In The Lord of the Flies, the boys trapped on the island descend from decency to savagery. These stages of falling into savagery are similar to the works of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. The two stages are Locke, who believes that men are by nature free and equal against claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch, then Hobbes, who believes that the lives of individuals in the state of nature were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, a state in which self-interest and the absence of rights and contracts prevented the “social”, or society, and Rousseau, who believed that people are savages deep down in them and that society corrupted them.
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In the first stage of the Lord of the Flies, the boys try to establish a decent society and are able to do so for about two to three days before Jack and his group start to venture into savagery by covering his civilized self with a mask, creating a double of himself, as shown in the quote: “He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He split the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (Golding 70), and killing a pig, as shown in the quote, “The gutted carcass of a pig swung from the stake, swinging heavily as the twins toiled over the uneven ground. The pig’s head hung down with gaping neck and seemed to search for something on the ground. At last the words of the chant floated up to them, across the bowl of blackened wood and ashes. ‘Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.’” (Golding 76), and start descending to this Hobbes & Rousseau-like society. After the group brings in the pig, Ralph and Jack start arguing, which is the quote in the next sentence, which could be seen as the beginning of the transition from the Lockean society to this new “better” society, the Hobbes-Rousseauian society. The quote that describes that altercation is as follows: “‘You let the fire go out.’ Jack checked, vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him. ‘We can light the fire again. You should have been with us, Ralph. We had a smashing time…’ … Ralph spoke again, hoarsely. He had not moved. “You let the fire go out.” This repetition made Jack uneasy. He looked at the twins and then back at Ralph. ‘We had to have them [Sam and Eric] in the hunt,’ he said, ‘or there wouldn’t have been enough for a ring.’ He flushed, conscious of a fault. ‘The fire’s only been out an hour or two. We can light up again—’ He noticed Ralph’s scarred nakedness, and the sombre silence of all four of them. He sought, charitable in his happiness, to include them in the thing that had happened. His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink. … Ralph flung back his hair. One arm pointed at the empty horizon. His voice was loud and savage, and struck them into silence. ‘There was a ship.’ Jack, faced at once with too many awful implications, ducked away from them. He laid a hand on the pig and drew his knife. Ralph brought his arm down, fist clenched, and his voice shook. ‘There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!’ He took a step toward Jack, who turned and faced him. ‘They might have seen us. We might have gone home—’ This was too bitter for Piggy, who forgot his timidity in the agony of his loss. He began to cry out, shrilly: ‘You and your blood, Jack Merridew! You and your hunting! We might have gone home—’ Ralph pushed Piggy to one side. ‘I was chief, and you were going to do what I said. You talk. But you can’t even build huts— then you go off hunting and let out the fire—’ He turned away, silent for a moment. Then his voice came again on a peak of feeling. ‘There was a ship—’ One of the smaller hunters began to wail. The dismal truth was filtering through to everybody. Jack went very red as he hacked and pulled at the pig. ‘The job was too much. We needed everyone.’ Ralph turned. ‘You could have had everyone when the shelters were finished. But you had to hunt—’ ‘We needed meat.’” (Golding 76-78). Throughout the quote, Jack and his group show how they do not really care about the fire or the rest of the group. They only care about killing and their pigs. The group only start crying when the group realizes that a ship had come near the island.
Later on in the book, the group descends into an entire Hobbes-Rousseauian society when Piggy is killed by people in Jack’s group, the mediator that kept the Lockean society, which is shown in the quote: “Ralph heard the great rock before he saw it. He was aware of a jolt in the earth that came to him through the soles of his feet, and the breaking sound of stones at the top of the cliff. Then the monstrous red thing bounded across the neck and he flung himself flat while the tribe shrieked. The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone” (Golding 215). The conch was destroyed and both the spirit and the idea of a civilized government were destroyed.
The Lord of the Flies showed how young boys can venture from being civilized people to becoming savage murderers who will do anything to kill.
- Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin, 1954.
- Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/hobbes/Leviathan.pdf. Accessed 18 October 2016.
- Locke, John. Two Treatises on Government. http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/locke/government.pdf. Accessed 18 October 2016.
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/rousseau1762.pdf. Accessed 18 October 2016.