Peer group pressure in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies"

Categories: Allegory

Most children are confined to the society that is created for them. This society for the most part consists of their family and friends in school. In fact most children are a reflection of the society from which they are brought up in. Human society is taken for granted by most. People don't consciously think about who is in power and why. They just go about everyday the same worrying about petty little problems that they seem to feel are of significant importance.

But when things are altered radically people are suddenly forced to make drastic decisions one how they will chose to live their lives. This would be difficult enough for an adult but imagine the fear and lack of responsibility when children must learn to live in a totally new environment without any adults. Such is the concern when a group of young school boys, who are victims of a nuclear war, are sent away to a deserted island to ensure their safety.

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The problem that William Golding presents to the readers of LORD OF THE FLIES is one that suggests what might happen when a group of young boys is faced with the challenge of creating a new civilization for themselves without the help of adults. The boys must take what they have been taught and incorporate that into a new society governed by themselves. Before long these boys will deal with the many fears associated with this new life and the power struggles for survival that will exist along the way.

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The boys' creation of a new society helps the reader to see what might really happen if a group of young boys is thrown together and must fend for themselves without any adult supervision (Bowen, 58). This new found freedom brings about many mixed emotions among the young boys. The oldest of the boys is twelve and the youngest of them is six, so at first all of the boys are happy to be rid of adult supervision, but as time wears on the boys start to worry about if they will ever see home again. Ralph, one of the oldest boys is very concerned about being stranded on the island and tries to get the boys together to work as a team to survive. With Ralph as their chosen leader the boys face the possibility that all experiences might be meaningless and he long to be back in the world of adults where they feel life was meaningful (Cox, 87). The boys develop a democratic parliamentarian form of government on the island. By signifying a conch shell as the device needed in order to speak to the group Ralph and Piggy are able to maintain order among the other boys for a short time. As time progresses though, more and more of the boys start to question the authority of the conch as well as whose control it represents. This type of behavior indicates the influence still exerted over them by western civilization (Kerns, 151). The children must evolve new forms of worship and laws because none exist and society has taught them that they should have them. Eventually these will manifest themselves into taboos, the oldest form of social repression (Rosenfield, 129). These laws and forms of worship in essence will tear apart the boys and all the morals they were ever taught in the so called "civilized world" of adults. Many of the boys are considering the possibility of being rescued, so under Ralph's orders one group of children sets up a signal fire to try to get the attention of boats and planes that may pass by. Another group is sent to try to find civilization on the island and hunt for food, but both attempts turn out to be unsuccessful. Most of the boys especially the ones associated with Jack's group get excited about new ideas but quickly lose interest and nothing is getting done. Jack and his group of hunters are in charge of the signal fire and feel that it is more important to go hunting instead of watching the fire. The irony of this situation is that a boat had passed by the island but didn't see any signal because it was let to burn out by Jack's group (Babb, 9). The fire is considered by many critics to be a symbol of prayer and the kindling of it brings about a great change among the boys. For some of them when the fire was left to go out so did the hope and anticipation of being rescued (Golding 73). Struggles for power begin to become a main issue in the daily lives of the boys. This is especially true when it comes to Ralph and Jack. Jack repeatedly questions Ralph's authority and is always trying to make him look bad. Jack feels that he makes a better leader than Ralph so he decides to go out on his own and form his own group of hunters. Ralph does a good job of keeping most of the boys together , but as time wears on most of the boys slowly get sick of taking orders from Ralph and decide to go and join Jack's group of hunters (Golding, 10). All Jack's group basically does is hunt, eat, and sleep. All of the boys are slowly becoming savages with the exception of Ralph, Piggy and Simon. Piggy and Simon are the only loyal friends Ralph has left in his group. Seeing all of the others in Jack's group having a good time hurts him deeply inside but with the comfort and wisdom of Piggy he is able to look past that and worry about more important things like how they are going to be rescued. Piggy is the smartest and most down to earth of all the boys. He has a powerful belief in the importance of civilized order and often perceives the danger in a situation that the others cannot. Ralph becomes good friends with Piggy and learns to appreciate the value of Piggy's judgment on complex situations (Cox, 87). "He still says he saw the beastie. It came and went away again an' came back and wanted to eat him-" "He was dreaming." Laughing, Ralph looked for confirmation round the ring of faces. The older boys agreed; but here and there among the little ones was the doubt that required more than rational assurance. "He must have had a nightmare. Stumbling about among all those creepers." More grace nodding; they knew about nightmares. "He says he saw the beastie, the snake-thing, and will it come back tonight?" "But there isn't a beastie!" "He says in the morning it turned into them things like ropes in the trees and hung in the branches. He says will it come back tonight?" "But there isn't a beastie!" There was no laughter at all now and more grave watching. Ralph pushed both hands through his hair and looked at the little boy in mixed amusement and exasperation. Jack seized the conch. "Ralph's right of course. There isn't a snake-thing. But there if there was a snake we'd hunt it and kill it. We're going to hunt pigs to get meat for everybody. And we'll look for the snake to- "But there isn't a snake" (Golding, 36) Little boys have wild imaginations and tend to let them run wild. That is how the beast is transposed and becomes the most fearful thing that lurks in the hearts of all of the boys. "The beast is not something outside of man but is an actual part of man, always close to man, and hence not something to be killed or run away" (Spitz, 25). The boys all decided that something had to be done about the so-called "beast" so Jack being the great hunter of the group thinks that a search party should be formed to find and kill the beast so that everyone can sleep easier. All of the boys agreed that something had to be done, but many were reluctant at first to join in on the search because of their fear of the beast. After some persuasion all of the boys except for the smallest ones and Piggy headed out armed with wooden spears in search of the beast(Calandra, 29). After traveling for awhile the boys reach a secluded part of the island where none of them have ever been before and everyone is frightened. Night has now fallen upon the island and it is very dark. Ralph wanted to wait till morning to continue the search, but Jack insists that it be done tonight so he climbs up the mountains and sees what he says was an ape like shape flapping in the wind. Everyone is now convinced that there really is a beast. Simon, one of the loyal members of Ralph's group decided to go into the jungle and stare at a fly-covered head of a dead pig resting apron a stick. Jack and his group of hunters killed the pig and left it there for the beast. He visualizes or dreams that the head is speaking to him. The sow head in Simians dream warns him that it is impossible to escape him, the beast, for he is part of everyone, and he is responsible for all their difficulties. The head threatens Simon repeatedly and then finally he faints. The sow head is considered by Simon as being the Lord of the Flies because of all of the flies that are covering the head of it(Calandra, 38). Simon's intense imagination is a prim example of how fear can get the best of how fear can get the best of any person. Some feel that Simians dream represents the hallucination of a sensitive child about to lose all control of rational facilities (Rosenfield, 128). This is true because throughout the book thus far Simon has been very rational in his actions and at this point his fear of being rescued along with the fear of what tomorrow will bring has literally pushed him over the edge. He longs to confront his fears and this is the way his body is trying to cope with them. Simon is living out his worst fears through his dreams. When Simon revives he sets out up the mountain to find the beast. At the top of the mountain he discovers that the so-called "beast" is actually a dead pilot. Very shocked as well as relieved about his findings he can't wait to tell the others. "While the others hide from the truth behind masks, Simon hears the words of the Lord" (Grande, 158). Like Moses, Simon comes down from the mountain bearing that truth which in Simon's case is that the beast is man himself, but it is dark now so when Simon comes yelling and screaming the other boys get scared and think that it is the beast who is attacking them so the half crazed boys leap upon Simon beating him to death (Peter, 25). Simon's death is a result of the groups uncivilized behavior as well as their lack of respect toward one another. This incident also brought out the fact that fear and power can bring out the worst in all people no matter how immune they might feel they are to its realms. The ultimate society created is one of complete chaos. After Simon's death all of the boys seem to have a new outlook on the society that they have created for themselves and from that point on it is all downhill. Even Ralph shares in the responsibility of the murder because even though he didn't actually beat Simon, he contributed emotionally to his death because he stood there and watched it happen (Freedman, 50). Almost all of the boys except Piggy and a few little'uns have joined Jack's group and one night after everyone was asleep Jack's group jumps Ralph's and goes as quick as they

Updated: Nov 01, 2022

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Peer group pressure in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Peer group pressure in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" essay
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