Most individuals grow up taught what is considered right from wrong. These are ideals that are instilled in people from a young age by the world’s civilization, in hopes that when they in certain situations these individuals will make the correct decision. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the boys on the island are faced with many challenges, one of them being a battle of civilization and savagery. The problem of remembering what was taught to the boys while living amongst civilization is more pronounced in some characters than others.
Golding’s novel proves to the reader that man is inherently evil. By Goulding presenting the idea of man’s innate evil, the reader can see the change of civil to savage in the characters Jack, Ralph, Piggy, and Roger. All of the boys on the island came from a British private school, which is supposed to show the reader that they truly are the best of the best. Goulding using British school boys just highlights how great the characters fall from grace was. For example, at the opening of the book, Jack displays many respectful qualities, one of them being when he agrees with Ralph at the start of the book.
The boys were deciding who was to look after the fire and Jack reached for the conch to deliver a message, “”We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are the best at everything. So we’ve got to do the right things” (42). This particular quotation emphasizes the fact that at one point in time, the values that were taught to Jack before he arrived on the island were important to him. This reference also shows that all hope has not been lost for the boys yet.
Out of all the characters in the novel the character who changed the most was Jack. As mentioned before Jack reminded the boys of how great they were, because they were British, but some of the things that he did on the island contradicted the image he created of himself in the beginning. In chapter one Jack is unable to kill the pig he has caught, but in chapter four he kills the pig with ease. In chapter four it is also explained that he develops an obsession with killing a pig and once he paints his face that is when he is finally able to do it.
Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became blood thirsty snarling” (63-64). This quotation is showing that once Jack painted his face even his choir did not recognize him, it was almost like he was a different person. The reason he was able to kill the pig was that the mask made him take up a new personality, that of a savage, uncivilized person. The two comparisons made of Jack highlight how great his decent into savagery was. In most novels, there is one character that the reader views as the hero.
That character can do no wrong, and they end up saving the secondary characters in the end. In Goulding’s novel, the hero does not only battle with other characters, but he battles with himself. For instance, Ralph whom the reader would presume as the protagonist had all of the boys in mind when he made decisions. Throughout most of the book, Ralph opposed Jack and his obsession with hunting to focus on getting off the island. A quotation from chapter three furthers this argument, “I was talking about smoke! Don’t you want to be rescued? ‘ [… ] ‘You want to hunt!
While I ” (54). This quotation emphasizes that Ralph had the wellbeing of the boys in mind. He knew that if they were going to be rescued they had to focus on being rescued, hunting was merely just a distraction that allowed them to act like savages. Ralph’s leadership and decision making during the book show that he did not lose sight of civilization. Although Ralph’s was one of the more civilized characters, it does not mean that he did not forget about the overall goal of being rescued at times. His character reverts to savagery in chapter nine.
When Ralph and Piggy take part in the circle that beat to death and disfigured Simon. The way that Goulding describes Simons murder is so graphic, “At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, movements but the tearing of teeth and claws” (153). In this quotation, it is evident that Ralph does have a form of savagery inside of him because of how viciously they attacked Simon. If Ralph used logic at the time, he would have realized that the one whom they had killed was Simon and not the beast.
Logic and basic reasoning are things that the savages in this novel lack, those two traits are traits that were taught before the island. Piggy is one character in this book that can keep sight of the end goal of getting off the island. However, that is not to say that his character does not face the challenge of staying civil. Piggy is a character that aided Ralph in most of his decisions from the moment they arrived on the island. Piggy was the one who explained to Ralph how to use the conch in the first chapter, “We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us’ [… ‘You try, Ralph. You’ll call the others” (16).
Piggy is the one that initially suggests that the conch should be used to bring order. Piggy continues to emphasize the utilization of the conch even when most of the boys render it useless to them, “Piggy held up the conch and booing sagged a little [… ] ‘I tell you, I got the conch! ” (179-180). This quotation makes it evident to the reader that order was an important aspect to Piggy, even when there was chaos all around him. One can say that Piggy is one of the most civilized boys on the island, but Piggy is not without fault.
Even though Piggy was able to stay refined for most of the novel, there were still hints of savagery inside of him. An example of this is the morning after the boys killed Simon, Piggy is somehow able to justify his murder. “Coming in the dark he hadn’t no business crawling like that out of the dark. He was batty. He asked for it” (157). When Piggy defends his actions from that night, it shows the reader that even the most civil person on the island had a descent into evilness and savagery. The two comparisons made of Piggy just further the argument that evil and savagery exist in most people.
Another character that proves that man is inherently evil is Ralph. The reader does not learn much about Ralph throughout the book, but what they do know is that although it is quite evident from the beginning that he is evil, he does still have societal rules inside of him still. In chapter four Goulding describes Ralph’s encounter with the younger boys on the beach, “Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry threw it to miss. [… ] Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins”(62).
This exact quotation indicates to the reader that although Roger feels the urge to throw rocks at the littluns, he still does not feel that it is right. This reference also makes it known that Roger still remembers the rules that were enforced on him before the island, and he is making an effort to follow these standards even though there is nobody on the island who cares. Although it was mentioned before that Roger made an attempt to follow the rules that he was taught before he was on the island, his actions on the island become more violent than just throwing rocks at the littluns.
From the moment that the reader is first introduced to Roger it is quite obvious that his character is more violent than the other boys, but in chapter eleven it is evident that he is capable of evil due to his reversion to full savagery. When Piggy holds up the conch to proclaim to the boys that they should listen to him speak Roger takes action, “Someone was throwing stones: Roger was dropping them, his one hand still on the lever. [… ] Roger with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever” (180).
The moment that Roger murders Piggy by dropping the rock on him indicates to the reader that he is no longer throwing to miss. Roger is also unfazed by his action of murder, which shows that savagery has taken over him completely. As mentioned earlier, William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies uses the characters to prove that man has an instinctive evil inside of them. Golding’s book demonstrates this by showing the character’s transformation from civilized to savage.
Though the change can be seen in most of the characters, it is more evident in Jack, Ralph, Piggy, and Roger. These four boys show that society makes attempts to retain order and justice, but like a healthy community disagreements arise. The longer the boys spend on the island though they become a microcosm of the real world, they also begin to forget the morals that had been enforced on them by society, and they revert to a more natural primitive state. The Lord of the Flies confirms that without rules man is evil, and it is inevitable because it is just human nature.