Describe at least one conflict in the text
Explain how this conflict helped you to understand the key ideas
In Sir William Golding’s 1954 Novel, the Lord of the Flies, the symbols have great value in teaching the reader about human nature. During the unnamed time of a nuclear world war, a plane carrying a group of British schoolboys is shot down over the Pacific Ocean. The pilot of the plane is killed, but many of the boys survive the crash and find themselves deserted on an uninhabited island, where they are alone and without adult supervision. Although the boys attempt to maintain a civilised and orderly way of life, they soon descend into unmoral savagery. The conflict in this text is between civilisation and savagery. This conflict helped me to understand key ideas such as the conch, the signal fire, Piggy’s glasses, and the characters of Jack and Ralph. Golding purposely shows that human nature, free from the constraints of society, draws people away from reason toward savagery. Golding teaches the reader that human beings are savage by nature, which is often thought to be the underlying drive of all humanity.
Golding portrays the main conflict of civilisation and savagery through the use of the conch. The conch is a milky-white seashell, that when blown, makes a calling noise and brings the boys together. The conch represents civilisation, liberal democracy, and order. Once the boys are assembled, whoever has the conch has the power to speak, and only they can speak, which correlates in the real world with a microphone. Thus, a rule is established in that whoever has the conch has the authority to speak. This means the conch represents civilisation. However, when the conch is destroyed, civilisation quickly descends into the boys’ savagery. The conch is broken when Piggy is killed, in chapter eleven. This is shown through the quote “the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist”. Civilisation has been completely abolished from the island so the boys now resort to primitive means of survival. The conch’s absence means the boys turn into complete pyschopaths. The conflict between civilisation and savagery here is shown through lack of rules. The rules laid down by Ralph and Piggy at the beginning of the book have been entirely disobeyed by Jack and his tribe. The key idea Sir William Golding is trying to teach us, in that the underlying drive of all humanity is that human beings are savage by nature, is shown here. It does not take long for the boys to turn into savages once there are no adults to conduct and discipline them. Jack and Ralph are perfect representations of ideologies such as good and evil, or in this case civilisation and savagery. Jack disobeys rules very quickly in the novel, and is a self-declared leader who hates when he doesn’t get his way; he is comparable to dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Un. He slowly turns everyone else around him into savages too, until Ralph is the only civilised one left, as he has the strongest morals and highest maturity, and can withstand the tempting, boy-like way of acting that Jack and his savage tribe have adopted. The symbol of the conch slowly becomes inferior and unimportant as the story progresses, highlighting the savagery the boys have adopted.
Golding portrays the main conflict of civilisation and savagery through the use of Piggy’s glasses. Piggy is a pudgy, awkward boy who suffers from asthma and is therefore averse to physical labour. Piggy, who dislikes his nickname, is the most intelligent boy in the island. Piggy is viewed as an outsider among the other boys, but is eventually accepted by them, albeit grudgingly, when they discover that Piggy’s glasses can be used to ignite fires. Upon discovery, Jack snatches the glasses out of Piggy’s hands, which foreshadows Jack later stealing them so he can use them for fire for his feasts. At the beginning of the book, when Ralph still holds authority, a fire is built on the top of the mountain for warmth, but also to be used as a signal, in case the British military or army pass by, and can locate them and come rescue them. Piggy’s glasses represent intellect, logic, and reason. Later in the novel, Piggy’s glasses get cracked from their continual use, and are eventually stolen by Jack’s tribe and broken, which puts Piggy into misery. This is shown through the quote “From his left hand dangled Piggy’s glasses”, which symbolises the conflict of civilisation and savagery. Civilisation is further deteriorated on the island when the symbol of intelligence, science, logic, and reasoning is stolen in order to cook hunted pigs. Golding uses the connection of Piggy’s nickname to the hunted pigs, to show how both are equally vulnerable to Jack and his tribe. The eventual destruction of Piggy’s glasses correlates to the eventual uprising and assertion of savagery of the boys and the island.
Golding portrays the main conflict of civilisation and savagery through the use of the signal fire. Upon arrival on the island, Ralph, the initial leader of the boys, decides upon lighting a signal fire. This is built at the top of the mountain on the island, and is made to alert British troops so they can locate and rescue the boys. It is also used as a source of warmth and as a meeting place. The signal fire represents technology and science, as it is created from combustion, but like a bomb or grenade, it is a technology that is highly dangerous if it gets out of control or is used incorrectly. It is also a symbol of hope, as it is the boys key to getting rescued. The boys each have to collect firewood in order to keep the fire running. However, at one point in the novel Jack decides he wants to go hunting, and lets the fire go out. As could be forecasted, a ship sails past the island, oblivious to the boys in need of rescue on the island. The boys missed their chance at being rescued and preventing further savagery, which forecasts how Jack will take complete inhumane control later in the novel. Upon discovering this, Ralph is infuriated and utterly distressed, and rightly so. This is shown through the quote, “the fire was dead, the ship was gone. Could they not see?”. This highlights Jack’s descension into savagery. He is choosing to “get meat” over increasing their chances of being rescued. Only Jack, Piggy, and Simon realise the true significance of this, displaying how Jack is asserting his dominance over the rest of the boys, and how Ralph is rapidly losing all authority. This intensifies the conflict between Ralph and Jack, and therefore the conflict between civilisation and savagery. The symbol of hope of the signal fire is diminished, which Golding uses to hide the unexpected ending at the end of the novel when the boys are miraculously rescued, just as Ralph is about to be murdered.
Golding purposely uses symbolism to reveal the true human nature of mankind and show how evil exists within us all in the absence of societal and liberal democracies. Golding has showed how the underlying drive of all humanity is that humans are savages, in reality. The conflict of civilisation and savagery has helped me to understand key ideas in this text, such as the conch, Piggy’s glasses, the signal fire, and Jack and Ralph. The author persuades the reader to reflect on current society, and realise the potential truth in Golding’s philosophies.