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Published: 10-09-2019

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The Theme of Savagery versus Civilisation in The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict among two major characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an impact on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and additional into savagery.

The theme of savagery versus civilisation is first introduced to us by way of the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the individual who very first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority amongst the boys. At the initial assembly Ralph says “I’ll give the conch to the next individual to speak…he will not be interrupted”. This suggests civilisation as Ralph is permitting every single boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be provided the opportunity to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have developed the island to be a democratic spot which shows a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.

Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be related with Jack as by the end of the novel he is nearly devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a “snake thing” but by the finish of the novel it has grow to be “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be undesirable omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of understanding. However at this stage of the novel the beast is very insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boys fear of the beast grows so to does the beast itself till it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a powerful status as a Lord although it is over anything pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they start to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, as a result demonstrating the theme of savagery.

1 of approaches Golding shows conflict amongst savagery and civilisation is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, reduce her throat, spill the blood”. This suggests savagery as the boys are becoming violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they do not care about it. This is specifically clear via Golding’s word option. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which tends to make it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have carried out therefore showing them becoming savages.

We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation establishing additional when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their a lot more civilised sides. At the begin of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but right here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can inform that Piggy is genuinely scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack may well do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now entirely open for the boys. This is the first correct piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will outcome in practically all the boys becoming savages.

A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation getting demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy soon after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he stated and did to Piggy. He is nevertheless attempting to impose himself as leader right here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is nonetheless some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still a person with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.

In conclusion


The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he desires to enforce rules and let everybody have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules more than the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. By way of the boys actions Golding shows us that we need to have rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions correctly.
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