How and why does order disintegrate on the island? Essay
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On the island two leaders are clearly marked out at the start; Jack and Ralph.
Jack has a fierce desire to lead and control. From the start of the book he challenges Ralph’s leadership and is obsessed with power. At the start he controls the ‘wearily obedient’ choir with military discipline and at the end he rules his tribe of savages with fear and torture. Jack rejects the democratic processes by which rules and decisions are made, and instead imposes his own desires by force.
He overcomes and suppresses the civilised restraints which originally prevented him killing the pig and gives up to his violent and bloodthirsty instincts. We are not informed in the book of Jack’s intelligence, as when he gains power, he makes very primitive solutions to the problems on the island because he has lost all sense of rational thought. He resorts to superstitious practices like leaving an offering for the beast, and uses rituals to keep the tribe together and to hide their emotions.
Ralph is dependable and responsible. He is basically kind, with ‘a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil’. His sensitivity can be seen in the way he deals with Jack’s disappointment at losing the leadership vote by giving him charge of the choir. He hopes the society works in a democratic and civilised way and is shocked when things go wrong. He is intelligent, but he often finds making decisions and thinking things through too much for him, and relies on Piggy to help and prompt him.
Ralph takes time to notice just how important Piggy is to him being chief, and he grows to value Piggy’s loyalty and common sense. Ralph shows physical courage, such as when he forces himself to climb the mountain and face the beast. Moral courage is shown when he admits his part in Simon’s murder. He struggles to keep believing that humans are fundamentally good. He can’t understand how a boy like him could experience real hatred: ‘But he’s, he’s Jack Merridew!’ In the end he recognises the real evil inside humans; ‘the darkness of a man’s heart’. Ralph represents the values of civilisation and democratic rule, which are eventually defeated by the evil contained within society.
However, the two similarities the boys possess are that they are both stronger and a lot bigger than the others, which is the most important reason for them being marked out as obvious leaders at the first meeting. Ralph wins the vote for chief because of his; ‘attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch.’- even before the boys really know each other they already seem to respect the conch as it unites them in what seems like a orderly meeting with the sound it makes. Because of this it is seen as the tool that creates and resembles civilisation throughout the book
Each of them is a leader, but the leadership each shows is based on different principles. Ralph’s liberal style of leadership takes notice of other peoples opinions. He feels the responsibility of his position and also feels its burdens. Jack’s style of leadership is based on domination and fear. He imposes his will on others with no regard for their needs or feelings. He wields power without responsibility, and enjoys having power over other beings, animal or human. The things he cannot dominate he tries to destroy, which is why he hunts Ralph at the end of the book. Jack hides his identity behind his mask and the anonymous title of ‘chief’. Jack uses these things to protect himself from remembering the civilised world, enabling him to perform savage acts with no remorse, which makes him a very strong leader, even if he is unjust and selfish.
One of the main symbols of leadership on the island is the conch. This creamy shell that can be blown like a horn represents the democratic system of leadership on the island, as it is Ralph’s tool for organising meetings and controlling the boys. The conch also represents the paternalistic rï¿½gime of adult authority that cares for everyone. Throughout the book the reader and the characters identify Piggy with this ideology due to his intelligence and his total faith in democracy. As respect for the conch fades, a sense of order also fades. This continues until the conch is smashed, ending order and civilisation on the island.
The evil that is inside human beings is personified in the beast. Many people don’t want look inside themselves and don’t want to recognise this aspect of their nature. They look for something in their surroundings to be the cause or its embodiment. This happens on the island – the boys have lost all sense of home and security, which begins to provoke nightmares. One of the littluns resorts to muttering his name and address as a means of remembering the civilised world – in doing so grasping for security – ‘Percival Wemys Madison, The Vicarage, Harcourt Street…’.They then begin to think the branches are snakes, which develops into a beast, which rapidly changes form in the boys’ imaginations. When the dead pilot lands on the mountain top this becomes the focal point of their fear.
Jack takes advantage of the fear this causes by promising to protect them from the beast, which, once it takes a physical form, leaves no doubts in the minds of the majority of the boys – which makes Jack very powerful and he becomes the new leader on the island. Once Jack is given this authority, he extends his power over his ‘tribe’ by making them fearful and in awe of him as well as the beast. He does this by concealing his civilised identity with a mask of clay paint, changing his name so he is known only as chief, ordering his tribe to perform rituals; ‘ ‘Go on!’ The two savages looked at each other, raised their spears and spoke in time. ‘The Chief has spoken.’ ‘. And making them dance to celebrate the savage act of killing a pig.
As order disintegrates on the island, the boys descend to savagery. This is best illustrated by the choir. They begin the novel in smart uniforms promoting their group identity. They then become hunters, and begin to enjoy killing the pigs. Jack then releases his savage instincts by making his mask, and they all follow suit, degenerating into a tribe of savage killers.
Every time the group kills, it becomes more of a ritual and less of an actual hunt for food. This continues throughout the novel until the final hunt – which is the hunt for Ralph. This is made even more disturbing when Golding makes Roger sharpen a stick ‘at both ends’. We cannot be sure whether they intend to cut Ralph’s head off and put it on one end of the stick with the other end in the ground, or whether they intend to thrust the stick through his body and cook him over a fire. Either way, this shows just how much the boys have changed – there is no element of civilisation left and the descent to savagery is complete.
Order is destroyed on the island because of the natural savagery that is inside human beings. The reader presumes that more prominent figures like Jack and Roger are ‘evil’, but all they are doing is giving in to their instincts. The only reason why Piggy and Ralph can remain civilised is by battling with their instincts, a battle that they lose at times in the book, such as at the time of Simons death.
All the boys needed for their instincts take over was an escape from the influences of civilisation. I think Golding is trying to convey how weak civilisation is, as well as showing that all humans have the potential for savage behaviour. The island is a microcosm of the outside world – when the boys set fire to the island at the end, the adults are also setting fire to their world with the atom bomb. Golding has been quoted as saying that ‘anyone who lived through the Second World War and didn’t believe that men produced evil just as bees produced honey must be ignorant or mad’ – he very successfully uses the book as his argument.