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Lord of the flies savages of society

In viewing the various aspects of the island society in Golding's Lord of

the Flies as a symbolic microcosm of society, a converse perspective must

also be considered. Golding's island of marooned youngsters then becomes a

macrocosm, wherein the island represents the individual human and the

various characters and symbols the elements of the human psyche. As such,

Golding's world of children's morals and actions then becomes a survey of

the human condition, both individually and collectively.

Almost textbook in their portrayal, the primary characters of Jack, Ralph

and Piggy are then best interpreted as Freud's very concepts of id, ego and

superego, respectively. As the id of the island, Jack's actions are the

most blatantly driven by animalistically rapacious gratification needs. In

discovering the thrill of the hunt, his pleasure drive is emphasized,

purported by Freud to be the basic human need to be gratified. In much the

same way, Golding's portrayal of a hunt as a rape, with the boys ravenously

jumping atop the pig and brutalizing it, alludes to Freud's basis of the

pleasure drive in the libido, the term serving a double Lntendre in its

psychodynamic and physically sensual sense.

Jack's unwillingness to acknowledge the conch as the source of centrality on

the island and Ralph as the seat of power is consistent with the portrayal

of his particular self-importance. Freud also linked the id to what he

called the destructive drive, the aggressiveness of self-ruin. Jack's

antithetical lack of compassion for nature, for others, and ultimately for

himself is thoroughly evidenced in his needless hunting, his role in the

brutal murders of Simon and Piggy, and finally in his burning of the entire

island, even at the cost of his own life.

In much the same way, Piggy's demeanor and very character links him to the

superego, the conscience factor in Freud's model of the psyche. Golding

marks Piggy with the distinction of being more intellectually mature than

the others, branding him with a connection to a higher authority: the

outside world. It is because the superego is dependent on outside support

that Piggy fares the worst out of the three major characters in the

isolation of the island.

Piggy is described as being more socially compatible with adults, and

carries himself with a sense of rationale and purpose that often serves as

Ralph's moral compass in crisis; although Ralph initially uses the conch to

call the others, it is Piggy who possesses the knowledge to blow it as a

signal despite his inability to do so. Similarly, Piggy's glasses are the

only artifact of outside technology on the island, further indication of his

correlation to greater moral forces. In an almost gothic vein, these same

glasses are the only source of fire on the island, not only necessary for

the boys' rescue, but responsible for their ultimate destruction. Thus does

fire, and likewise Piggy's glasses, become a source of power.

Piggy's ideals are those most in conflict with Jack's overwhelming hunger

for power and satiation. It is in between these representations of chaos

and order that Ralph falls. Golding's depiction of Ralph as leader is

analogous to Freud's placement of the ego at the center of the psyche.

Ralph performs as the island's ego as he must offset the raw desires of the

id with the environment using the superego as a balancing tool. This

definition is consistent with Ralph's actions, patronizing Jack's wish to

hunt with their collective need to be rescued, often turning to Piggy for

advice. Initially, in the relative harmony of the island society's early

emergence, Ralph is able to balance the opposing id and superego influences

in order to forge a purpose: rescue. It is only as the balance devolves

that the fate of the island's inhabitants is darkly determined.

Among Ralph, Piggy and Jack exists a constant struggle to assert their

particular visions over the island. As the authority of leadership by

default falls to Ralph, the conch then becomes symbolic of the

consciousness. Its possession rotates between Ralph and Piggy in order to

determine logical courses of action for the boys. Jack however, constantly

eschews the authority of the conch, consistent with Freud's model with the

id by definition remaining subconscious, but fully able to exert influence

over decision-making.

Conversely, the masks and face-paints that Jack's group of hunters come to

wear are very suggestive of Freud's image of the subconscious. The hidden

and secretive nature of the boys' faces beneath their disguises gives them a

camouflage blending them into the background of the island foliage, making

them imperceptible to the awareness of the self. Their actions go generally

unnoticed, but still have great impact on the island as they kill and

destroy, eventually overhunting the pigs they so desperately covet.

The general assembly of the island, torn between the conch and the hunters

also becomes symbologically valid, becoming a menagerie of the other major

human faculties, some more important than others. In Samneric comes a sense

of loyalty and fraternity in the lack of unique identity between the twins

and their fidelity to Ralph, even when captured and brutalized by Jack's

hunters. In Roger's single-minded devotion to the bloody, gory spirit of

the hunt lies a ruthless viciousness that even Jack must rely on to achieve

his dark agenda. Simon's loss of emotional coherence and his revelation

give him a fragility coupled with a wisdom that make him an almost neurotic

flaw in the cohesiveness of island society; he is ironically the strongest

and the weakest link of the chain in his unique understanding of their


The older boys then are the dominant faculties of the psyche, variably

giving fealty to each of the three major forces of the id, ego and superego.

As the biggest, strongest and smartest on the island, they are the source of

accomplishment and achievement, both constructive and destructive. The

emotions and human qualities manifested in the "littleuns" seem almost

repressed in comparison, congruous with their relative ineffectuality.

Their nightmares and uneasiness impress a sense of fear, weakness and

anxiety, while allayed, still spread to even the most mature of the island

to some extent.

Among the masses of boys, Golding interpolates other images passingly

suggestive of Freudian psychosexual theory. Ralph's first call to come

together by blowing the conch implies a reference to the neonatal oral

state, during which Freud postulated was the first conflict between desire

and self-control within a child. Other references to problems in getting

the younger children to adhere to toilet etiquette for health concerns

allude to the anal stage, which psychodynamic theory hypothesized to be a

period of increased awareness of bowel movement during the toilet-training

period in toddlers. Golding notes that the younger boys call out for their

mothers rather than their fathers, hinting at the Oedipus complex.

If the abandoned boys are representative of the aspects of the human

individual, then the lush, rich bounty of the island suggest the resources

available to the individual. The initially luxuriant images of abundant

fruit and the tropical halcyon idyll give a sense of splendor suggestive of

the innate seemingly limitless charity of nature, not only on the island,

but in the human soul. The initial "scar" of the boys' arrival on the

island presents the first sign of damage to paradise, culminating in its

ultimate incineration, almost suggestive of Gotterdamerhng, the burning of

mythical Valhalla.

As such, other analyses of the island as a whole must take into account the

island in a greater context. Piggy's relative intellectual maturity and

Ralph's eventual rescue at the hands of British naval officers are thusly

indicative of the role the seemingly absent adult world plays on the island.

The preeminence of the adult world to the boys and its presumed virtuosity

elevate it to a much higher level than the everyday world of the island.

Despite a passing reference to nuclear war early on in the novel, the

outside world is very much assumed to be superior in functioning by both the

boys and the reader, making it an almost divine figure in the scale of the

island as a macrocosm. The outside world then becomes the ultimate

macrocosm, the cosmic knowledge and wisdom of God. Ralph's guilt at the

British officer's comment about the boys' being British suggests a kind of

tongue-in-cheek repentance, both solemn and at the same time satirizing

alleged British moral superiority.

Ralph and Piggy's desire to be rescued then becomes a form of faith elevated

to a connotation of spirituality. The signal fire then develops into a plea

for divine salvation, communicating to the adult world a wish to be rescued

spiritually. It is Jack and his hunters that care not at all for the

maintenance for the fire, despite the fact that it is their only means off

the island. They contrast Piggy as the signal fire's greatest proponent,

who as superego maintains a more externalized sense of what must be done.

In establishing the island as a macrocosm of the self, one must then examine

the manner of Golding's treatise on the human condition as related to the

plot of the story. The origin of the boys on the island gives birth to the

individual, the "long scar smashed into the jungle" suggestive of some kind

of inherent human weakness, perhaps a kind of Original Sin. Ralph's call

implies the first inkling of self-awareness as the boys come to understand

their situation and the power structure of the island between Jack, Ralph

and Piggy forms. The ensuing formative phase of the island society then

indicates growth and development, not free from mistakes and flaws in the

psychodynamic of the island, but progressing.

The true downward turn in the island/person then comes as Ralph loses

control of Jack's hunters and Piggy's subsequent death. Golding's reasons

for pursuing this course of action in the collective sociology of the island

is debatable. While it may be a mere exciting plot device, it is also very

possible within the context of the macrocosm that Golding is in fact,

portraying the island as a person in decay. Previous events including the

crash and various untended wildfires indicate the island has suffered

substantial trauma. Golding's choice to generate conflict between the id

and the ego may well be symptomatic of a greater crisis for the

island/person, where it is reduced to an internalized battle between its two

fundamental psychological processes. As such, Golding's climax plays much

like a morality tale; out of control, the id destroys the individual due to

its self-destructive nature, leaving only the ego to answer to a higher


As such, Golding's judgment on humankind then takes on a very slantedly

ambivalent tone; darkly pessimistic, only passingly redeeming in its sense

of morality. In his decidedly Gothic ending in this interpretation of the

book, reminiscent of Poe, Golding comments sourly even on ostensibly

virtuous human faculties such as righteousness and practicality. He

portrays even the protagonists with a humanly flawed skew; Piggy is weak and

whining, Ralph is ineffectual. In their flaws and Jack's cursory attempts

at virtue, Golding creates a balanced image of the person, where no faculty

is fully good or fully evil, but capable of being used to commit acts of

either or both.

Source: Essay UK -

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