Lord Of The Flies: Literary Analysis

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Lord of the Flies was first published on the 17th of September 1954. The Lord of the Flies stands as a timeless read presenting many embedded views about broader humanity and society. The book holds strong social, moral and ethical messages about broader society mixed with implicit values, assumptions and beliefs of the society Golding lived in. Society has advanced in the 60+ years between initial publication and modern day. Times have certainly changed, particularly for the teenager and young adult reader. The very perspective one sees the world through has evolved with the great change that general media has experienced. These young adult readers can compare the book’s portrayal of society and the society they dwell in today. This analysis will be viewed through a modern, contemporary lens.

Lord of the Flies holds many social, moral and ethical messages throughout the entirety of the novel. Most noticeably, the Lord of the Flies holds general social messages about the delicacy of society. This is portrayed by the stranded by boys first arriving as a stereotypical, posh, civilised young Brits. These boys are indeed at first civilised and make efforts to maintain the structures of a society without any physical adult guidance. The only guidance they have is the memory of the society they once lived in. Gradually however, the interests of the tribe become more diverse, causing a rift between the two most powerful members of the group Ralph and Jack. This would lead to conflict on the island and the complete destruction of their microcosm of society. The presence of this underlying social message becomes more and more obvious as the plot progresses. The moral and ethical messages upheld by the novel are not as discrete as the broader social message. However, they can be identified with a clear emphasis on challenging the ethical make-up of man. Jack, the main antagonist of the novel, clearly represents the evil of human nature. Jack by the end of the novel is a selfish, greedy and violent brat. Even the novel’s main protagonist and most civilised and democratic figure Ralph shows violent tendencies. This is shown in his participation in the murder of Simon and his identical movement to those of Jack. In the flurry of attacks on Simon the boys all chant ‘Kills the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!’ (Chapter 9, Page 168) This again portrays the boys as all new-formed savages with the lack of structure and law. These descents into savagery paint the picture that humans are purely tamed by the order, structure and discipline of society and without the composition of such a society that humans would revert to a Jack type figure.

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Readers of Lord of the Flies will also take note of the unique method of characterisation utilised by Golding along with his chosen narrative viewpoint of third-person omniscient. Despite the all-knowing nature of this viewpoint, characters are fleshed out gradually and become more lifelike as the story progresses. Take Roger for example. He at first is a forgettable and an irrelevant character in the beginnings of the novel. Gradually the perception of Roger changes as the reader learns that he bullies littlun Henry (Chapter 4, Page 63) and the twins (Chapter 11, Page 194) before eventually killing Piggy (Chapter 11, Page 201). After these acts Roger is viewed as a sadist and in some forms, is a greater representation of evil than Jack. Other characters also descend into similar mind frames of savagery as the story progresses. The gradual development of the characters of the novel support Golding’s belief that without civilisation, man would descend into violence as gradually, the entirety of the tribe converts into a pre-historic mould of a man. It is important to note the Lord of the Flies was written in a time of great uncertainty and fear. A nuclear war between NATO and the USSR with its communist puppet states seemed inevitable. Global fear was at an all-time high. People were questioning the morals of man. People were pondering life without society and asking the same questions that Golding would elaborate on and portray in Lord of the Flies. Most younger readers may not have knowledge of these events or times. This lack of knowledge may reveal gaps in a reader’s understanding of the society the novel was written in. For a reader to explore the full potential of enjoyment offered by the novel, they must have adequate knowledge of the times the Lord of the Flies was written in. Fortunately, the messages portrayed by the book are distinct enough to be recognised without such knowledge of the society the novel was written in.

Golding portrays the messages, assumptions and his beliefs in a rather unique manner. Instead of explicitly stating the aforementioned, Golding uses the structure of the novel and narrative viewpoint to imply these messages.

The Lord of the Flies message is informed by implicit values. Golding chooses to imply his values and beliefs rather than making the narrator explicitly state the fact that the boys were descending into savagery. He uses the characters on the island to imply the messages of the weakness of society and man. Piggy implies that the island is drifting away from the principles of society by questioning the moral make-up of man stating, “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?” (Chapter 5, Page 95). The value of piggy’s statement would become of great significance toward the end of the novel when all Ralph longs for is the return of normality and society with the narrator quoting “…Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart…” (Chapter 12, Page 225). Ralph here is weeping for he is no longer a civilised, tame boy; he has transformed into a wild savage against Piggy’s wise warning. These implicit values and the messages sent are still impactful in modern society. The media often displays picture of riots and violence, most commonly occurring in times of trouble, such as the outbreak of coronavirus. The out break of coronavirus can almost be compared to the plane crash that ended up sending the boys to the island. The loss of structure in both events clearly has had a great effect on the behaviour of humans with many people displaying ‘Jack-like’ tendencies of violence and aggression. Perhaps now more than ever, the messages of Lord of the Flies a relevant to contemporary society, with each holding great value.

Lord of the Flies is an outstanding and special piece of literature with its many messages about broader society and humanity. It can be broadly appreciated if the reader has adequate understanding of the events in the novel. However, in the hands of a knowledgeable, cognizant reader is where the novel truly shines. Here the reader will be able to make links to events that influenced society pre publish and during first publications of the novel including the first and second world wars, nuclear weapons testing, the cold war and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. The reader will then be able to compare the times they live in, to the society previously mentioned. Here a true evaluation of the book can be made. Overall the book is best suited to readers with a good level of knowledge of the books era. This may mean that Lord of the Flies is unsuitable for some readers if you do not have adequate knowledge of life in the fifties due to a lack of understanding of the values held by the novel. Goldings fine work of literature stands as a great statement of his era, holding great meaning and significance, available for all who appreciate such works.


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