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Themes in Lord of the Flies

The Nature of Evil

Evil in humanityGolding explores the idea that evil is inherent to all humans by showing how even young boys can quickly become corrupted when given the opportunity.

They start out as a civilised, rule-abiding group, but cracks in this appear when Roger bullies the littluns and Jack shows a thirst for punishing those who disobey the rules. This escalates steadily into more violent behaviour, resulting in the murders of Simon and Piggy.
The danger of mob mentalityAs a group, there are several moments when the boys are collectively whipped up into a state of frenzy. These are the moments when they seem to lose their sense of individual morality, causing them to be at their most dangerous.

This is evident just before the brutal killing of Simon, with the boys chanting, “Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” The sound is described as beating, “like a steady pulse”. This shows how the group have become one entity where all – even Ralph and Piggy – have become complicit in the thirst for violence.
Hope for humanityWhile this perhaps gives a very pessimistic view of humanity, some hope comes from the character of Simon. He resists all evil and helps the weak, showing that humans are capable of conquering their evil inclinations.

Simon is almost Christ-like in the way that he attempts to save the boys from their misguided ways by showing them the reality of the beast (the dead parachutist). This image of Christ is further enhanced by the way he is killed by the sinful others, who don’t possess his moral purity.

Rational Thought vs Emotions

Sensible action vs funIn assessing their situation, Ralph and Piggy call for sensible action in using the conch for order in meetings, building shelter and keeping the signal fire burning. On the other hand, other characters are more concerned with their desires and having fun. Ralph complains that, while he and Simon build the huts, everyone else is “off bathing, or eating, or playing.”

We see this tension again at Castle Rock when the boys start to play, and are resentful when Ralph reminds them that they have duties to complete. Ultimately, the sensible way of thinking loses to the thrill that the boys get from violence and murder.
Reactions to the idea of the beastWhile the littluns are unable to control the fear that takes them over as they discuss the beast, the old boys attempt to explain rationally why the beast is only a figment of their imagination. Even Jack tells them that it can’t exist or else he would have seen it when hunting.

However, as the story unfolds, nearly all of the boys come to believe in the beast’s existence. This shows how rational thought has been lost and overtaken by fear.
Piggy vs JackPiggy is the epitome of rational and scientific thought, and it is he who constantly tries to make the boys act more sensibly. In chapter 5, he asks them, “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What’s grownups going to think?”

On the other hand, Jack appeals to the boys on more of an emotional level, with their desire for food and the thrill of violence. The two boys – and their ideals – continually clash, but it is the appeal of Jack’s emotional messages that holds a greater sway over the group. The killing of Piggy is symbolic in showing how rational thought becomes lost in the violence of a warlike situation.

The Weak and the Strong

The importance of physical strength in the leaderRalph is selected as the leader partly because of his physical strength which makes him look like a “boxer”. Jack then emerges as a stronger contender for a leader when he displays his own physical dominance, such as killing animals and hitting Piggy.

The two leaders clash over ideals. However, they contest the leadership at Castle Rock through violence, not words, in a fight that neither is able to win.
The vulnerability of the littlunsThe littluns are physically smaller and weaker, and this leaves them at the mercy of the older children. We see Simon being kind to them, fetching food that they can’t reach. Roger, on the other hand, is intimidating, throwing stones near the biggest littlun, Henry, as a show of dominance.

Their lack of strength means that they are not respected or taken seriously. When Ralph asks Piggy about the remaining numbers in their group, Piggy mentions the littluns, but Ralph dismisses them, saying, “They don’t count.”
Piggy’s physical weaknessPiggy is established from the beginning to be physically vulnerable with the fact that he can’t swim, he suffers from asthma and short-sightedness, and is overweight. Although he is an influential figure in the group, and gives sensible suggestions, he is often ganged up on by the other boys.

His lack of strength makes him unable to defend himself when Jack hits him, and his poor eyesight means he doesn’t see the boulder that kills him. Ultimately, his rational thinking becomes lost because he is easy prey to the stronger, more ruthless boys.

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