Lord of the Flies was written in 1954 as William Goldings debut novel. It was written and set around the time of the Second World War. The keywords in the essay title are ‘order’ and ‘deteriorates, therefore in this essay I intend to look at first how order is established and will then show how order deteriorates. I will do this by looking at the individual episodes and themes throughout the book that I believe show law and order. Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of boys aged between five and twelve, who survived a plane crash during their evacuation from England.
They crash on a small tropical island.
The story begins with Ralph and Piggy getting to know each other. The topic of class then becomes apparent, Piggy is very ‘working class’ and has a strong cockney accent, and whereas Ralph is middle class and uses more sophisticated language but they are both of similar intelligence. Ralph begins to think of what may lie ahead of them and says, ‘No grown ups!’ (P12), this is the boy’s first realisation that they are alone and have complete freedom, however what will happen now that there are no adults? After a while a large group is formed, off all the boys from the plane, the choir all in black capes led by Jack come across the beach all marching together.
This symbolises order, they are all wearing the same outfit of the same colour and mimicking each other and there is an obvious and strong leader whom they are following and obeying.
The choir could also represent a presence of danger on the island as they have a sinister uniform and the contrast of the black uniforms against the white sands is strong.
Ralph finds a conch, which to the group means whoever has the conch may speak this shows that leaders and order are trying to be created. Ralph uses the conch to assemble the boys for a meeting to decide who will be leader. Jack, the head boy, feels he should be chief as he is older and has a position of responsibility within the choir, ‘I’m chapter chorister and head boy, I can sing a C sharp’ (pg 29) jack seems arrogant and immediately assumes he will be leader. There is a democratic vote and Ralph is made leader.
Ralph however realises he needs to work together with Jack not against him and says, ‘Jacks in charge of the choir, they can be…what do you want them to be?’ (Pg 31), jack decides they will be hunters. The whole process is very democratic and mature, and with the absence of parents the boys are trying to bring in order and discipline and by choosing a leader they are creating a parental figure that they can look up to. The conch has by this point become a symbol of order and to speak at a meeting one must hold the conch.
Ralph then selects jack to go and explore the island with him, this is an attempt at sharing the role of leader and is a friendly gesture to try and remove any bad feelings for each other. Ralph also chooses Simon to take with him, Simon is a member of the choir and earlier in the novel fainted, Ralph chooses Simon to show he is fair and sympathetic. Ralph leaves Piggy to collect the names of the other boys. As the bots explore the island there are many subtle references to the outside world, ‘Like a bomb!’ (Pg 37) this is an ironic reference to the real atomic bomb, which occurred in 1945. They also give a hint of religion or god, ‘The coral was scribbled into the sea as though a giant had bent down…’ (Pg 38) this is like god being the creator of nature and moulding the land it also poses the question, how long will this paradise last after the arrival of the boys.
It was mentioned earlier that Jack chose to make the choir the hunters, the hunting brings the boys together in a positive and constructive way, it relieves boredom and it is a focus for the boys. It also brings a stable food supply to the boys, and makes everyone feel they have a role to play on the island. But why are they hunting? There are plenty of berries to keep everyone happy and healthy, it may possibly be due to freedom from parents and rules that makes them want to hunt for the pigs or maybe because its what they have read in books or heard stories of and hunting is what they believe they should do.
The next theme that represents order on the island is the fire on the mountain. The group assemble at the end of the day, ‘the choir, noticeably less of a group had discarded their cloaks’ (pg 42) this represents the group working together and order being present now within the whole group and them becoming equals. Ralph starts to develop their plans for rescue and takes on well his role of leader, he also boasts about his father, ‘My fathers in the navy. He said there aren’t any unknown islands left…and sooner or later a ship will put in here. It might even be daddy’s ship,’ (pg 49), he is showing off to the other boys that are mostly younger than him, he is trying to earn their respect and be seen by them as a good and strong leader. He is obviously quite intelligent as he decides they need to build a fire on the mountain so that passing ships will see the smoke. The boys were really keen, there was riot and noise, the novelty and rules with the conch had been forgotten and now the idea of building the fire. They worked as a team to collect leaves and logs and completed the fire.
I am now going to talk about how order first starts to deteriorate, and what first starts the breakdown of order on the island. After the fire has been made, it was figured out then that they could use Piggy’s glasses to light the it, they wrestled him for them, ‘Here let me go! His voice rose to a shriek of terror’ (pg 53) this incident shows possibly a mob nature emerging, they have become so obsessed with the fire now that they have lost all sense of order. Ralph holds the conch and says, ‘ We need special people for looking after the fire,’ (pg 55), and this shows that there is a hierarchy or ‘pecking order’ beginning to develop on the island; Ralph is taking control by deciding who is special and who is not. The fire rages out of control, it spreads and sets light to the trees and creepers on the island, ‘Beneath the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame’ (pg 57).
One of the small boys dies, Golding never named him he is only ever referred to as ‘the boy with the birthmark’ the boys reflect on the boys death, ‘The crowd was as silent as death,’ (pg 60) this is using strong irony because of course there had actually been a death. I think the boy is never named so that he isn’t seen as a real person and therefore is almost seen as a symbol, a symbol of control and order he dies, therefore control is seen to die with him. The fire also symbolises control, and it raging out of control represents the feeling of order on the island raging out of control. Its almost as if the fire and order on the island mirror each other throughout the book, order is built up, the fire is built, order begins to lose control, the fire rages out of control; the fire is an extended metaphor.
The beast is discussed at a meeting at it unsettles a lot of the boys and is the, the beast is seen as something beyond their control and therefore Jack and Ralph really don’t want to believe its real. The boys reassure each other that it’s not real, but inside every one of them there is doubt. Following this meeting and the fire incident shelters are built on the beach, I think they symbolise the boys protecting themselves from the fire and the beast. It also shows them trying to create a civilisation, and trying to create home.
Jack becomes obsessed with hunting; he desperately wants to catch a pig so that he can be seen as fulfilling and being successful in his role on the island as leader of the hunters. He also wants to succeed in hunting to show Ralph that he is a success and earn respect from the boys and possibly even take their attention from Ralph and make them see him as being the natural leader. Jack fails to catch a pig for the second time he is not used to dealing with animals and definitely not used to killing them. Him and Ralph argue as they both have different priorities on the island Jack’s is hunting and meat, ‘We Want Meat’ (pg 65), and Jacks priorities are the shelters and keeping the fire alight, ‘We need shelters’, (pg 65). Ralph’s ultimate goal is rescue and to do this they need the fire so Ralph’s idea is definitely the better one.
The argument they have over this shows that there is fierce competition between the boys, and while they are busy fighting and competing for control, order and control is actually being lost. Jack takes all of the choir or the hunters as they are now known off on a hunt; he is determined to catch a pig. Therefore while they are hunting there is no one tending the fire. Ralph checked the fire from the beach, its almost as if he was checking up on Jack, and he realises it is producing almost no smoke. He tells Jack but he is distracted by his plans for catching a pig Ralph gets annoyed, ‘I was talking about the smoke! Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!’ (Pg 68). Hunting gives the boys power over life and death, and as their lives are out of their hands it gives them back a feeling of control.
Jack introduces camouflage to his team of hunters, they paint their faces with mud, charcoal and clay they go off to hunt with Jack’s plan. Painting their faces represents them going feral and going back to nature, ‘For hunting like in the war – like things trying to look like something else’ (pg 79). It creates the feeling of a gang or tribe, all working together and it makes them quite aggressive. The paint hides their faces but it also hides their individuality and identity and gives them an excuse to kill, they mould into one great gang. A while later they return from the hunt and it was a success they killed a pig, ‘We hit the pig – I fell on top, there were lashings of blood,’ (pg 87).
Jack is so proud of the result and boasts to Ralph and the boys expecting a positive response, Ralph is angry and really doesn’t want to talk about the hunt all he wants to talk about is the fire going out. A ship had sailed past without stopping on the island, due to the fire going out Jack had taken all of the boys on the hunt, ‘We had to have them for the hunt, or there wouldn’t have been enough for the ring,’ (pg 87). The boys see it as that was their only chance for rescue and all hope is lost. Piggy is really frustrated and angry with Jack, ‘You didn’t ought to have let that fire go out, You said you would keep the smoke going,’ (pg 89), Jack got angry and lifted Piggys glasses ff his face and threw them on the rocks. Piggy has been the main source of intelligence on the island and is the one staying very controlled and organised, but without his glasses he cannot use his intelligence.
The group is slowly splitting into two the hunters, which are Jack and the choir, and the others which still go by the rules of the conch, which are Piggy, Ralph and the younger boys who build the shelters and try and manage the fire. Ralph calls for a meeting, he outlined all the concerns he has been having, he doesn’t really want to direct this at the whole group I think he is just trying to get his point across to Jack and by holding a meeting he is showing that he is the leader and he makes the decisions. His five issues he brings up at the meeting are, fresh water, shelter, lavatory area, fire to burn constantly and to deal with the beast. Ralph tells the group that the fire is the key to being rescued, ‘How can we ever be except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going?
Is a fire too much for us to make?’ (Pg 101) throughout his time on the island he has remained focused and not got carried away by hunting or another pointless craze, he is intelligent and knows the fire is their only chance, ‘You’ve got to make fire up there or die,’ (pg 101). He then moves on talk about the beast at which point Jack joins in, Jack believes that the beast is just in peoples minds and that they’ve created it. Maybe with absence of secure homes and adult figures to look after the children they fear that they are not protected and so they create scenarios in their heads. Ralph is unsure about the beast but he cannot let the group be scared he tries to convince them that there is no beast on the island, ‘Course there isn’t a beast in the forest. How could there be?’ (Pg 104).
The beast is still on the minds of everyone and when the twins Sam and Eric are tending the fire, they catch sight of what they believe is the beast. ‘They became motionless gripped in each others arms, four unwinking eyes aimed and two mouths open,’ (pg 122). Everyone is thinking about the beast and their minds are probably playing tricks on them and with the heat, lack of water and pure insanity of the situation its no surprise that they aren’t going to be thinking straight or logically. The twins alert the group and Ralph calls an assembly immediately and it is decided that Jack is going to hunt the beast, ‘This’ll be a real hunt, who’ll come?’ (Pg 125). Jack, Ralph and the hunters went to search for the beast, they don’t find it, but while searching the island Jack finds a spot which he thinks would be great for a for fort. Him and the hunters move away from the rest of the group and live on the other side of the island; this is where order is absolutely destroyed. The two natural leaders are now enemies; one is focused on rescue the other turning savage.
Jacks and his group of hunters form into a tribe and tempted by hunting and feasting and not having to work many of Ralph’s group join Jack’s. Ralph’s group are still aiming towards rescue and stand for order and fairness but being the smaller less powerful group they are at a huge disadvantage. Its becoming war between two armies and Jack is still trying to prove that he is leader, and trying to take the control and power. The newly formed tribe spend the evening doing a ritualistic tribal dance, they paint their faces and its like a re-enactment of the time when they succeeded in killing the pig, and its also like a build up to the war between the two sides and a build up to the killing of the beast.
Ralph approached Jack and his tribe and asked him to hunt for the beast with him, ‘I’m going up the mountain to look for the beast, coming?’ (Pg 148). This is a huge test and Ralph’s desperately trying to keep the group together because he knows that he cant make any changes or achieve any of his goals on his own, such as keeping the fire alight and building shelters. Jack agrees to go with Ralph, Roger went with them too as they walked through the forest they were picking up on every sound and every thing they saw, which shows they were on edge and frightened.
They crawled on there hands and knees towards a figure, ‘there was confusion in the darkness and the creature lifted its head, holding towards them a ruin of a face,’ (pg 153), throughout the hunt Jack and Ralph are competing for power and control, courage and leadership, ‘if you don’t want to go on,” said the voice sarcastically “I’ll go on my own’ (pg 149) this is what Jack said to Ralph, neither of them wanted to make fools out of themselves or give the other any clue of how scared they were. They call what they found a beast and it was actually the pilot from the plane that crashed on the island, he was wearing a parachute and when the wind blew it pulled the figure making it seem like it was moving. They were terrified and fled from the figure almost immediately.
War is now declared between Jack and Ralph after an argument they had after they found the ‘beast’, ‘I’m going off by myself. He can catch his own pigs. Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too,’ (pg 158). After this the divide is definite and there is no going back. Along with the hunters Roger and Bill go onto Jack’s side, Ralph’s group concentrated on the fire and didn’t notice Simon wandering off into the vegetation. Simon is seen as a Christ like image in this part he has gone into the quiet and tried to get away and reflect on the situation. I really don’t think he wants to take anyone’s side and doesn’t want all the violence and bitterness.
Jack’s side concentrate mostly on hunting but they do make a fire, only their fire is purely for dancing around and showing their tribal nature whereas Ralph’s fire is for purely practical and even life saving reasons. Jack plans to kill a pig and leave some for the beast to eat so that it won’t bother them; this is a very primitive and pagan ritual. Jack puts the head of the pig on a stick; it is elevated and treated as a god like creature. ‘They listened and the loudest noise was the buzzing of flies over the spilled guts,’ (pg 169) this is why the book is named ‘Lord of the Flies’ the lord is the pig. To the boys the lord of the Flies represents their whole reasons and achievements on the island, which is the hunting. The use of the animal a pig is to mirror Piggy, they are both exploited for the groups own needs and the group see both the animal and the boy as dirty, common and coarse. Golding also uses pigs because they are mammals and therefore are similar to humans and hunting pigs is linked and similar to killing humans.
Simon is still alone in the forest and he comes across the ‘Lord of the Flies’ he hallucinates it may possibly have been an epileptic fit or maybe a spiritual awakening. In Simon’s hallucination the ‘lord of the Flies’ talks to him, ‘There isn’t anyone to help you, only me, and I’m the beast,’ (pg177), the links between the beast and the pig is, they have both distracted the boys and therefore affected the rescue attempt with the fire and they are both hunted by the boys and when Simon becomes conscious he finds the parachutist they both are covered in flies. Simon realises it’s the dead pilot and realises there is nothing to fear.
Simon walks towards where Jack’s camp is; he wants to tell them that the beast isn’t real. Jack and his tribe had painted their bodies and were re-enacting the murder of ‘Lord of the Flies’ they were shouting, acting dancing and were really carried away, ‘Do our dance! Come on! Dance!’ (Pg 88). They had made a chant which they bellowed as they danced, ‘Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!’ (Pg 188). Jack spotted Simon and the whole grouped moved in on him thinking he was the beast they crowded round him with sticks and spears and stones, ‘the beast was on its knees in the centre, its arms folded over its face’ (pg 188) it wasn’t the beast it was Simon they continued to beat the ‘beast’ until there was no movement. The hunters killed Simon, they were so carried away with the tribal or mob nature they let it take over them and made them murderers. In the book Simon was always neutral he never took sides and was the only person who didn’t get swept away with all the conflict, he was like the small bit of purity on the island, and this made him the Christ like character.
Now on Ralph’s side there is just Piggy, Sam and Eric, Piggy and Ralph speak about the occurrences of the night before, Piggy says, ‘there was that – that bloody dance. There was lightning and thunder and rain we was scared,’ (pg 193). Only Piggy recognises what really happened and that was murder.
Jack and his hunters attack Ralph and Piggy in there own shelter, it was all quite violent but it ended quite quickly, but Piggy’s glasses were broken and taken by Jack. I think Jack does regret what happened but he’s not going to give up the war between him and Ralph, he wants to keep control and he’s not going to back down. Ralph and Piggy sum up all the crimes that Jack has committed, ‘at night and in darkness, and stole our fire, they stole it,’ (pg 209). He has also killed pigs unnecessarily, killed Simon and stolen Piggy’s glasses.
Ralph and Piggy decide to go to Jack’s side of the island with Sam and Eric too, when they reached Jack’s area Ralph called for an assembly obviously with no results because Jack is their leader they don’t take orders from Ralph any more. Roger begins the attack he throws stones from above Ralph’s group, but aims to miss. ‘I’ve come to see about the fire and about Piggy’s specs Ralph said,’ (pg 216) all he received was laughter. Ralph confronted Jack and left Piggy below near the bottom of the cliff. Ralph and Jacks argument gets quite physical but Ralph defends himself well, he is trying to be strong but he is now the minority and although he carries the name of leader he really isn’t any more.
Piggy tried to speak but he was being aimed at with stones, ‘which is better law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up’ (pg222) I think this statement sums up the book, Piggy is really quite intelligent and even with all the panic, excitement and hysteria he can see through that and spot the underlying point. This statement enrages Roger and he levers a huge boulder off of the top of the cliff and it hits Piggy, he was killed. By this point Jack is used to seeing death he has no reaction to this, his compassion for people has gone consumed by his tribal nature and devoted to hunting.
With Piggy the conch was also smashed and so have Piggy’s glasses been broken, the conch represented purity, control and order and now that Piggy has gone those things have gone too. Now that Piggy is dead, Ralph hasn’t got his intelligent partner and the glasses represented his intelligence and they have been smashed too, will Sam and Eric stand by him or will he be on his own? Both the deaths of Piggy and all of the pigs have been pointless and the victims have all been helpless this shows strong irony.
Sam and Eric do join the savages because they know that is their only chance of survival if they stayed with Ralph they would be hunted down and killed too, Ralph is now alone. All that awaits him is to be hunted like one of the pigs, hunted down and killed like an animal. It would be another pointless murder of an innocent and helpless victim. He is no threat to Jack now; he is alone so Jack is only hunting him to show that he is leader now and that he holds all the power and control.
He goes to try and talk to Sam and Eric he finds them and they tell him to hide, get away and hide because they are going to hunt him down tomorrow. He goes to Castle Rock where Jacks tribe are the next day, they hurl a boulder off the cliff at him in an attempt to kill him, and they try again with another stone it misses again but only by inches. Jack and the hunters made a fire now in an attempt to smoke him out, the metaphor of the fire is used again, and the fire gets out of control just like the order on the island has. The fire rages out of control, Ralph escapes and runs as fast as he can to the beach where he stumbles upon a naval officer. Ralph is a strong person and he survived being hunted, his only goal all the way through was rescue and close to his last minutes of life his wish comes true.
In conclusion, in the beginning of the story the boys try to mimic the order the experienced at home with parents and school, partly because of their immaturity and inexperience and partly due to Jack and Ralph’s fight for control order is not kept and this is symbolised by the conch and the fire. Jack becomes the dominant force on the island purely due to his brutality and violence, in the end they are even prepared to kill jack, the only remaining sign of order on the island.