Sigmund Freud states, “The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain, playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.” Freud theorizes that there are 3 states of consciousness in the mind. The superego, the ego, and the id. He claims that the superego is the part of the mind that reflects social standards learned from influencers, the ego is a mediator between the superego and the id and the id is a person’s instinctual drives based on a pleasure principle in which a persons’ desire for something persists until that “something” is acquired. In a similar parallel to this, characters in Lord of the Flies are representative of these theories. During their isolation on a remote island, the boys’ goal is to survive and be rescued. Through their adventures, Golding explores Freud’s theories of consciousness through symbolic characters. For example, Piggy represents the superego, is describes as the ego and most importantly, Jack is the physical embodiment of the id. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses symbolic characters that represent Freud’s theory of consciousness to describe how in times of great pressure, the mind disregards the thoughtful ego and self-critical superego and will drift towards impulsiveness and greed, represented by the id.
Piggy’s persistence and the adult-like manner in attempting to rescue the boys, and his ultimate demise, represent his adherence to the superego. During a meeting, Piggy displays his rationality when he discusses solutions to their strandedness. He also demonstrates his intelligence as he commands, “I got the conch! Just you listen! The first thing we ought to have made was the shelters down by the beach… But the first time Ralph says ‘fire’ you goes howling and screaming up this here mountain. Like a pack of kids. How can you expect to be rescued if you don’t put first things first and act proper?” (Golding 47). Piggy’s sensibility is evident as he discusses the course of action the boys need to take as well as consequences for not setting priorities. The undermining of the superego is present as Piggy begs the boys to listen. In other words, in this time of stress, the “pleasure principle” of the id neglects the rational thinking of the superego. Piggy adheres to the superego as he illustrates his intelligence when he suggests specific plans to carry out, much like a seasoned professional would do. Golding characterizes the other boys as wild and in a feverous excitement to distinctively separate Piggy as the superego, and how the other boys quickly drift to acting as the id. In this case, Piggy demonstrates his adult-like rationale of how to get off the island, while the other boys seek fire and gore. And even though characters with much less political power than Piggy, the id easily holds superior to the superego. Similarly, after one of the littluns claims to have seen a beast, the community shivers in fear and is unable to function properly on account of being traumatized. Piggy attempts to calm down the boys in a mature fashion as he reassures, “Life is scientific… I know there isn’t no beast, but I know there isn’t no fear either. Unless we get frightened of people. We just got to go on, that’s all. That’s what grownups would do” (Golding 92). Piggy uses his sophisticated, worldly knowledge to his advantage when he tries to comfort the boys by explaining that the beast is purely fictional, similar to how a parent comforts their child. Here, Piggy clearly represents the superego because he reflected parental social standards. Given this, Golding examines the interactions between the superego and the id. He demonstrates how the id can be destructive and how the superego is overpowered by the id’s tendency to drive a man to darkness. When piggy states “that’s what grownups would do” he cements that he is the superego because he constantly asks himself what an adult would do. Doing so helps him embody action taken by the superego so as to act intelligently and rationally. As the id gains momentum and power, Jack splits from Ralph and Piggy’s tribe and becomes a “war-painted” savage. As Piggy approaches the castle rock of Jack’s tribe, he shrieks, “Which is better—to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?… Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?… The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee” (Golding 208-209). Piggy confronts the savage tribe members, asserting that their lifestyle is frivolous and wrong. He compares savagery to sensibility, suggesting that his thoughts and his point of view are necessary to be rescued. By doing this, Piggy portrays the superego because he demonstrates his adult-like rationale. However, Golding uses irony when piggy opposes killing and is soon after murdered. He does this to depict the emergence of the superior id and how it disregards the superego by literally killing it. Piggy’s constantly being undermined by violence, greed, and murder illustrate how in a time of stress, the id subdues the superego.
Golding characterizes Ralph as the Ego through leadership, selflessness, and mediation of the superego and the id. By majority vote, Ralph is elected leader of the boys. Ralph exercises his leadership as he explains, “We’ve got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day there may be a ship out there – and if we have a signal going they’ll come and take us off. And another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting. The same up here as down there” (Golding 43-44). Ralph declares roles for members of the community and suggests a viable plan of rescue from the island. Ralph acts as the ego because he is a true leader who attempts to make advancements that benefit the community as a whole. The fire is a symbol of hope because it is their only chance of signaling for rescue. Ralph acknowledges this and places great importance on it by assigning “special people” to take care of it. By doing so, he demonstrates his alignment with the ego because he desires the success of the community rather than just himself. Ralph understands that the way to lead the boys is to restrict their rowdiness. Ralph further mediates the impulsive tendencies of the boys by setting the first rule in motion: “The conch must be present to call a meeting”. Ralph’s courage to speak up and propose the first rule establishes that he is an active member of the community abiding with the saying, “lead by example”. Jack starts a new tribe apart from Ralph in an impulsive manner. In doing so Ralph is driven to negotiate with Jack about their future on the island. As Ralph and Jack converse, Ralph utters, “The fire’s the most important thing. Without it, we can’t be rescued. I’d like to put on wair-paint and be a savage. But we must keep the fire burning. The fire’s the most important thing on the island because, because— without the fire, we can’t be rescued” (163). Ralph insists that the fire is the most important thing to maintain because it is their only chance of rescue. In doing so he demonstrates the ego by attempting to maintain a balance between himself and the id. Ralph is aware that he can not be a painted savage because he believes in the good of the group. Golding uses repetition to further emphasize Ralph’s role as the ego. His priorities are demonstrated when he repeatedly announces each sentence with “we…”. In doing this Ralph recognizes that getting off the island is a team effort. It is evident that the id slowly comes to power as Ralph stutters when addressing the reason for keeping the fire alive, displaying how he is losing sight of the importance of the fire; and losing sight of the importance of rescue. Similarly, Jack attempts to recruit members to his tribe, and when Ralph intervenes, they argue over dominion over the people. As Jack steals members of Ralph’s tribe, Ralph bursts, “I’ve got the conch—” “You haven’t got it with you, you left it behind. See, clever? And the conch doesn’t count at this end of the island—” The conch counts here too” What are you going to do about it then” Ralph examined the rank of the boys. There was no help in them” (Golding 173). Even though Ralph was elected leader by the people, Jack decides that he wants to rule differently and creates his own community, apart from Ralph’s. On multiple occasions, Ralph is batted down by Jack’s violence and persistence, demonstrating the hierarchy of the id and the ego and how the id overrides the ego in times of pressure. Ralph analyzes the situation and concludes, “There was no help in them,” symbolically illustrating that the ego is powerless to the id in a troubling situation. Moreover, Ralph is unable to display his authority, clarifying that the ego is not able to rule over the id and therefore the id holds supreme power. Ralph’s focus as the ego is to maintain a balance between the id and the superego, however, he drifts away from logic and intelligence towards preferring immediate gratification, represented by the id.
Jack’s violent urges and impulsiveness are used to demonstrate how the id is the most powerful Freudian theory of consciousness. When the boys first arrive on the island, they decide they need to build a signal fire to alert nearby ships of their isolation. In doing so the boys struggle as they had no previous knowledge of starting a fire. As the boys surrender unsuccessful, Jack brilliantly points and blurts, “Jack pointed suddenly. ‘his specs—use them as burning glasses! ‘Piggy was surrounded before he could back away” (Golding 41). Jack snatches Piggy’s glasses and intelligently uses them as a magnifying glass to start a fire. Golding illustrates how jack represents the id because he seeks instant gratification. The word choice “suddenly” depicts a timeline to reference how fast he develops this idea. When Jack spots Piggy’s specs, he quickly grabs them, disregarding the possible negative effect of doing so. This accentuates how he represents the id because he is impulsive and acts based on the “pleasure principle”. Jack surrounding Piggy is symbolic of the id overpowering the superego in a time of pressure. When Jack abruptly is angered by Ralph’s style of leadership, he storms off into the woods. As he does this, he applies paint to his face as he describes, “Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (68-69). The gradual emergence of the id is evident through the symbol of the mask, which represents his refusal to abide by society and his ignoring or moral behavior. Jack displays his unleashed wicked side as his laughs turn into “bloodthirsty snarling”. Golding references the symbol of the mask and how it affects Jack: the mask represents the crossing of the threshold of Jack turning into the physical embodiment of the id. As Jack hides, he rejects societal and moral standards and is “liberated from shame and self-consciousness”. Once Jack understands that he is “hidden”, he becomes a savage with no limits to the destruction he can cause. Similarly, Jack finds new evil inside him when he chases Ralph out of the forest. He attempts to command the island by killing Ralph as Golding narrates, “Then Ralph was running beneath the trees with the grumble of the forest explained. Jack had smoked him out and set the island on fire” (228). Jack sets the island on fire in an attempt to kill Ralph. When the boys are on the island with no supervision, the id becomes dominant in civilization. In this scene, Jack takes a massive risk as a result of the id holding superior in a time of pressure. The final manifestation of the id takes form in Jack lighting the island on fire. The timeline of Jack’s actions demonstrates how Jack has changed from a proper English boy to a hostile, vicious, and savage murderer, as a result of the id emerging in a time of great stress. Jack’s steady yet persisting dominance on the island represents the id’s authority as a result of enduring times of great agony.
In Lord of the Flies, William Golding explores Freud’s theory of consciousness and society’s drift from the superego and ego, and attraction toward the id during great external pressure. Golding characterizes Piggy as the superego, who mirrors the actions taken by adults in an attempt to intelligently solve problems presented by intense pressure. Ralph represents the ego as he mediates between the superego and id, and also is a leader seeking to benefit the community as a whole. And most importantly, Jack is illustrated as the id who emerges victorious among the three by way of violence, greed, and immediate gratification. The novel Lord of the Flies depicts humans’ tendency to revert to the id and descend into evil and darkness in times of immense stress.
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