Conflict of Civilization Vs Savagery in Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'

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Table of Contents

  • Three Main Points of Golding's Depiction of Civilization VS Savagery
  • Conclusion
  • Reference List

William Golding is recognizable for one of his many stories one in particular 'Lord of the Flies' which was written in 1954. It is a novel about a group of young British boys between the ages six through twelve that are stranded on an unknown island after their plane is shot down. 'Lord of the Flies' illustrates how a man's potential for evil can be unveiled in his natural human nature that cannot be ignored or controlled as much as he wants to. The growing tension that Golding shows among the civilization vs savagery is categorized in three main points which are when the signal fire dies and a ship passes by the island, when Jack decides to leave the civilized group to create his own, and when the group of savages steal Piggy’s specs to initiate their fire. 

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The evil that all men carry is hidden in the most prominent way for a young lad. To explain this idea the group of young boys find themselves with obstacles during their time on the unknown island, resulting in complicated disputes between the young lads. Conflict is ostensible throughout the entire novel and it portrays itself as man versus himself, man versus nature or man versus man. Golding implies that once a man is released from within himself conditioning and responsibility his natural insight of evil will be shown in the most unexpected way. Golding is also trying to destroy the optimistic view of human nature by explaining how even the most innocent children can degenerate into barbaric savages once freed from society. This aspect shows that the man is competent with evil, and it is necessary throughout the whole book. It is unveiled throughout Simon's discussion with the novel 'Lord of the Flies' when he realizes that the true monster aka beastie is one that lives in all the young lads. One of the various themes that Golding portrays is conflict within two main characters which is Ralph who is leader of the civilized group, and Jack who is leader of the savage group. Golding included adults for only a brief period of time throughout the novel, playing an insignificant role at the end. The lack of adults represents how the young lads were required to grow up so that they can survive. The lack of adults showed us that the boys did not have anybody to guide them the boys had to stick together but they all went into two different groups. 

Three Main Points of Golding's Depiction of Civilization VS Savagery

The first main point is that the novel shows the growing tension within the two groups civilization and savagery and it is when Jack and his hunters let the fire die out, letting a ship pass by without a smoke signal showing and allowing the group of young lads to miss a chance of being rescued. Piggy's reality and understanding of judgment are shown in the very beginning of the story where Ralph is a naive optimism that believes that his father will rescue them because he works in the navy, but Piggy reminds him that in the circumstances that they are in it would be unlikely for that to happen. This point is significant because it indicates the first problem among the antagonist and protagonist. Ralph prefers to construct shelters and maintain a signal fire to get rescued, yet Jack’s prefers to hunt meat for the boys and have some fun while being in island. The growing tension is present in this theme when they bicker, and Jack ends up taking his frustrations out on Piggy. Golding writes, “he took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy’s stomach”. This situation shows a differentiation between the savages and the civilized since Jack uses violence to solve his problems, where as Ralph overpowers' his anger. Golding writes, “Unwillingly Ralph felt his lips twitch; he was angry with himself for giving way”, which conducts his efforts to suppress his resentment towards Jack. Without this moment in the novel it would not be probable because this would have interfere with the boys from being rescued. If the fire had remained kept then this conflict would have not existed and it would have never flourished throughout the novel, and the next point in the novel would not have transpired.

Another main point in the novel is when Golding shows that Jack decides to leave the civilized group for his own good. This is a point because the conflict that Ralph and Jack have developed from disagreements to a straightforward divide between civilization and savagery. This story shows the stress between the young lads because they are now battling against each other to be chiefs, leading them to a competition to rise to an all-new level. As chief, Ralph says, “The best thing we can do is get ourselves rescued”, where as Jack say that hunting is quite as significant. Jack says, “I’m not going to be a part of Ralph’s lot“, confirming that he is reluctant to associate with the civilized group what so ever. One of the many ways Golding points out the conflict between the savages and civilized is when Jack and his group killed the first pig. Jack's incantations were “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This implies that the savages are being violent and bold when it came down to killing the pig. This was surprisingly Golding’s word choice. Jack was talking about cutting the pig’s throat which he made it sound like a brutal action which strengthens the absence of his feelings towards the pig. This proves that the young lads are no longer feeling sinful about what they have done with the pig because they did what they had to do to survive. If this event had not occurred, then it would not have been probable because then that would mean that the two groups would still be living together as one and the conflicts within the two boys would soon have reached a high level. This disagreement also created the next point to happen.

The main and final point shows the tension between the savage and the civilized is when Jack and his crew steal Piggy's glasses from the civilized campsite so that they can create a fire to cook the meat on. This point is important because it proves that the young lads are acting out as barbaric animals Golding says, 'Then there was a vicious snarling in the mouth of the shelter and the plunge and thump of living things''. This effect also shows the eagerness of the savages as they resort to their last strategy which is stealing. This shows a big variation between the two groups as Piggy and Ralph would have addressed the situation somewhat differently such as asking for the glasses back rather than just taking them. If this occurrence had not happened, then it would not have been plausible because the civilized boys would have never face the savages even though the specs that they had stolen would probably prevent Piggy's death.

Furthermore, if the savages did not have access to the specs, then the savages would not have been capable to incite the fire that lit the signal that resulted to the boys to be recused.


To better explain the conflict between the savage and the civilized there were three major points in the novel which are when the signal fire dies out, when Jack decides to leave the civilized group and when the savages take Piggy’s specs to intensify the conflict in the story. All these main points were relevant because they all joined and depend on each other. The conflict was interdependent and it build a rising action that lead to these main points causing them to come together in the end Golding shows the problems that transpire in the book to real-life by pointing out that everybody possesses a savage inside them, and some people convert to it faster than others. Also, Ralph represents civilization because he wants to strengthen the rules and let everyone have equal rights. Whereas Jack who represents the savages because he wants the rules to be broken and is not impressed in doing the right thing. Throughout the novel, the young lad's actions prove that to us that we need rules to make sure that the community runs accurately. Although Golding does not represent the boy's loss of innocence as something that is made for children specifically, but rather than resulting naturally from their vulnerability to evil and savagery that has always existed within themselves they just didn’t do it sooner.

Reference List

  1. Golding, William. ''Lord of the Flies'.' Faber & Faber, 1954.
  2. Baker, James R. 'The Symbolism of Power in William Golding's ''Lord of the Flies''.' The Antioch Review, vol. 36, no. 4, 1978, pp. 377-387.
  3. Balakian, Nona. 'The Beast and the God: A Reading of ''Lord of the Flies''.' College English, vol. 34, no. 5, 1973, pp. 639-647.
  4. Dickson, John. 'Symbolic Imagery in William Golding's ''Lord of the Flies''.' English Journal, vol. 51, no. 7, 1962, pp. 446-449.
  5. Cox, C. B. 'Civilization and Savagery in the 'Lord of the Flies'.' National Council of Teachers of English, vol. 22, no. 3, 1961, pp. 141-146.
  6. Kinkead-Weekes, Mark. 'William Golding: The Man and His Books - A Tribute on His 75th Birthday.' Faber & Faber, 1996.
  7. Stein, Murray. 'Themes in ''Lord of the Flies''.' The English Journal, vol. 46, no. 4, 1957, pp. 198-203.
  8. Bloom, Harold, editor. 'William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'.' Infobase Publishing, 2008.
  9. Baker, Jeannine. 'Goldings ''Lord of the Flies''.' The Explicator, vol. 68, no. 4, 2010, pp. 245-247.
  10. Sattelmeyer, Robert. 'Studying ''Lord of the Flies'': A Novel by William Golding.' Humanities Press, 1990.

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