Lord Of The Flies - Character Study
The main theme William Golding focuses on in The Lord of the Flies is his opinion that, when taken away from a civilised society, people will revert back to being primitive, animal like creatures. He portrays this view throughout the book by using very different characters almost all of whom eventually forget their civilised ways.
The book tells the story of a group of school boys who, after their plane crashes, are stranded on a tropical island without any adults. At first they seem enthusiastic about the situation and quickly elect one of the boys, Ralph, as a leader, but pretty soon things start to deteriorate. Another one of the boys, Jack, leaves the group to form his own tribe who become more and more violent and obsessed with hunting pigs and “the beast”, that they believe lives on the island. Their violence results in the killing of two of the other boys, and at the end of the book they try to kill Ralph before all being rescued by a naval officer.
The title of the book comes from an episode where Simon, a shy boy, who is described by the others as “batty” hallucinates that the dead pig’s head in front of him is talking to him. The pig’s head is surrounded by flies, so Simon calls it the Lord of the Flies. The title could also have another more symbolic meaning, because as time goes on the boys become more like flies themselves.
Ralph, the main character in the story is introduced to the reader as a fair and likeable boy, he is the only boy who will listen to Piggy, an overweight boy who is ridiculed by everyone else for being fat and because he wears glasses and suffers from asthma, even though he is the most intelligent of all the boys. When he finds a conch, a type of shell, Ralph listens to Piggy’s suggestion to “use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us.” At the start Ralph is well respected and looked up to by the rest of the boys, who choose him as their chief. “There was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerful, there was the conch.”
The respect the boys had held for Ralph did not last for long. Ralph continually stressed to them the importance of making a signal fire on top of the mountain, so that ships would see the smoke and come to rescue them. He tells the boys, “The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going?” The rest of the boys as they became more savage were more interested in hunting than keeping the fire going. Ralph could not understand why they ere becoming obsessed with hunting and gradually he became confused and unable to think clearly, “Ralph was puzzled by the shutter that flickered in his brain. There was something he wanted to say; then the shutter came down.” Ralph began to rely on Piggy to help him when he couldn’t remember what to say. Eventually even Ralph and Piggy became savage, if only for a moment. When Simon crawled out from the forest in the dark the boys thought he was the beast and Ralph and Piggy joined in as they mauled him to death.
Out of all of the boys the one who changed the most on the island was probably Jack. He started out far less likeable than Ralph but despite this was very disciplined. He was head boy in his choir, who soon became “his hunters,” and he was more arrogant than Ralph in his desire to become the chief, saying “I ought to be chief, because I’m chapter chorister and head boy.” His discipline over his choir was also shown when they were voting for the chief, “With dreary obedience the choir raised their hands” when Ralph asked who wanted Jack to be chief. He also has an unpleasant personality, expressed when he says “Shut up, Fatty.” to Piggy.