Savagery, the hideous vileness within man’s heart, is explored by William Golding as he expresses his thoughts on the darkness and brutality of man in his novel Lord of the Flies. He explores a group of British boys struggling to survive on an island without civilization. Through the character development of Jack, Golding shows how an innocent child transforms into a savage. He uses imagery to illustrate the savages these boys are becoming. This novel shows that lack of rules and restraints of civilization will cause man to become savage.
In society there are certain rules and standards that people find acceptable. However, on the island there are no adults who would tell the boys what is acceptable and what is not. The boys are free to do things that would be considered barbaric in a more civilized place, which allows them to begin acting like savages. For instance when Jack paints himself a mask using pigs’ blood and becomes more savage because, “…the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness”(80).
There is nobody around who would tell Jack not to paint his face, and after he does, he begins to do more barbaric things because he feels that he is more or less free to do what he pleases with the mask on. If Jack was still in a civilized society it would not be socially acceptable for him to have a mask of pigs’ blood. This displays that without social standards, a person is not expected to do things a certain way, therefore people would be free to act more like savages. In Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, Ralph and Jack are two distinct characters whose leadership qualities contrast so much that they become opposed to each other.
Ralph and Jack come to symbolize the good and evil in life. Their leadership views are also very different, as Ralph signifies democracy, while Jack signifies dictatorship. The worlds these two boys live in contrast very much. Ralph stands for civilization and what is good, while under Jacks command the boys become evil and savage. The way Jack tempts the boys with the excitement of the bloodthirsty hunt, or insane tribal dances around a fire, suggests that Jack was actually a form of the devil himself, trying to lead the boys away from their wholesome faithful lives. He is leading them away from rescue.
Jack appealed to the primitive side within most littluns, and had them forget all that they knew about civilization and being proper. Jack had formed his own little army of savages. Ralph on the other hand symbolized the good in men. Ralph was honest and innocent. He cared more about being rescued than he did about being in charge. In Chapter 5 Ralph thought…”The world, that understandable and lawful world was slipping away. “(113) Human beings need some type of government structure in order to make laws or rules of some form. Rules are needed because without them, people will do as they please and chaos would arise.
In Lord of the Flies, Ralph becomes the leader of the boys. Jack who leads the choir and hunters often resists Ralph’s authority. During an assembly Ralph tells Jack that he is breaking the rules, to which Jack responds “who cares”(114). Ralph in reply exclaims that “the rules are the only thing we’ve got! “(114). This shows how Ralph seems to understand that rules are crucial in order for people to remain civilized. After this point, Jack begins to pay less attention to the rules or to Ralph’s authority and begins to act more like a savage. Jack then decides that he is “… ot going to be a part of Ralph’s lot. “(158) because he is not getting his own way, and starts a new tribe where there are none of Ralph’s rules. Without these rules made by Ralph, Jack’s tribe becomes more and more barbaric. They do things such as paint their faces with blood, raid Ralph’s camp for fire, dance around the fire while re-enacting the slaughter of the pig, using one of the other boys, and steal Piggy’s glasses. These and other ruthless actions lead to the death of both Simon and Piggy. This is how Golding shows that people need rules in order to remain civilized.
Without rules and limits, natural human nature is shown and human beings may become savage, even to the point of death. There are many symbols used in Lord of the Flies that represent the loss of innocence and the fall of civilization. One specific symbol is the stick sharpened at both ends (Double Headed Spear). Accordingly the stick reveals that they will go to any measure to ensure that they get what they want. Jack announced, “Sharpen a stick at both ends. “(169). He tells everyone that the spear will be used to hold up the “gift”(170) for the beast.
Later they try to use this spear to kill Ralph. Nevertheless, this shows that first they just want food so they could survive and be rescued. They later got so carried way with power, and despite their upbringing, they resorted to killing their own just to get their own way. Furthermore this symbolizes that nothing is going to slip out of their grip and that they will kill anything that they don’t particularly like at that time. After spending a prolonged period of time in isolation from civilization, nearly anyone’s savage side will begin to show.
During a feast with Jacks tribe, Piggy and Ralph take part in a dance near the fire. As they are dancing, Simon comes rushing down the beach and was mistaken for the beast. Inside the worked-up mob, “Ralph… was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering” (142). This shows how even Ralph becomes a savage for a moment when he takes part in the killing of Simon. This is how Golding illustrates that even the most unlikely people can become savages given the right circumstances.
Near the end of the novel Jack became so powerful that with the absence of civilization he eventually turns the whole island into chaos “…the whole island was shuddering with flame. “(247). With the absence of authorities his tribe kills Piggy and Simon because there is no one to tell them what they can and can’t do anymore, leaving Ralph to be hunted as a fugitive not only because he is among the weakest links in the survival of the fittest but because he is the only person who stands in his way from his insanity, but despite his attempts to stay perpetual he was forced to give up his rule.
Throughout Lord of the Flies, Golding shows that without civilized rules and standards, or under certain emotional circumstances, people behave differently. Without structure from the rest of the world to encourage or discourage certain behaviors, human nature would take over and people would become the savages that they innately are.