Civilization vs. Savagery: 'Lord of the Flies' Essay

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Fragile Structure of Civilization
  • The Descent into Savagery
  • Human Nature and the Darkness Within
  • The Relevance to Society
  • Conclusion


"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding explores the delicate balance between civilization and savagery within human nature. This essay delves into the contrasting themes of civilization and savagery in the novel, examining how the characters' behavior and the island's transformation reflect the fundamental struggle between order and chaos.

The Fragile Structure of Civilization

The boys initially establish a semblance of order:

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  • Leadership and Democracy: The election of a leader, Ralph, and the establishment of rules demonstrate an attempt at creating a structured society.
  • Fire as a Symbol: The fire represents the boys' desire for rescue and the hope of maintaining ties to civilization.
  • Rules and Responsibilities: The conch shell becomes a symbol of authority, and meetings are held to discuss important matters.

The Descent into Savagery

As time passes, the veneer of civilization crumbles:

  • The Beast as a Catalyst: The belief in a beast on the island drives the boys to paranoia and irrationality, leading to the emergence of their primal instincts.
  • Loss of Identity: The boys shed their clothing and adopt primitive behaviors, erasing the boundaries between themselves and savagery.
  • Violence and Rituals: The tribe's brutal practices, such as hunting and the dance, symbolize their descent into barbarism.

Human Nature and the Darkness Within

"Lord of the Flies" explores the innate duality of human nature:

  • The Id and Superego: Characters like Jack embody the id, driven by primal desires, while Piggy represents the superego, attempting to uphold societal norms.
  • Fear and Power: The fear of the unknown and the lust for power reveal the depths of human darkness when confronted with challenging circumstances.
  • The Naval Officer's Irony: The novel's conclusion, with the arrival of a naval officer, highlights the contrast between the civilized exterior and the savagery that lurks beneath.

The Relevance to Society

The themes in "Lord of the Flies" resonate with human history and contemporary society:

  • Social Contracts: The novel reflects the fragility of social contracts that maintain order in society and the consequences of their breakdown.
  • Power and Manipulation: The power struggles and manipulation depicted in the novel are reflections of real-world dynamics in politics and human relationships.
  • Moral Dilemmas: The novel raises questions about the fine line between civilized behavior and the potential for cruelty that lies within us all.


"Lord of the Flies" serves as a compelling exploration of the conflict between civilization and savagery that resides within human nature. Through the characters' descent into primal behavior, Golding's novel offers a cautionary tale about the fragility of societal norms and the darkness that can emerge when the constraints of civilization are removed. The novel's enduring relevance invites readers to reflect on the delicate balance between the veneer of order and the untamed wildness that resides within us all.

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