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From Civilization To Savagery Essay

1326 words - 6 pages

Mokokoma Mokhonoana once said, “Morals are nothing but a civilized society’s attempt to tame some beast called man.” Many works of fiction discuss how these morals are challenged when faced with isolation from civilization. One of the most famous of these works is William Golding’s fiction novel, Lord of the Flies, which explores the theme of civilization versus savagery through the story of a group of English boys who are stranded on a deserted island. Early on in their new lives on the island, the boys stay true to the morals they were taught at home. As time progresses however, the boys are confronted with the ultimate challenge: resisting their inner primal instincts. In his novel, ...view middle of the document...

Here, the boys agree that the conch holds a strange, unquestionable power by which they must obey. Furthermore, the boys make a rule that the person holding the conch has the power to speak. Ralph declares that, “We can’t have everybody talking at once…I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak’“ (13). In this case, the conch exhibits democracy, as everyone is encourage to participate in discussions in a civilized, orderly manner. As time passes however, the boys ignore this rule and speak out freely, demonstrating the loss of their civilized behavior. Jack especially displays this when he says, “‘Conch! Conch...We don’t need the conch anymore. We know who ought to say things’” (101-102). The rejection of the conch marks the end of boys’ ties to their previous, refined lives, as they reject the democratic process and resort to an anarchical society instead. Once the boys have given into to their primal instincts, “the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist” (181), symbolizing the transition from civilized behavior to savagery. Without an acknowledged symbol of authority and civilization, life on the island takes a dangerous and violent turn, resulting in a widespread loss of innocence.
The signal fire is also vital to the story, as it symbolizes the chaos on the island, as the boys’ bonds with their civilized lives are broken. At the beginning of the novel, Ralph frequently stresses the importance of maintaining a signal fire in case a ship comes near the island. While creating a signal fire, the boys get into an argument and become distracted from their fire. Moments later they realize that they have set the island on fire. The see that “smoke was rising here and there among the creepers that festooned the dead or dying trees… beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw. Acres of black and yellow smoke rolled steadily toward the sea” (44). Ralph notices “the beginnings of awe at the power set free below” (44). The “knowledge and awe” of the fire makes the boys “savage” (44). In this scene, the chaos on the island during the boys’ fight is symbolized through the fire that burns the forest down. As time passes, the boys lose hope of being rescued and abandon the signal fire to participate in violent hunting expeditions instead. While they boys are hunting, a ship is visible in the distance; however, the signal fire is out and therefore, the hopes of rescue are diminished. Piggy exclaims “’You and your blood Jack Merridew! You and your hunting! We might have gone home‘” (70). The extinguished fire in this scene symbolizes the disorder on the island as the boys hunt instead of focusing on being rescued. The tumult on the island is most evident when the island is...

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