The idea of establishing an ideal state where everyone can live in peace goes back to Plato and his Republic wherein he envisages an ideal state. Thereafter the notion was touched upon by many others in literature. Among them being Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which depicts an ideal state in nowhere and has been a prototype of many modern Utopias. But by the passage of time this notion of Utopia got subverted, the ideal state gave way tothe horror and nightmare of dystopia. In my paper I intend to trace both the Utopian and dystopian elements in William Golding’s novel Lord of the flies.
This text tells the story of the journey of a group of innocent children, victims of a plane crash, and their struggle for survival in a deserted island which is nothing short of a heavenly abode. At this juncture peaceful co-existence is expected. And it starts out like that, initially, they start applying rules and regulations, calling assemblies and electing a leader in order to prevent chaos and disorder. However, as time passes the children turn into deadly beasts, trying to kill each other. By the end it becomes evident that Utopia is not something practical; it is just a theoretical notion, something to just write and dream about.
Lord of the Flies was extremely successful and is considered as one of the great works of literature of the twentieth century. It is an allegory of the intrinsic cruelty of man, based on Golding’s own wartime experiences. It reflected very aptly the post-war disillusionment with human nature. This novel can be analysed in various perspectives as it deals profoundly and honestly with people who are under pressure and also because of the author’s sympathetic and intense vision of the problems that modern man faces in his lifetime.
His portrayal of human beings and the nuances of their behaviour are very much grounded. He knows the varied reactions of different types of people when they come under similar conditions, and the internal tension experienced by them. He illustrates important general principles of human behaviour and human relations. At first glance Lord of the Flies seems like yet another adventure tale of a group of English school boys who are isolated on a natural paradise-like island in the Pacific Ocean.
It is grimly interesting to note that Lord of the Flies appears to be a parable of the adventure story of the Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne (1858). Golding’s young characters, Ralph, Jack, and Piggy, a lot different than their predecessors project an attitude on the nature of boys. The fact that the protagonists of Lord of the Flies’ arechildren ranging six to twelve sets it apart from the whole lot. Children capable of perpetrating heinous crimes and such violence undoubtedly raisesuspicion and fear about the whole humanity, the depth of decay. Golding’s sets the novel on a desert island on which a marooned party of boys from an English cathedral choir-school gradually falls away from the disciplined harmony of the boys’ musical background and from a disharmonious world of grown- ups at war”. 1 From the beginning of the novel, the reader is confronted with two forms of reality. The first one is in the title and the other one is the text itself. The title of the book suggests a world in which something like this will happen. The text begins with a famous and well- known sort of story: Boy making their own lives on an island, apart from adults.
The immediate model is clear enough: Ballantyne’s The Coral Island (1858), in which three adolescents, Ralph, Jackand Peterkin create a happy simple life on a Pacific Island. In all previous works in the adventure tradition involving children – before this one – the adolescent characters are very nice and responsible. For them everything is a game. In fact Golding himself, shortly after the publication of his novel, said: “The theme [of the book] is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.
Before the [second world] war, most Europeans believed that man could be perfected by perfecting society. We all saw a hell of a lot in the war that can’t be accounted for except on the basis of original evil. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system, however apparently logical or respectable. The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue at the end where adult life appears – dignified and capable, but in reality; enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island.
The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cutter which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and cutter? ” 2 The novel deals with the moral evolution of a group of the British schoolboys; about twelve years old, wrecked on a tropical island by an airplane crash. Their life together develops in two directions, one towards a civilized, rational, parliamentary discussion of common problems, in imitation of the society they were born into, the other toward tribal superstitions and rituals: orgiastic hunting, dancing and human sacrifice.
The two tendencies clash, and the first is defeated (this, of course, is the book’s big shock and challenge), but just as the last representative of civilized behaviour is about to be hacked to pieces by his companions, the adult world returns. Lord of the Flies is not, to say the least, a simple adventure story of boys on a deserted island. In fact, the implications of the story go far beyond the degeneration of a few children. What sets this work apart is the way the author has combined and synthesized all of analysis of the human nature and society and used this unified knowledge to comment on a “test situation”.
This book presents the findings of psychologists and philosophical historians, mobilizes into an attack upon the central problem of modern thought: the nature of the human personality and the reflection of personality on society. ” 3 “Golding has written what develops a harsh attack on contemporary Western Society and its institutions. His story, it is said, examines the various ways of organizing and governing a group that have been developed and shows the defects of each”. 4 It is an allegory on human society today, the novel’s primary implication being that what we have come to call civilization is, at best, no more than skin-deep.
For most of the boys the experience begins as a high adventure. But all of them have been influenced by adult patterns, and soon enough they are busy organizing, electing a chieftain, making rules, establishing rituals. Then an ominous note, which has been faintly audible from the start, rings out with increasing clarity. By degrees, the miniature civilization breaks down; there is an accelerating reversion to savagery, and ideal turns into a nightmare. It is a frightening parody on man’s return (in a few weeks) to that state of darkness from which it took him thousands of years to emerge.
The climax of the novel presents the boys reverted to a savage state. Civilization is seen as a thin veneer quickly scraped away in the experience living in a wilderness. The catastrophe occurs because the qualities of intelligence, address, bravery, decency, organization and insight are divided among Piggy, Jack, Ralph, and Simon. Each of them lacks some vital gift: none of them is a complete person. Lord of the Flies, for all its clarity of outlines, is a complex novel. Although it is immediately successful simply as narrative it draws its distinguishing power from its value as a symbolic representation.
That is to say it is a parable whose truth must be recognized, not discovered intellectually, a sustained metaphor for human experience, for human experience, for ‘the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart. Of course the failure to see the island as a whole and the detached, even callous descriptions of the successive brutalities are calculated effects of Mr Golding’s narrative method, for he deliberately and skilfully limits his vision to that of the uncomprehending eyes of the boys, recording only what they may be supposed to have seen and left.
This shortening of the field of perception makes evident the boys’ lack of awareness of their own gradual deterioration, blindness not without its image among men. 5 William Golding uses Lord of the Flies to teach us that the most dangerous enemy is not the evil found without, but the evil found within each of us. At the end of the novel, Ralph and the otherboys realize the horror of their action. Lord of the Flies as a Utopian Novel: If we want to consider Lord of the Flies as a Utopian Novel, the first thing that captures our attention is thelocation. The ideal society which Thomas More suggested for human beings was in a remote island. This is an island. At least I think it’s an island. That’s a reef out in the sea. Perhaps there aren’t any grown-ups anywhere”. 6 Another important factor according to Utopian ideas is to carry on an assembly and meeting, where they talk and discuss about their society, their problems and make decisions for the welfare of their society. As shown in the book: In chapter one Ralph finds a conch and on Piggy’s request he blows in it in order to gather all the children on the island and decide about their situation. Piggy said “We can have this to call the others. Have a meeting.
They’ll come when they hear us. “7 As we see in the novel by hearing the sound of the conch the boys appear on the beach: “the children who came along the beach, singly or in twos, leapt into visibility when they crossed the line from heat-haze to nearer sand. ”8 When all the boys gathered around, they held an assembly and vote for having a leader. According to More’s Utopia each group must have a leader that they called him “Philarch”, the same thing the boys do in their meeting. According to More, Utopians must have rules and laws and in order to have an ideal society everybody must obey these rules.
In chapter two of the book after they find out their location, Ralph introduced more laws and rules: “And another thing. We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have “Hands-up. ” Like at school. ‘ He held the conch before his face and glanced round the mouth. ‘Then I’ll give him the conch. ‘ Conch? ‘ That’s what this shell’s called. I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking. ‘ …. ‘And he won’t be interrupted. Except by me. ‘ … ‘We’ll have rules! ‘ he cried excitedly. ‘Lots of rules! 9 As it is explained, it can be seen that what is important and significant in More and other Utopians, having the rules and laws and Utopian’s obedience in order to reach an ideal and expected state, is clearly showed in this novel. Ralph is elected freely. When he calls the boys together, he says that each boy will be allowed to speak when he holds the conch and nobody can interrupt him except himself as their leader. He assigns the important tasks of hunting and keeping the fire going. He does not punish the boys when they fail at their tasks but talks to them about their responsibilities.
Another factor of Utopian ideas is working together to have an ideal society. In Lord of the Flies, Ralph wanted laws and rules and also he wanted all boys to obey them, of course, nearly everybody obeyed him except Jack who was supposed to be the hunter. Ralph ordered to build a shelter and all except Jack began to build shelter all together. All try for the welfare of their society because according to Utopians when they have an ideal society, everybody can use the available facilities and lead a happy life. Like Utopians, the boys in this novel yearn for what they have not and the past.
They desire for what does not exist around them and what they have lost. For example in chapter five called “Beast from Water” Piggy who is wise and the brain of the group yearns about some modern conveniences: “Life, ‘said Piggy expansively, ‘is scientific, that’s what it is. In a year or two when the war’s over they’ll be traveling to Mars and back. I know there aren’t any beast-not with claws and all that, I mean-but I know there isn’t any fear, either. ”10 And Ralph at the beginning of chapter seven yearns for what he does not have: He would like to have a pair of scissors and cut his hair right back to half an inch.
He would like to have a bath, proper wallow white soap. Passed his tongue experimentally over his teeth and decided that a toothbrush would come in handy too. Then there were his nails. 11 This passage matches a Utopia and the boys living in the island. Both, Utopias and the boy, desire that which do not exist round him. As it is clear, people almost always yearn for their pastime. This daydream helps them to forget their problems. Lord of the Flies as a Dystopian Novel After examining Lord of the flies as a Utopian novel, now I would like to shed some light on dystopia in this work.
Like George Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, Golding’s Lord of the Flies has been also been described as a dystopia. Golding in this work traces the decay of society, which is a result of moral degeneration of each individual, thus being each individual’s responsibility. This decay can be traced through the novel which engenders the oppressive atmosphere of the novel, an unusual feature in adventure stories. The first sign of disturbance within the seemingly tranquil island is with Jack and the choir. Golding portrays Jack and his choir as aggressive and pro-military.
They are the first concrete entrance of civilization onto the island. Jack seems like a physical manifestation of evil: with his dark cloak and wild red hair, he gives a slightly stannic impression. He orders his choir as if they were troops, allowing room for neither discussion nor dissent. In chapter two, which is called “Fire on the Mountain”, Ralph called another meeting that night. He talks about the island that is untrodden and the rules they have. When he is talking about an uninhabited island, Jack interjects and insists that they need an army to hunt pigs.
Ralph again talks and sets the rules of order for the meeting: only the person who has the conch shell can speak. Jack relishes having rules, and even more so, having punishment for those who are breaking them. Even at this meeting, the inward turmoil that is to disrupt Ralph’s leadership is becoming apparent. Even as Ralph asserts “That is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun”, the child with the mulberry-coloured birthmark claims to have found a serpent in this Eden. The voice of reason—‘ “You couldn’t get a beastie, a snake-thing, on an island this size….
You only get them in big countries like Africa or India” ‘…. Is already only half convincing? 12 When Ralph develops these rules he, Jack and Piggy each take different perspective on what particular use these rules will serve. Ralph takes a rational perspective based on ideas of justice: rules will allow the boys fairly among one another, a belief that fits well with his democratic sensibility. Jack relishes the idea of rules as a means for control and for punishment, a reflection of his doctorial ethos and tendency toward violence. Piggy, as the most intelligent of the three central characters, views the rules as useful tools for survival.
He views all aspects of the boys’ behaviour on the island in terms of whether it will contribute to their eventual rescue. Previously it was explained that in order to have an ideal society everybody tried as far as he could. But soon they get weary of their work. They forget the rules and promises. They do not work anymore, just play and want more pleasure. Unfortunately, the children soon get tired and weary of the work and this civilized life. They want to have fun and pleasure and quickly lose interest in whatever job they are doing. Ralph explains the problem to them: We have lots of assemblies. Everybody enjoys speaking and being together. We decide things. But they don’t get done. We were going to have water brought from the stream and left in those coconut shells under fresh leaves. So it was, for a few days. Now there’s no water. The shells are dirty. People drink from the river. ” 13 All of their decisions and resolutions soon fall apart. Their group gives into its worst condition and then only concerns itself with having fun. Hunting, which at first was only a means of getting food so that they could live until they were rescued, becomes all important.
One of the reasons established for dystopian ideas, when the members of the society cannot deal with each other, their Utopian society becomes a dystopian one. In Lord of the Flies, Jack gradually disobeys the rules and makes problems. Until in the chapter eight which is called “Gift for the Darkness” he then tries to take control of the group and finally up to the end of this chapter he will take the control completely. By and large, everything is ready for Jack, and in chapter eight we see that he became the “chief” for his “tribe”. As it can be seen, by the shifting of power from Ralph to Jack, the words and relationships changed.
The boys who followed Jack were not called “the boys” or were not addressed by their names; they were called “savages”. There were a very small group around Ralph, but they were tempted by Jack: “Listen all of you. Me and my hunters, we’re living along the beach by a flat rock. We hunt and feast and have fun. If you want to join my tribe, come and see us. Perhaps I’ll let you join. Perhaps not. ” 14 As soon as Jack becomes chief, he abandons the meeting. He believes that he is chief, he orders and everybody must obey. “I’m chief,” said Ralph tremulously. “…. And I’ve got the conch—-” “You haven’t got it with you, “said Jack, sneering. You left it behind. See, clever? And the conch doesn’t count at this end of the island”. 15 The conch is a symbol of communication. It is sounding the boys out of the jungle, as primitive men who existed in isolation and fear were called together. The conch gathers the boys in a group so that they can become a civilization. It calls them away from animalistic and instinctual tendencies and towards awareness and choice. At first all the boys respect the rules which Ralph establishes to hold meetings. Later, when Ralph’s leadership has failed, the boys no longer value the conch.
After the conch has been destroyed, they return to a condition without thought or choice. Although Jack does lead to tribe, there is no unity among its member, only fear and force. Jack and his group wear masks in order to kill pigs. These masks take away his self-consciousness by stripping him of individuality. When the rest of the group begins to wear masks, they cease being individuals and become a mob. By destroying their personal identity they lose their personal responsibility. Jack uses force and fear to rule, having bullied his way into power. He forces the twins to join his tribe by tormenting them.
The boys are not allowed to speak freely. They can only ask Jack’s opinion and accept his answers. He expects to be treated like a god; the boys must wait on him and do what he wants. When they disobey, they know they will be punished or killed. Almost immediately after the boys’ arrival on the island, the forces of violence, blind powerand cruelty, typified by Jack, Roger and their associates, begin to struggle to attain ascendancy over the values of civilization and traditional authority, represented by the fire and Ralph with his conch. These boys hanker for violence and a return to the primordial chaos, typified by the hunt.
Soon their antagonism becomes hostility, and it is at this time, significantly, that the spectre of some mysterious beast begins to loom up before the boys. The beast becomes a source of terror and division among them as fear grows of some unchained and superior force in their midst”. 16 At first they have great fun, but rivalries, jealousies, fears rise inexorably to the surface and soon they are living in a world of tribal superstitions and tribal warfare while some of them group towards an understanding of what is happening and often very frightening.
This one time the school boys are savages who want to hunt a person, a boy, a former friend and leader. Furthermore, we can see that almost all the characteristic of dystopia exist in Lord of the Flies. Breaking laws and rules, fighting with each other, stealing, killing, fear, their fail to deal with each other, blind obedience. So their society is in complete dystopia, completely the opposite of what they had in their minds and wanted to build. This utter chaos led to the end of everything, the humanity, the laws and the rules, the names of the boys and the forest, and finally the whole island.
According to More, Utopia is a place with important features such as justice, security and peace. More like anyone else had the dream of Utopia and also was influenced by the rising rationalism of his time. Being familiar with the ideal Utopia he confronts us with reality of modern western society which in fact is opposite to that ideal Utopia which is called dystopia. As far as Golding’s Lord of the Flies is concerned the island which is a symbol of Utopia or in words Eden little by little turns to a Dystopia for the corrupt nature of human being and his greed for power.
WORKS CITED: 1. Sanderes, Androw. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Seifte, Betsy. et. al. English Literature. New York: Mc Grow – Hill, 1985, 594. 2. Epstein, E. L. Notes on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1970, P 189. 3. Baker, James. R. and Zeigler, Jr. , Arthur P. Case book: Lord of the Flies: Text, notes and Criticism New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1964, P278. 4. Calandra, Denis. M. Golding’s Lord of the Flies. New York: Cliffs Notes, 1964, P 63. 5. Ibid. P 16. 6. Golding ,William.
Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books, 1954, P 7. 7. Golding ,William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books, 1954, P 16 8. Ibid. P 18. 9. Ibid. P 32. 10. Ibid. P 80. 11. Ibid. P 104 12. Moody, Phillipa. A Critical Commentary on William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’. New York: Macmillan, St. Martin’s Press, 1968, P 17. 13. Golding ,William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books, 1954, P 76. 14. Ibid. P 134 15. Ibid. P 143 16. Nelson, William. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies: A Source Book. New York: The Odyssey Press, Inc. , 1963, P 146.