Fear vs. Civilization in Lord of the Flies

Class: English (ENG2D1)
Date: December 3, 2004
The Assignment: I don’t honestly remember.

In Lord of the Flies, the boys have several fears, the first is being afraid of not having adults or protection on the island. Without this control present, the fears are able to grow. The meetings, Ralph’s loss of authority, and objects or people appearing differently all contribute to the overall lack of order. When the boy’s fears become overpowering, civilization is impossible.

The conch and the meetings represent civilization, but soon become useless and uncontrollable. When Ralph holds the second meeting, the boys are already beginning to show disrespect. At the mention of fire, “[h]alf the boys were on their feet. Jack clamored among them, the conch forgotten” (Golding 37). The boys did not stop to think about any consequences of their actions or stop to make a plan, they immediately start working. The boys also shout at Ralph during assemblies and are rude in general. As Ralph adds to his list of complaints, one boy calls out “[t]oo many things” (87). For some children, this behavior would not be acceptable at home, and their parents may punish them. While discussing the beast, a boy makes fun of Piggy, causing the other boys to laugh at him. Piggy says, “[w]hen you done laughing perhaps we can get on with the meeting” (90). Though this behavior is not too out-of-the-ordinary, it is still quite rude and causes the boys to lose time to discuss their plan of action regarding the beast. Jack and others also disrespect the conch: “‘[y]ou haven’t got the conch,’ [Ralph] said. ‘Sit down’” (111). As the novel progresses, the boys use the conch less and describe it several times as a “white blob”. Even Ralph admits that the assemblies are unorganized: “[w]e need an assembly. Not for fun. Not for laughing and falling off the log” (84) Ralph tells them. This admission shows some weakness and leads to Jack trying to control the boys. Whenever they mention the beast or make fun of someone, the assembly is quick to share their opinions, with or without the conch.

Fear of Jack and his power drive many boys to leave Ralph and civilization behind them. At the final meeting of the entire group of boys, Jack questions Ralph’s authority outright: “‘[h]ands up,’ said Jack strongly, ‘whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?’” (139). When no one agrees to join Jack he storms off, though most boys change their minds soon. Bill and Roger are the first to leave and Piggy says, “I expect they’ve gone. I expect they won’t play either” (144). Ralph is afraid of the boys leaving, but Piggy tries to cheer him up. Later, at the feast, man more boys agree to join Jack. Jack’s question of “[w]ho’ll join my tribe?” (166) is met with replies of “I will” and “[m]e” (167). Ralph tells them that he will call a meeting, but the boys once again reject him; Jack says that they will not hear the conch. Eventually, there are only four biguns and some littl’uns left on Ralph’s side but “[the littl’uns] don’t count” (171). Jack treats littl’uns badly yet most join his tribe to feel safer. After Piggy’s death, even Samneric betrays Ralph: “[y]ou’re sure he meant in there?” (214) Jack asks the twins, referring to the thicket Ralph told them he would hide in. Roger had tortured the twins previously, so they now know better than to keep Ralph’s secret to themselves. Jack proves that he is capable of killing, so the boys that do not value civilization more than their lives betray Ralph and join Jack’s tribe.

Darkness encourages fear and in the dark the boys are uncivilized and irrational. Early on in the novel the littl’uns believe creepers to be snakes: “[t]all swathes of creepers rose for a moment into view, agonized, and went down again. The little boys screamed at them” (47). After this incident, snakes become unmentionable. Sometimes the boys see images that are not quite as scary, such as land appearing where there is none and trees floating in the sky: “Piggy discounted all this learnedly as a ‘mirage’” (60). Though these mirages appear at midday and not night, they help set a pattern for later false images. One person that is mistaken for the beast several times is Simon. Phil sees him in the forest at night and describes him as “something moving among the trees, something big and horrid” (91). The boys grin as they think about Simon going out in the night; they know it is a foolish thing to do. Samneric also sees the beast, but this time it is the dead parachute man’s body: “‘[t]here were eyes-’, ‘[t]eeth’, ‘[c]laws’” (109). These things are all made up in their minds, since the man could not have claws. On the mountain, Ralph sees the beast and later describes it to the other boys: “‘[t]he beast had teeth,’ said Ralph, ‘and big black eyes’” (136). Again, the information is false as the body and parachute appear differently. The final sighting of the beast leads to Simon’s demise in chapter nine; the hunters are dancing while Simon comes to tell them about the dead man, but is mistaken for the beast again and the boys murder him. The island and the people appear differently at night, causing the boys to think and do what they normally would not.

With so much fear on the island, routines become hectic and hopeless. Many meetings end in an argument or chaos, and the frequency of meetings decreases. The boys join Jack and forget about duties and the conch. Imagining the impossible is a common occurrence and Piggy is the only one to recognize a “mirage”. The fear exists throughout the novel, so the boys are never able to create a “perfect” civilization. This theme also exists in real life, and like the island, the world is not perfect.

Works Cited and Consulted

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. London: Faber and Faber, 1954.