Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Pieces of the Puzzle: the Island as a Macrocosm of Man

In viewing the various aspects of the island society in Golding's Lord of the Flies as a symbolic microcosm of society, a converse perspective must also be considered. Golding's island of marooned youngsters then becomes a macrocosm, wherein the island represents the individual human and the various characters and symbols the elements of the human psyche. As such, Golding's world of children's morals and actions then becomes a survey of the human condition, both individually and collectively. Almost textbook in their portrayal, the primary characters of Jack, Ralph and Piggy are then best interpreted as Freud's very concepts of id, ego and superego, respectively. As the id of the island, Jack's actions are the most blatantly driven by animalistically rapacious gratification needs. In discovering the thrill of the hunt, his pleasure drive is emphasized, purported by Freud to be the basic human need to be gratified. In much the same way, Golding's portrayal of a hunt as a rape, with the boys ravenously jumping atop the pig and brutalizing it, alludes to Freud's basis of the pleasure drive in the libido, the term serving a double Lntendre in its psychodynamic and physically sensual sense.

Jack's unwillingness to acknowledge the conch as the source of centrality on the island and Ralph as the seat of power is consistent with the portrayal of his particular self-importance. Freud also linked the id to what he called the destructive drive, the aggressiveness of self-ruin. Jack's antithetical lack of compassion for nature, for others, and ultimately for himself is thoroughly evidenced in his needless hunting, his role in the brutal murders of Simon and Piggy, and finally in his burning of the entire island, even at the cost of his own life. In much the same way, Piggy's demeanor and very character links him to the superego, the conscience factor in Freud's model of the psyche. Golding marks Piggy with the distinction of being more intellectually mature than the others, branding him with a connection to a higher authority: the outside world. It is because the superego is dependent on outside support that Piggy fares the worst out of the three major characters in the isolation of the island.

Piggy is described as being more socially compatible with adults, and carries himself with a sense of rationale and purpose that often serves as Ralph's moral compass in crisis; although Ralph initially uses the conch to call the others, it is Piggy who possesses the knowledge to blow it as a signal despite his inability to do so. Similarly, Piggy's glasses are the only artifact of outside technology on the island, further indication of his correlation to greater moral forces. In an almost gothic vein, these same glasses are the only source of fire on the island, not only necessary for the boys' rescue, but responsible for their ultimate destruction. Thus does fire, and likewise Piggy's glasses, become a source of power. Piggy's ideals are those most in conflict with Jack's overwhelming hunger for power and satiation. It is in between these representations of chaos and order that Ralph falls. Golding's depiction of Ralph as leader is analogous to Freud's placement of the ego at the center of the psyche. Ralph performs as the island's ego as he must offset the raw desires of the id with the environment using the superego as a balancing tool. This definition is consistent with Ralph's actions, patronizing Jack's wish to hunt with their collective need to be rescued, often turning to Piggy for advice. Initially, in the relative harmony of the island society's early emergence, Ralph is able to balance the opposing id and superego influences in order to forge a purpose: rescue. It is only as the balance devolves that the fate of the island's inhabitants is darkly determined. Among Ralph, Piggy and Jack exists a constant struggle to assert their particular visions over the island. As the authority of leadership by default falls to Ralph, the conch then becomes symbolic of the consciousness. Its possession rotates between Ralph and Piggy in order to determine logical courses of action for the boys. Jack however, constantly eschews the authority of the conch, consistent with Freud's model