- Title: Lord of the Flies
- Text Type: Extended (novel)
- Author: William Golding
William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies,” follows a group of British schoolboys, aged approximately 6-12, who are stranded on a desert island, during the beginning of a world war, after their plane crashed. The text follows their time on the island, from start to finish, and illustrates the different obstacles they are forced to overcome due to having no adults with them. Readers learn about society in the text as the lessons imparted on adolescents are demonstrated through the boy’s actions. Throughout “Lord of the Flies,” social hierarchy is a significant idea, depicted through the replication of a democratic government they set up. Despite the characters mentality weakening as the text continued and their rough surroundings began to get the better of them, their actions continued to reflect the life they knew in the outside world.
The theme of social hierarchy is portrayed through the depiction of the main characters. The most obvious connection to this is the fact that there are no girl characters in the novel, suggesting that women did not play a significant role in society during the 1950s. Another indication of social hierachy is the use of labelling the boys as “littleuns” and “biguns.” While the “biguns” are portrayed as real people with backgrounds and personalities, the “littleuns” are depicted as nameless and rather insignificant, each boy merging into a collective group that has little say on the island’s happening.
Although many of the boys’ personalities are stereotypical, stereotypes are created through real-life occurrences, therefore, we can compare them to actual people in society. A further sign of Golding’s outlook on social hierarchy is through the use of the character’s appearances. The two main “leaders” throughout the novel are Ralph and Jack. Despite their contrasting techniques of leading, resulting in a conflict that gets increasingly worse as the story unfolds, both are successful in gaining followers. Ralph is commonly referred to as the “golden boy” when being described outside of the novel. He is deemed as good-looking for he is blond and broad, which draws an automatic attraction from the other boys and grants him chief. Golding wrote: “You could see now that he might make a boxer, as far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil.” Jack is created as the main antagonist of the novel and his villainous personality is complemented by his unattractive looks. He is illustrated as “tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes, frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger.”
Ralph attracted the “littleuns” through his gentler, fairer approach to leading whilst Jack enlisted fear on many of the stranded, gaining support through terror and the reinforcement of other like-minded characters who were greedy for power. Therefore, Ralph represented leadership, order, and justice while Jack symbolised barbarity, hubris and the cold trait of doing anything for authority and dominance.
Then there is Piggy who is portrayed as “the fat boy.” This, combined with his “assmar” and glasses, makes him an immediate magnet to attract the sympathy of readers. Piggy is the most stereotypical character out of them all while also being the favorite and most relatable. Piggy’s glasses signify intelligence and Golding implies that his excess weight is equivalent to laziness, however, readers adopt a liking to Piggy due to him constantly offering logical solutions and unfairly being picked on by Jack and his posse. Piggy is seen as the underdog or as Ralph’s sidekick but was ultimately somebody who did a lot of work behind the scenes with little to none appreciation. Piggy found the conch, Piggy noticed when then the littleun with the birthmark went missing, and it was Piggy’s idea to nominate Ralph as “chief.” He saw each boy as humans rather than one number in a large group and was the most efficient at creating a democracy of law and order. In a sense, Piggy was the grownup of the group, the voice of reason who was generally disliked for breaking up the fun despite him being right. We can appreciate Piggy’s wisdom well beyond his years when he states: “Life […] is scientific, that’s what it is. In a year or two when the world is over they’ll be traveling to Mars and back. I know there isn’t no beast—not with claws and all that I mean—but I know there isn’t no fear either. […] Unless we get frightened of people.” (5.99, 104) Piggy knew that the beast did not exist therefore fear ignited by this mythical character should not exist either, however, he also predicted the future by stating that the boys’ downfall would be due to them being scared of each other. When Piggy was killed at the end, the voice of rationale was with him. Although Piggy was portrayed as inferior to Jack and therefore scared of him, Jack killed Piggy as he feared the fat boy. The constant insults and making fun of Piggy were derived from Jack’s jealousy of Piggy’s intelligence and the air of self-assurance he possessed despite Jack’s relentless attempts to blemish this.
The title of the novel is in reference to the pig’s head Jack and his team of hunter placed on a stick, a representation of their viciousness and corruption. As it began to disintegrate flies were attracted to it, hence the term “Lord of the Flies.” However, a title of “Lord” also indicates power and authority, and throughout the novel characters’ hunger for power is a dominant idea, while “flies” suggest death and therefore disaster, another common theme as the boys struggled against the elements and one another to survive.
Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” relates to the real world more than would be expected. Despite the unusual setting, the characters portray society incredibly accurately. Golding’s novel enables readers to identify all that is wrong with our civilization as well as uncovering the stereotypes we are susceptible to falling victim of, such as the blond boy being the attractive chief while the fat person with glasses is the brains behind the leader. Children are the future and no child is born bad, therefore we are made aware that the contrasting personalities of our three main characters have been nurtured by adults. We also learn that both the “Ralphs” and “Piggys” of the world are essential to have in order to supress the “Jacks.”