Civilization vs. Savagery
The idea of civilization vs. Savagery is displayed in Lord of the flies as good vs. evil where civilization is good and savagery is evil. This idea is one that exists in all human beings: It is the instinct to follow and live by rules, act peacefully and follow moral commands against the desire for violence, to gratify ones immediate desires and reign supreme over others. Throughout the novel, the conflict is dramatized by the clash between Ralph and Jack, who respectively represent civilization and savagery. The differing ideologies are expressed by each boy’s distinct attitudes towards authority.
While Ralph uses his authority to establish rules, protect the good of the group, and enforce the moral and ethical codes of the English society the boys were raised in, Jack is interested in gaining power over the other boys to gratify his most primal impulses. When Jack assumes leadership of his own tribe, he demands the complete subservience of the other boys, who not only serve him but worship him as an idol. As the novel progresses, Golding shows how different people feel the influences of the instincts of civilization and savagery to different degrees. Piggy, for instance, has no savage feelings, while Roger seems barely capable of comprehending the rules of civilization. The rift between civilization and savagery is also communicated through the novel’s major symbols: the conch shell, which is associated with Ralph, and The Lord of the Flies, which is associated with Jack.
The conch shell is a powerful marker of democratic order on the island, confirming both Ralph’s leadership-determined by election-and the power of assembly among the boys. Yet, as the conflict between Ralph and Jack deepens, the conch shell loses symbolic importance. Jack declares that the conch is meaningless as a symbol of authority and order, and its decline in importance signals the decline of civilization on the island. At the same time, The Lord of the Flies, which is an offering to the mythical “beast” on the island, is increasingly invested with significance as a symbol of the dominance of savagery on the island, and of Jack’s authority over the other boys. The Lord of the Flies represents the unification of the boys under Jack’s rule as motivated by fear of “outsiders”: the beast and those who refuse to accept Jack’s authority. It is quite evident early on in the novel that they ‘tribe’ are made up of two groups. On one side there is Jack and the hunters and on the others side there is Ralph, Piggy and Simon. Due to Golding’s experiences in the 2nd world war, he witnessed what men and women could do to each other once law and order were thrown out the window. CIVILISATION
“Ralph sat on a fallen trunk, his left side to the sun. On his right were most of the choir; on his left the larger boys who had not known each other before…before him small children squatted in the grass.” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 2
“‘We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.'” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 2
“Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life.” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 4
He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling.” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 4
“Maybe there is a beast….maybe it’s only us.'”
– William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 5
“The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away.” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 5
“‘Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!'” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 7
“The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.”
– William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 7
“’The rock struck piggy, a glancing blow from shin to knee, the conch exploded, into 1000 white thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt travelled through the air sideways through the air sideways from the rock turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell 40 feet and landed on his back across that square red rock in the sea. Piggy’s head opened, stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched like a pigs after it had been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long slow
sigh. The water boiled white and pink over the rock and when it went sucking back again, the body of piggy was gone.” William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Ch. 11