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The Book Club

William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies

1. The allegorical experience. Having read the novel for a literature module in school a few years ago, William Golding’s “Lord Of The Flies” was an exciting undertaking; especially since the themes and allegories – particularly the age of the characters – could be easily related to. On a personal note, the violence and gruesome murders in the text might seem to be impossibilities in the real world; however, within the context of the novel – compounded by circumstances and the changing attitudes, behaviours of the boys – Golding adds a touch of scary realism that forces the reader to contemplate the plot’s applicability beyond the realm of literature. The allegorical references, through the characters, symbols and motifs, do much to reinforce these perceptions.

2. Questioning human nature. In Golding’s words: “The boys try to construct a civilisation on the island; but it breaks down in blood and terror because the boys are suffering from the terrible disease of being human”.

3. The inherent struggle between civilisation and savagery. What is the point that Golding is trying to put across: is he asserting that in the absence of civilisation – with its corresponding rules, law, regulations and established order – human beings, in the struggle for survival, would more often than not be swayed by the innate evil that exists in every single person? All hell breaks loose as the group of boys – typically perceived to be innocent, disciplined, prim and proper in conduct – disintegrate and eventually turn on one another, with a diminishing awareness of their past conduct back in civilisation. The loss of innocence and degeneration are not sudden changes: the gradual disintegration is reflected as the boys begin to torture and hunt animals, paint their faces, impaling the head of a bloody sow, their eventual struggles with their counterparts et cetera.

4. Avoiding generalisations. Amidst all the clutter and events, Golding avoids generalising the boys to reflect the varying instincts of savagery and civilisation within each individual (and also to maintain creative tension in the plot). Piggy and Simon have no savage feelings, and Ralph – guided and shaped by his moral values and principles – struggles to comprehend the principles of savagery. Throughout the novel, all three attempt to establish good order and harmony amongst the ensemble, and attempt to emulate the orderliness back in their communities through goodness and kindness. Left to their own devices, Roger is evidently overcome by his innate evil; while Piggy and Simon present themselves as the only ones who might be innately “good” on the island.

5. The loss of innocence and the realisation of inherent evil. “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy”.

6. The sow’s head and the conch shell. Whereas the conch shell is an effective symbol of political legitimacy and civilised order, since anyone who holds the shell has the right to speak, and it can be effectually used by the leader to gather the group and disseminate information; the sow’s head – or the Lord of the Flies – is a physical and psychological representation of fear and savagery. As civilised order becomes increasingly negligible, the actual usability of the shell is reduced as well; and the demise of the any conscious notions or civilisation or order is complete after the shell has been crushed. On the contrary, the sow’s head – put forth as an offering to the imaginary beast – symbolises the boys’ acceptance of the beast’s existence, and their further descent into savagery. In the first and second parts of the novel respectively, Ralph and Jack use the different tools accordingly to yield significant power over their followers.

7. Subservience of the littluns. The littluns are easily manipulated –as a result of Roger’s brutal methods, the fear of the unknown, apparent immaturity and lack of independence or individuation – and eventually form a significant part of Jack’s breakaway tribe. Their ignorance and lack of knowledge allows Roger and Jack to use the beast to shock the littluns into submission, and the fear – compounded by the lack of awareness of the consequences of their actions – blinds them. Their apathy allows primordial instincts of power and cruelty to slowly take over; and their rhetoric and deeds are simultaneous moral gauges of their older leaders, the bigguns.

8. Jack’s initial descent and transformation to savagery. “The mask was a thing of its own, behind which Jack had liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (the façade of the hunting mask) and “He tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up” (obsession with hunting and killing).

9. The dead parachutist. The dead parachutist, quite superficially, symbolises the lack of adult supervision on the island; and thus, furthers the circumstances where there is no governance. More importantly, it also perpetuates as a fear of the unknown (since the littluns run away from it without really knowing what it is), and consequently gives Jack the opportunity to seize this uncertainty and sink deeper into our primal instincts to defend against this unknown entity.

10. Piggy and his glasses. Piggy is the voice of reason, science and intellect, and constantly seeks to recreate inventions and mechanical systems back in his community: as evidenced from his suggestions to start the fire, create the sundial et cetera. Unfortunately, he is constantly victimised for his appearance, which blinds his counterparts from his tangible abilities in brainstorming and problem-solving (ultimately, it was fire that attracted sufficient attention to rescue the remaining boys off the island). The crushing of his glasses (used to start fires) and his death simply represent the end of the aforementioned benefits.

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About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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