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Why Lord of the Flies is a Must Read for Everyone: Philosophical, Social, People

Updated on September 26, 2013

A Must Read for Everyone

There are millions of books in the world, but only a couple that can truly impact and shape our views on politics, money, religion, and love. Some can even become a source of inspiration for the rest of our lives. From the countless books I’ve read, I’ve decided to share one of my favorites with you. I hope that if you haven’t read this book already, that you will read them after this hub, and have your children read them as well (this book is a high-school reading book).

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies" is by no doubt one of the best books I have read, and for those who have read it as well, maybe at high school or self-imposed, they know what I am talking about.

The Lord of the Flies book plays the old philosophical question of "What if". What if a plane carrying a full load of school boys crashes on a deserted island with no adult survivors? What would happen to those boys? What would you expect to happen to them? How would they manage? Would they be able to survive?

William Golding works with this premise: an idyllic setting, innocent schoolboys. They start out noticing that they are alone and if they are to make it, they will have to first elect a leader. The boys are from a civilized culture and they carry out a democracy on the island.

But, what makes this novel so exciting is that Golding questions the true nature of humans and the way he uses such intricate symbolism. Golding poses two different philosophical views, those of Locke and Hobbs.

Locke

  • The optimistic one, he believes that as long as mankind maintains a sense of freedom in society, peace will prevail among human beings.
  • "Blank slate" philosophy, also believes humans are born generally good hearted.

Hobbs

  • Believes mankind is self interested, selfish, etc.
  • Believes that humans are naturally evil and they must be placed under strict legal control in order to maintain stability and peace.

Who is right? The book explores the two views, and after you read Lord of the Flies, you are in a better spot to make your judgement.

What if you were stuck on an island? Will you do what society expects? Will you follow the rules to keep things running and working? Do you break a rule or two for your own enhancement? What will you do, now that societal rules/pressures have been lifted?

I think of "Lord of the Flies" as a necessary manual for an insight on the behavior of a society.

Reader, are you a little bit fearful?

Everyone, the below is only for those who have read the book and might be confused about some aspects of it. I have read and gone over the book in high school and the following is my notes from back then. I also recommend buying the spark notes of LOTF if parts of the book confused you when you were reading. I have links to both the book Lord of the Flies and the Spark Notes book of it on this Hub.

Some of the Major Conflicts in Lord of the Flies:

Ralph vs. Jack

Ralph represents order and calmness in society. From the beginning of the novel, Jack wanted to be chief of the tribe. Eventually Jack grew tired enough of Ralph that he wound up saying “I’m not playing with you anymore” and left Ralph’s tribe. Upon leaving, he formed his own tribe and made himself Chief. However, whereas Ralph was democracy and peace, Jack was anarchy and barbarism. Jack transformed into a savage-like creature and destroyed Ralph’s civilization while promising the boys in his tribe protection from the beast, control, and “fun”.

Boys vs. Nature

The boys went hunting many times to try to keep themselves alive. In the beginning of the novel, Jack was afraid to kill the sow. However, towards the end, Jack brutally murdered the sow and hung his head on a stick. Also, Jack, his hunters, and Ralph “rape” a pig in a later part of the novel, and they kill a couple of piglets (this is actually very hard to pick up and many do not notice this).

Boys vs. Piggy

Piggy represents the weak, or the nerds, who are often victimized. The boys tortured him because he is fat and needs such thick glasses. His torture can also be considered a lack of understanding, because the boys had likely never met anyone with problems like his. This can be seen in the boy’s lack of understanding of asthma, or "ass-mar". Because he is an easy target to bully, he gets picked on a lot, especially Jack which is seen throughout the novel hitting Piggy whenever he gets upset.

Jack vs. Society

The barbaric quality that arises in Jack throughout the book is really a rebellion against society. He grew tired of taking orders from Ralph and participating in the democratic system that they had. This sense of anarchy must have existed inside of him before the encounter on the island began, but his experiences served to bring it out of him.

Key Issues:

The Need for Civilization and Order

Laws and rules are definitely necessary to keep the darker side of human nature in line, which Ralph doesn’t realize. When all the aspects of civilization begin to disappear on the island, the boys revert to a more primitive part of their nature, and they turn into savages, and anarchy replaces democracy…Jack replaces Ralph. Society holds everyone together, and without civilization and rules, the boy's ideals, values, and basic ideas of what is right and wrong is forgotten, and the evils of human nature inside them emerge.

Human Nature

I am sorry but this part of my notes are corrupted, I am sure Spark notes goes over this.

Themes in LOTF

Power

Different types of power, some used and abused. Democratic power is shown when choices and decisions are shared among many people on the island. The conch represents the Democratic Power. Ralph rules using Democratic Power, also the Social Contract. Refer to other notes about Social Contract.

Jack shows authoritarian power by threatening and terrifying others. Knife symbolizes this, refer to notes on the Knife. Some of the boys utilize brute force, when hunting for pigs, and later hunting for Ralph.

Fear of the Unknown

The boy's fear of the unknown on the island leads to their fear of the beast. Simon understands the Fear of the unknown and mankind’s essential illness, however the boys do not.

Blindness and Sight

Piggy is blind to his immediate surroundings but really understands what is going on the island. Unfortunately, the boys do not realize that Piggy sees more, and he is treated poorly and is eventually killed by Roger.

Quick Remembering …

*Refer to notes on Golding’s beliefs for more help on this.

Piggy and the Glasses .... intellectual

The conch... Democracy and Order

Simon's behavior represents... Christ-like Figure, pure goodness

The island... a microcosm representing the world (refer to other notes took in class for more on this)

The beast... the capacity for evil within everyone (refer to notes on Simon for more)

Roger's behavior represents... evilness and sadism (towards the end, even kills Piggy, more is on the notes on Roger including the incident with Piggy)

Jack's behavior represents... savagery and anarchy (more on the notes on Jack)

Ralph's behavior represents... democracy and civilization; the capacity for evil within everyone (more on the notes on Ralph)

Lord of the Flies... the devil, great danger (Simon talks to it and faints showing he’s afraid, LOTF foretells his death as well)

Additional Info:

*Jack represents the leader of the forces of anarchy

*Roger represents the "official" torturer and executioner of Jack’s tribe, and in my own belief Roger is even more savage-like then Jack.

Please write in the comments about what you think about this book and this review/synopsis.

Also, if you have any questions, write them in the comments and I will try to answer them.

Thanks for Reading

Isocrates

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    • profile image

      Moral Man 

      9 months ago

      Add YWiour Comment ...Willam Golding's Lord of the Flies is a masterpiece of suspense, adventure, and more importantly, a story about morality and the struggle between good and evil, and should be of interest to philosophers. It just stands out among other novels, and it gets very deep.

      The boys land on a tropical island without any adults. Now they have to survive and get along. Ralph is represented as the Ego and the voice of reason and order, while Jack and Roger are represented by the Id, and become savage, violent, immoral, amoral brutes, and Simon and Piggy represent the Superego, the moral conscience and goodness. Its poor Simon and poor Piggy who end up getting killed at the hands of Jack and Roger.

      The novel is trying to say that without authority figures such as adults, without police, without teachers, without parents, and without laws, human beings, and especially kids and boys, are likely to degenerate into evil, immoral, amoral savages which is sadly the case in Lord of the Flies. The boys could have had a pleasant existence on a tropical island but they chose to ruin it under the evil influences of Ralph and Roger. So another theme of the book is implying or inferring that the defects of human beings goes back to the defects of human nature, or in other words, its saying that human nature is innately, inherently, intrinsically evil, sinful, and corrupt, and this is more so without the constraints of supervision and without police. Ok, but its also possible to go deeprer than what the book describes. The book is concerned primarily with Moral evil, or Human evil. The book doesnt really address the problem of Natural evil, such as predation, diseases, venomous pests such as centipedes, spiders, scorpions, snakes, parasites, hurricanes, and predation. Nature has made the majority of animals and the majority of humans meat eaters. That means theres violence, carnage, killing, death everywhere, all the time. So when Jack and Roger decide to become hunters and killers, is it really their fault? How much of it is their fault, and how much of it is Nature's fault? Nature has made many people violent and has given them a desire to eat meat. Nature is more to blame here. No one has total free will to do good or evil. Nature and nurture also dictates and determines human behavior whether good or bad, and there is no escaping Nature, and there is no escaping from one's nurture. No one has 100 percent total free will. In the end, humans are a part of Nature, and not apart from it. I wish the book addressed Nature's role in evil, sin, and suffering. Nature is also to blame for why the boys degenerated into the violent savages they became.

      The Lord of the Flies is really a pig's head on a stick with flies surrounding it which the boys did under the evil influence of Jack and Roger. Jack and Roger werent content to just enjoy eating fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, herbs, and plants. No they had to go out and hunt, kill, and eat pigs and whatever else they could catch. They had an insatiable appetite to hunt and kill, and an insatiable appetite to eat meat. What could have been a peaceful, idyllic Garden of Eden instead turned into a warzone, slaughterhouse, and horror movie. Jack and Roger were the Devils who ruined Paradise here, although its fair to say that there never was a paradise anywhere in the world at any time. The world, whether its the Natural world, and all of history and prehistory, was always the cruel, troubled place so familiar to us.

      Simon imagines he communicates with this pig's head on a stick, while Piggy suffers from asthma and myopia. They were good hearted, moral boys, and they were easy victims for Jack and Roger's evil gang. They were too good and too innocent to survive in such an evil world. To be fair, if there were no Jack and no Roger to cause evil on the island, Simon, Piggy, and Ralph would still have to contend and be in danger from Natural evil, such as dehydration, (clean safe drinking water is very rare in the wild), starvation, edible fruits and plants are rare and require miles of searching, mosquitoes, ticks, flies, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, snakes, malaria, and large animals such as big cats, Pythons, and Crocodiles which are among the dangers. Plus, to add to the list of dangers and problems, there is no toothbrush, no toothpaste, no washing machine, no soap, no medicine, no dentist, and no doctors in the wild. There really is no paradise anywhere in the world. There never was.

      The 1990 movie version of Lord of the Flies used American kids instead of English kids which author William Golding wrote about. The boys killed and beheaded a real live wild pig and a small Chameleon. Its cruelty to animals, even if it was meant to be eaten. The musical score is impressive in this movie.

      Lord of the Flies is timeless as a story. Its also disturbing and depressing.

    • Isocrates profile imageAUTHOR

      Isocrates 

      8 years ago

      Cool, I will update it most likely Saturday 24, 2009. I have a lot of notes on the philosphers and how they tie in to the novel, I'm sure you will like it.

      I will also expand on the motifs I mention (by A lot). I found whole essays that I wrote just on the topic of Civilization in LOTF (lord of the flies).

      Thanks for your interest!

    • profile image

      jarlaxle180 

      8 years ago

      Yes, I do remember reading Lord of the Flies in my freshman year of highschool. It was gruesome, but the imagery and metaphors were impressive. I would greatly appreciate you revising this hub to discuss the philosophers in more depth and link them to the novel; I always found that part confusing. Thank you for posting this!

      ps: I am the same person as before - I just posted that before creating this account.

    • Isocrates profile imageAUTHOR

      Isocrates 

      9 years ago

      Yep, after rereading this the other day, and reading your comment, I did notice that I skip over mentioning the connection over the philosophers and I mention notes that I have not added to the hub. I actually have over 20 pages of notes on this book, and the parts I put in this hub are mostly copy and paste from the study guide I had made for myself. It's mostly why the grammer is not my best as well (I tend to pay less attention to grammer when I am not writing to/for someone). However, I will be updating this hub, and addressing these issues. I would like to thank you for reading and responding to my hub. I hope you read this book as well (it really is a good book).

    • profile image

      Jarlaxle180 

      9 years ago

      You should improve this article by explaining the connection between the two forementioned philosophers and the novel. The same applies to the motifs you mention; please explain how Golding uses the island to represent the entire world. Last, "refer to other notes took in class for more on this" (besides not being proper grammer) makes it sound as if you simply posted your class notes. However, other than those issues, this is a very informative review. Thanks!

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