to kill the beast, in hopes of curing the little boys' worries.

There is a violent storm on the island, in which Simon wanders down into a group of boys who are chanting and pretending to hunt. In all of the confusion and chaos, Simon is 'accidentally' killed. Most of the boys deny doing it on the grounds that it was an accident and they couldn't see. In this part of the book, Jack decides that he is fed up with Ralph's leadership, and decides to start his own tribe. He invites any boys who wish to join him to come along.

Jack's tribe becomes increasingly aggressive, and makes raid on the remaining boys' camp. By this time most of the boys have joined Jack's tribe, except for Sam, Eric, Ralph and Piggy. Latter, when they go and try to talk to Jack's tribe, Sam and Eric are kidnapped by Jack's tribe, and Piggy is killed by Roger. Ralph leaves Castle Rock, which is Jack's fortress, and hides in the forest nearby. Jack attempts to hunt down Ralph, and eventually sets the whole island on fire. A naval cruiser sees the smoke from the raging island, and comes to the boys' rescue. Ironically, the fire that many of the boys neglected, is the thing that saves them. Once the naval cruiser comes, and a officers comes out, the boys are ashamed of how they have become.

Ralph

An attractive boy and a natural leader, the sort of intelligent, well-adjusted, athletic boy who easily might become the idol of his schoolmates. We meet him in the first chapter as he leads the way out of the jungle while Piggy lumbers after him. That he is fair-haired suggests that he is a child of fortune, one who is blessed by nature with grace, strength, and luck. There is recklessness to his manner. He seems happy at the prospect of living on a deserted island, away from the influence of adults. The setting fosters dreams of heroic adventure in which he is the protagonist. He will overcome all of the difficulties present in his surroundings, lead a joyously exciting jungle life, then optimistically await a glamorous rescue by his naval-officer father. Unfortunately, his dreams are frustrated when nature and his fellow youths refuse to cooperate with his romantic vision. And, as his dream becomes more difficult of attainment, he loses confidence and calmness and begins to indulge himself in escape fantasies and dreams of the past. Gradually, he forfeits the respect of the other boys. A contrasting characteristic to his tendency to dream is his common sense. He is quick to assess the situation of the boys in realistic terms. He sees what must be done for their survival and rescue and sets about arranging parliamentary meetings, building a signal fire, and constructing huts. He appraises the advice of Piggy according to its practicality. He fights against the superstition and terror of the boys as being detrimental to the organised progress of their society. Ralph is by no means a perfect character. He is often mean to those weaker than himself, particularly the faithful Piggy. Occasionally he performs rash and foolish actions. He even joins in the murder of Simon. He shares in the universal guilt of man. But he does show a clear-sightedness that none of the others possess in the same way. It is his common-sense view that prevails at the end of the novel when he graduates from his experience on the island with a more mature knowledge of himself and the world around him. He recognises the universal presence of evil as a condition of life. He is capable of appreciating the tragedy of the loss of innocence that is the common heritage of man.

More than any other character, Ralph represents the outlook of the author-and the outlook that he expects his reader to share. He is not as intellectual as Piggy and he is not as religious as Simon, but he dreams the dreams of freedom and adventure that enliven the progress of western society. He is the most complete, most human, and most heroic of the characters in the novel, and the one with whom readers most readily identify.

Jack Merridew

'He was tall, thin, and bony, and his hair was red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness.' A cruel and ugly bully, he early develops a taste for violence. He is a leader of the choir at first, and then of the hunters. His leadership resides in his ability to threaten and frighten those under him. He is always ready for a fight. His victory over Piggy represents the triumph of violence over intellect, as he smashes one of the lenses of the fat boy's glasses. The knife that he carries is a symbol of the death and destruction that accompany his every act. He does have some attractive qualities-bravery and resourcefulness. But these are easily obscured by his wrath, envy, pride, hatred, and lust for blood. He is constantly attempting to weaken Ralph's hold on the boys. He suggests opposite measures, he shouts abusively, he threatens, he is constantly demanding to be made chief. In all, he is a complete stranger to polite behaviour. In his constant rivalry with Ralph, and in his constant preoccupation with killing, whether it be pigs or fellow human beings, he is a diabolical force, plunging the boys into a chaos of brute activities. His egotistical outbursts and his temper tantrums suggest that he is immature in his social development. But as hunter and killer he is extremely precocious. The readiness with which he throws himself into the existence of a savage, as he pauses to sniff the air for scent, or falls to his knees to inspect the pig droppings, or runs naked and painted through the forest, suggests the flimsiness of the restraints and patterns of civilisation in a personality in which the destructive passions flow strongly.

If the novel is read as religious allegory, Jack emerges as an envoy of the Devil, enticing the other boys to sin. If the novel is read as a representation of Freudian principles, Jack represents the primitive urges of the id. In the symbolic representation of the processes of life and death, Jack suggests, both in the black cloaks which he and his followers wear and in his association with darkness, the power of death. In his first appearance, coming out of the 'darkness of the forest' to face Ralph, whom he cannot see because his back is to the sun, Jack represents the Satanic and deathly force coming to confront the divine and life giving man of light. The blood that he wallows in is a further representation of deathliness. When, after his first kill, 'Jack transferred the knife to his left hand and smudged blood over his forehead as he pushed down the plastered hair,' he unconsciously imitates the ritual of the tribal initiation of the hunter, whose face is covered with the blood of his first kill. Finally, if the novel is read as the story of human civilisation, Jack represents the influences of unreason and confusion and violence as they operate counter to the progress of human virtues and social institutions.



Piggy

This intellectual is an outsider. He manages for a time to have some influence on the group through Ralph, who recognises his brilliance and puts into effect several of his suggestions. But, generally, the boys are quick to ridicule him for his fatness, asthma, and lack of physical skill. An orphan brought up under the care of an aunt, he has developed into a sissy. He cannot do anything for himself, whether it be to gather fruit, blow the conch shell, or build huts. He always tries to hide when the other boys are involved in manual labour. At home, presumably, his favourite pastime would be sitting in a chair, reading. His frequent appeals to the adult world, and his attempt to model his behaviour on that of teachers and other grown-ups evokes the contempt of the boys. Further, he makes the mistake of pressing too hard for acceptance. In his first appearance in Chapter 1, he attempts so diligently to win the favour or Ralph that he only alienates Ralph at the same time that he gives him personal information about himself that Ralph can then use to hurt him. His life on the island is a series of unhappy embarrassments, including being taunted by the boys, being beaten, and having his glasses broken and stolen. Finally, at the instigation of Jack, he is killed by Roger.

He represents an attitude of mind that is conservative and civilised. His eyeglasses, which are constantly steamed, and that he absolutely needs to see anything, separate him from the world of activity and adventure in which he cannot participate as freely as the other boys, and confine him to the realm of his own mind. Possibly because he is the bookish member of the group, he tends to be more scientific than the rest, and also more sceptical. His knowledge of science is shown in his plan to build sundials. His scepticism keeps him from participating in the superstitions of the other boys. He knows that the world of adults and books would not abide the legend of the 'beast.'

Piggy is necessarily more civilised than anyone else because, with his meagre physical equipment, only in the most civilised of societies could he survive. Ironically, with his build, his nickname 'Piggy,' and his squealing, he resembles the sacrificial pig. When he dies, his 'arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig's after it has been killed.' His superior intellect is of little use to him in the later stages of the novel. In the increasingly more degenerate society of the boys, the intellectual is lowered to the status of the beast. Then he is sacrificed and symbolically eaten.

The Need For Civilisation

The most obvious of the themes is man's need for civilisation. Contrary to the belief that man is innocent and society evil, the story the story shows that laws and rules, policemen and schools are necessary to keep the darker side of human nature in line. When these institutions and concepts slip away or are ignored, human beings revert to a more primitive part of their nature.

 

Innocence and the Loss of It

The existence of civilisation allows man to remain innocent or ignorant about his true nature. Although man needs civilisation, it is important that he also be aware of his more primitive instincts. Only in this way can reach true maturity.

Golding implies that the loss of innocence has little to do with age but is related to a person'' understanding of human nature. It can happen at any age or not at all. Painful though it may be, this loss of innocence by coming to terms with reality is necessary if humanity is to survive.

The Loss of Identity




Civilisation separates man from the animals by teaching him to think and make choices. When civilisation slips away and man reverts to his more primitive nature, his identity disintegrates. The boys use masks to cover their identity, and this allows them to kill and later to murder. This loss of a personal name personifies the loss of selfhood and identity.

Power

Different types of power, with their uses and abuses, are central to the story. Each kind of power is used by one of the characters. Democratic power is shown when choices and decisions are shared among many. Authoritarian power allows one person to rule by threatening and terrifying others. Spiritual power recognises internal and external realities and attempts to integrate them. Brute force, the most primitive use of power, is indiscriminate.

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the unknown on the island revolves around the boys' terror of the beast. Fear is allowed to grow because they play with the idea of it. They cannot fully accept the notion of a beast, nor can they let go of it. They whip themselves into hysteria, and their attempts to resolve their fears are too feeble to convince themselves one way or the other. The recognition that no real beast exists, that there is only the power of fear, is one of the deepest meanings of the story.

 

The Indifference of Nature

Throughout much of literature the natural world has been portrayed as "mother nature," the protector of man. In Lord of the Flies nature is shown to be indifferent to humanity's existence. When nature creates a situation which helps or hinders mankind, it is an arbitrary happening. Man may be aware of nature, but nature is unconscious and unaware of mankind.

Blindness and Sight

Being blind and having special sight are interwoven themes. One who is blind to his immediate surroundings usually has special understanding of things which others cannot fathom. This person sees more, but he is not seen or recognised by those around him. Such a person is often considered a fool and ridiculed by others.

Instinct to be a Follower

If someone believes that another is superior, usually in strength and intelligence, they will be a follower of that person and indulge in their wishes. At first in the novel, Ralph was elected chief, the most superior position. Everyone followed Ralph's demands because he was the superior. Ralph was Jack's superior, but Jack was still in charge of the members of his former choir. Jack did not believe that Ralph was his superior in strength or intelligence. He left with choir, who followed him. The others soon came to believe that Jack was superior to Ralph because he could hunt and supply them with food. They of course went and became a part of Jack's tribe, and indulged in his wishes. This all shows that people are easily awed by a show of superior ability and will readily follow anyone that they believe to be superior.

 










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