Lord of the Flies - Review

William Golding was born an Englishman on September 19, 1911, and grew up to become an Oxford graduate, a respectable university, but went on to serve his country by fighting World War II. This experience fighting the brutal war against the Axis powers gave Golding, a writer since young, a strong impression about the true nature of human beings. This led him to write his respected book “Lord of the Flies”.

Lord of the Flies discusses the theme of civility versus savagery. Golding believes that as time passes without proper laws and the enforcement of these laws, people revert to their usual savage selves, and felt this reared its head at the Second World War. Therefore, he wrote a story depicting the “adventure” of fifteen or so boys, twelve and below, who were wrecked on an island without an adult to look after them, and showed the horrors of men.

 I feel that there are three main parts of the story line – first, the arrival of the boys on the island; second, the loss of innocence of the boys; and third, the final outcome of the situation and the rescue of the boys. When the boys are first wrecked on the island, two boys, Ralph, the main protagonist, and Piggy first meet and they become friends soon after. Ralph and Piggy go on to find a conch shell. At this point, we already see that Piggy is the representation of intellect, because he knows about the anatomy of the shell, and teaches Ralph to blow it. From this point onwards, the conch shell is used to gather all the boys at a meeting spot. Furthermore, during their daily assemblies, only the person holding the conch gets to speak. The conch shell thus represents the law and order in this microcosm of society.

The boys have different personalities to start off with. Jack Merridew, the main antagonist, is more pessimistic. He believes that there is a little and insignificant chance of them being rescued, so they should think about how to survive on the island. On the other hand, Ralph believes in his father, who is an officer in the British Navy, so he pushes for them to build a signal fire, which can be used to call out to boats at sea to save them. Already, a conflict breeds here, like in our normal lives.

So how do we solve our conflicts? In our modern world, we turn to more diplomatic ways to solve issues, like talks and meetings, and eventually voting for the best option. That is exactly what the boys do. After some discussion, an election is held, and Ralph ends up winning, placing him as “Chief” of the boys. He then calls for the boys to build a signal fire, which they light up with the intellectual representation, Piggy’s glasses. Jack, of course, is unhappy.

From this point on, the story becomes more tensed, and we enter the second part of the book, where the boys lose their innocence. The “beast” is first discussed by the young children amongst the group, scaring them, and at once, everyone seems to have a common enemy. The “beast” is merely imaginary, but young children being unable to tell myths from truths, believe that it either comes from the forest or the sea. As the story develops, the beast begins to scare the group even more, to the extent that they sacrifice a sow’s head for it. The most good natured, seemingly the most innocent boys, Simon realises that the beast’s existence in all of the boys is the source of the fear of it, and it is actually the representation of the savagery innately built into the boys. The more the boys act like savages, the more the beast seems to materialise. This beast is what Golding tries to warn us of.

Jack leaves the tribe after his continued conflict with Ralph, and begins his own hunting tribe, bent on killing pigs for food and hunting the beast instead of keeping up the warning signal. He even caused them to lose a chance to return home when he let the signal fire go off when a ship passed nearby. During the feast he organises in the evening of this event, his members carry out their ritual dance. In the heat and chaos, they mistake Simon for the beast and kill him. This symbolises the first instance where the innocence of the boys is lost, and they cross the line of civility, when no one seems to care too much about killing Simon. This is vastly different from modern society, where we even punish murderers with the death sentence. The boys seem to have lost their moral compass.

Jack performs continuous raids on Ralph, stealing fire as well as Piggy’s glasses. At this point, it becomes evidently already that the group here has already lost all forms of civil intelligence. Jack’s group now wear paint on their faces, and are now no longer recognisable both physically and psychologically – they become true savages, preying on others. Once the boys are no longer within the jurisdiction of the law, they are no longer afraid or wary of the consequences of their actions, causing them to change in their thought process and mental calculus.

Ralph and Piggy try to remind the boys of their final goal – to go home, and tries to exert his authority as chief, but to no avail. When Ralph’s group go to confront Jack, Piggy is killed, and the other two of Ralph’s members are forced to change their allegiances. In process of the heated argument between the two sides, the conch shell Piggy was holding is shattered. Similarly, chaos overrides order, and everyone begins to accept themselves and others around them as savages.

Finally, Jack orders a hunt against Ralph, bringing his men and setting fire to the entire forest covering majority of the island. Here, we see that the result disagreement has slowly shifted from a state of democratic ruling to savage, brutal means. Not only this, but they seem to have no logical thought – the forest is the source of food and shelter, their source of survival, but Jack and his tribe are willing to sacrifice all this for the sake of the killing of Ralph. Fortunately, a Navy boat spots this crisis and rescues Ralph just as he is about to be killed.

“Lord of the Flies” tells us that mankind is not as civilised as we perceive ourselves to be. As we develop as a species, we simply have a diminished reason to bring out that savagery in ourselves, but it still remains. Once we lack the enforcement of law and order, we will ultimately transition into Man’s natural state of brutality.

We sometimes question the presence of the law – there seems to be little reason to steal, rob or kill another. But what it truly represents is a set of moral guidelines that help us to act in a more civilised manner. It reminds us to look out for our own moral actions, and to continually rein ourselves in if we get out of line. In this sense, the law not only protects us from others, but also from ourselves.

The beauty of the book is in its underlying meaning. On a superficial level, it seems to be a dramatic representation of society – how can we be expected to think of such a scenario? Yet, it really tells us the importance of law and order, and of preserving rational thought over brutal means of solving our problems.

Disasters Bring out the Best in People. Do you Agree?

Disasters are commonly accepted to be terrible things, destroying tangible objects like infrastructure and killing people, and also causing intangible harm, like causing people to feel traumatised. Such harm is perpetuated by various forms of disasters, be they natural like tornados or man-made like oil spills, or social disasters such as terrorist attacks. Yet, it is worth noting that it is exactly these disasters that motivate people to live through the terrible times, and bring out the best in them. In response to disasters, people seem to become more courageous and civic minded, with many of them becoming leaders as well. These are all admirable traits in man.

In the fore, it may seem as though natural disasters create opportunities for people to commit crimes. In the wake of a natural disaster, there is bound to be some form of chaos that presents itself as an opportunity for people to steal and rob the community. Many people think about their needs before that of others and this selfish attitude is more likely to show itself after a disaster strikes than in normal circumstances. However, more often than not, people tend to exhibit more positive behavior in the face of calamity. One pertinent example would be the case of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Miki Endo proved herself to be a hero of her community when she sacrificed her own life to make continued announcements from a building for people to evacuate to higher ground, eventually saving over a thousand others. This form of heroism is particularly admirable because it is extremely difficult for a twenty-four year old to sacrifice her life for the sake of the community, in which she may not particularly have known everyone. Such heroism is indisputedly one of the best traits of mankind, something which would hardly surface in everyday living. Another widely observed phenomenon was the civic-mindedness of the survivors. After the calamity, despite the grief and terribly cold weather, the Japanese remained thoughtful, giving up their places in the ration queue to the elderly folks among them without hesitation. This form of help goes to show that disaster does make people more civic minded, as they not only consider their own suffering, but also that of others.

Of course, cynics may assert that in times of social conflict, there would be many casualties, which have multiple implications on different groups of people. People may become discouraged and feel let down if they end up losing their family members in disasters, and lack the motivation to carry on with their lives. Survivors are also harmed when they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or survivor’s guilt. Despite this, there are many instances in which people have continued to live on, and have even developed greater resilience after a while. For instance, Victor Guzman was a survivor of the 9/11 attacks, suffering from both of the abovementioned illnesses. However, after the incident, he was able to pick himself up from the ordeal; he learned to treasure his family more, and started to prioritise his family over his work. Such disasters make people ponder what they consider to be most valuable to them, spurring them to treasure these things. In this sense, disasters make people value what they love most, as the experience of nearly having lost these things drives home the ephemerality of life. This is in contrast to modern society, in which many people blindly follow others in the pursuit of material gain, but do not question the underlying reason for it. Disasters make their lives seem more unique in a way, allowing them to develop their own understanding of their particular priorities and circumstances. Therefore, disasters do bring out the best attitudes in survivors.

Pessimists would also claim that it is easy for people or even corporations to shirk their responsibilities in an effort to cover up man-made disasters. People who are more concerned with their image are unwilling to admit their contributions to the problem, and may be more likely to hide from the problem. However, most people are more likely to develop more possibilities to solve the problem. The BP spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico proved this. It took eighty-seven days for the engineers that came at the behest of both BP and the USA to find a solution to the problem, but they still did it in the end, achieving the supposed “impossible”. The effort encouraged more governments and corporations to understand the importance of our environment, such that we can protect and preserve it. This is in contrast to the normal attitude of taking the exploitation of the environment as a right of mankind. The motivation to stay responsible for one’s actions in spite of the consequences is extremely admirable, yet only it often surfaces only in the wake of a disaster. In fact, we owe the existence of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System to a tsunami that swept Hawaii in 1946. When disasters take away something that is usually taken for granted, then people will realise its importance and begin to preserve it. It is thus safe to conclude that disasters bring out the best efforts and intents that differ from the norm, for the benefit of both the present and the future.

In conclusion, the disasters that we face today may indeed be problematic, doing great harm, but they do encourage mankind to move forward, to continually improve, and adopt selfless attitudes. Differing actions arise while chaos erupts, but the cumulative response tends to be more positive than negative. Therefore, man has the ability to become better, whether temporary or for good, as a result of disasters. 

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.