Lord of the Flies and Psychology
Lord of the Flies and Psychology
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, narrates the story of a group of English boys as they struggle to survive on an uncharted, uninhabited island. The boy’s airplane crashes into the island and kills any adults on board — leaving the boys to fend for themselves. Ralph and Piggy meet each other first and, upon Piggy’s counsel, Ralph decides to call a meeting of all the boys by blowing on a conch shell. The boys quickly begin to form a society in which they elect Ralph as their leader.
A boy called Jack quietly disagrees and believes that he should lead the group. As times passes, Jack and his choir become hunters for the rest of the boys and they begin to enjoy the ways of a predator. As Jack grows more savage, he becomes unhappy with the way that Ralph leads the boys and decides that he will go to the other side of the island and start his own tribe. Boys slowly begin to leave Ralph to join Jack. The boys become so savage that they kill two boys and they plan to kill Ralph.
Just as Jack has cornered Ralph, a naval officer appears and rescues them all. Golding depicts not only the struggle of the boys to survive, but also the psychological reasoning that leads the boys to abandon the civilized nature that they know. Through characterization and setting Golding creates in his novel, an ideal forum for validating psychological principles introduced by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung. Sigmund Freud was a psychologist who pioneered the thought that the mind contains three different levels, the id, the ego, and the superego.
The id bases itself on the pleasure principle; it meets basic needs. The id wants a quick satiation of needs and has no consideration for the reality of a situation. The ego bases itself on the reality principle, it understands that other people have needs and desires and that impulsiveness or selfishness can cause harm in the future. The ego meets the needs of the id, while taking the reality of the situation into consideration. The Superego develops due to the moral and ethical restraints placed on a child by influential adults in their lives.
One could compare the superego to the conscience, as it dictates belief of right and wrong. Golding acknowledges these different states of consciousness within his novel by using characters to represent each one. For instance, Jack represents the id. Jack never takes into consideration the best thing for the group or himself in the long run and he holds himself accountable to no set of rules or any code of ethics. “Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down!
We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat” (91). Jack addresses the issue of a beast believed to inhabit the island by filling his thirst for violence and neglecting to take into consideration that confronting a beast will most likely lead to danger. Jack’s reasoning involves selfish motives; he wants to get rid of the beast, he wants to kill, he does not care that he has potentially placed the others in a dangerous situation, nor does he realize the ludicrousness of the beast, Jack has neglected reality entirely. Piggy represents the ego.
He constantly tries to reason with the other boys, when he and Ralph first meet, Piggy understands that the other boys also landed on the island and someone needs to find and help them. “We got to find the others. We got to do something” (14). Piggy also realizes that the boys will most likely stay on the island for a while before someone rescues them — if someone ever rescues them at all. Piggy understands the boys while staying in touch with reality and he knows that if he does not find the smaller boys and take care of them, they will die.
Piggy comprehends the seriousness of their predicament and realizes what it will take to keep everyone in order and alive. Simon represents the superego because he adheres to the principles instilled in him by society and civilization. After Jack has killed a pig for the first time, he and his clan approach while chanting, Piggy whimpers and “Simon hushed him quickly as though he had spoken too loudly in church” (69). Simon’s conscience keeps Piggy in line even when dealing with savage Jack.
Towards the end of the novel, the other boys savagely murder Simon; when the boys kill Simon they also kill their conscience, they kill the rules and implications set upon them in order to keep society civilized and from this point until the boys get rescued their savage nature completely takes over and nothing holds them back any longer. Alfred Adler believed that personality difficulties are rooted in a feeling of inferiority. He also believed that people focus on maintaining control over their lives.
Golding shows these ideas in his novel. Piggy, Ralph, and Jack all have issues with inferiority and control, in some way each of them feels inferior and each them strives for control. The other boys consider Piggy substandard to them because physically he is not their equal, Piggy realizes that the other boys perceive him this way and tries to make up for it with his intellect and emphasis on the rules, which leads into Piggy’s control issue he tries to use control to counter act the feeling of being out-classed.
Jack always strives for superiority, from the very beginning Jack feels that he should be chief instead of Ralph. Jack crumbles underneath his need to become more superior than Ralph and decides to takes control of his situation and forms his own tribe. Jack tries to control his life by getting his way and convincing other boys to get his way as well. Ralph fears inferiority, leadership thrusts itself upon Ralph but he holds his position in very high regard. As Ralph loses support from his tribe, he loses his superiority and he begins to lose faith in himself and become more nervous.
Ralph does not like the loss of control in his tribe or in his life, the signal fire and getting the boys to help him make shelters was so important to him for this reason. Adler studied various types of people and he came to the conclusion that there are the four main types of people: The ruling type that tries to control others, the getting type that tends to go along with others ideas, the avoiding type that tries to isolate themselves to avoid defeat, the socially useful type that values having control over their lives and strive to do good things for the sake of society.
Jack represents the ruling type with his demand that the boys do as he says “‘go on’ the two savages looked at each other, raised their spears together and spoke in time. ‘The chief has spoken’ “(141). Jack thrives off of ruling and absolute power. Sam and Eric fit into the category of the getting type, they tend to go along with and do what others tell them to do. Whenever Ralph is their chief they listen to him and go along with what he says, and then when Jack captures them and takes them to his tribe they adhere to his code and do what he says.
Sam and Eric follow — they do not contribute to creative thought but they willingly take part in its aftermath. Simon represents the avoiding type, he largely keeps to himself, and he goes and finds a secret place where he can sit alone in the quiet with his thoughts. Ralph represents the socially useful type, he likes to have control of the boys but, unlike Jack he wants them to do things for the betterment of the group. Adler’s ideas come to life in Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
Psychologist Carl Jung believed that symbol creation was a key in understanding human nature. Symbols express something essentially unknown in the best way possible. The boys in Lord of the Flies create a symbol for their fear, at times the boys feel afraid and they cannot exactly express why. The boys create the symbol of the beast because they cannot touch or see their fear and so they imagine a beast that they could touch and see. Whenever Simon recognizes that the thing to fear lies within the boys he also creates a symbol, the Lord of the flies.
Jung also believed that the introvert and the extrovert make up the main components of personality. The introvert, like Simon, tends to keep to themselves, and find more interest in ideas than in people. “Simon paused. He looked over his shoulder as jack had done at the close ways behind him and glanced quickly around to confirm that he was utterly alone” (56). The extrovert however, is outgoing and socially oriented. Both Jack and Piggy fit the description of extroverts because, they both freely express their ideas and long for others to hear and admire them.
According to Jung a person that has a healthy personality can realize these opposite tendencies and can express each. Ralph most closely adheres to Jung’s theory about healthy personality. Ralph has a need for socialization but, he also knows when he needs time for reflection and thought, many times Ralph wishes that he had time to gather his thoughts before he had to go and present them in front of the rest of the tribe. When reading Lord of the Flies some readers may miss the latent meaning and only focus on the manifest.
Readers who do not take in deeper psychological nature of the novel would attribute the boy’s different reaction to the island, to differences in personality and background instead of the boys taking on the image of the different levels of consciousness. This reader might think that they could not keep order simply because they are just young boys when their real motives were their subconscious need for superiority. The entire novel deals with the psychological principles set forth by Freud, Adler, and Jung; it could be considered a case study that verifies the very things that these psychologists believed.
Subject: Carl Jung,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 November 2016
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