The Breakdown of a Society


A group of young boys stranded on a deserted island does not leave much room for the development of a society. William Golding managed to not only form a society among these boys, but also to develop it and eventually break it down as well, all within a few short pages of The Lord of the Flies.

There are two main symbols in the story that show the gradual loss of rules that lead to the breakdown. The first is the conch. The conch’s main purpose is to keep order and control among the boys. It is a sense of power for whomever holds it.
In the beginning, the conch is held with the highest respect. It is obeyed and treated with utmost care. The boys take turns holding it to speak and cradle it gently in their arms. However, within a short time, the meetings become unorganized and none of the boys pay attention.

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Eventually, none of the boys respond to the call of the conch and just continue on with what they are doing. The conch now has very little, if any power over the group at all.

The end of civilization occurs when Piggy is killed. The heavy impact of the stone shatters the shell and ends what is left of their society.
The second symbol is Piggy’s glasses in connection with the fire and the boys’ eventual rescue. The specs were used to start the first fire. Without them, they have no chance of rescue.

At one point in the story, Jack and Piggy began to fight and Jack hit Piggy’s glasses off. They hit a rock and shattered one lens. This symbolizes the loss of one-half of their chance of rescue.

One day, Ralph, Simon and Piggy saw a passing ship in the distance. Unfortunately, their fire had gone out because nobody had fulfilled their responsibility of tending to it. They boys are now more engrossed with hunting than concentrating on being rescued. They concentrate solely on the hunts and give no concern to building shelters.

Jack and his hunters need Piggy’s glasses to start a new fire, so they took them from him. Piggy now can not see at all and must be led around by Ralph.

A third element in the evolution of the boys’ society is the attitude toward killing. When Jack encountered his first pig, he had the excuse that he couldn’t catch it. However, the reader is led to believe that Jack’s mind wouldn’t allow him to kill the pig.
Later in the story, Jack finds that with his face painted, the pigs are unable to see him. I think that this eases his conscience knowing that the pigs will not be able to see him kill them. However, with his face painted, Jack begins to act like a savage, dancing around and shouting. Eventually, all the kids begin to chant about killing and are becoming very wild.

In Chapter 7, the hunters caught a pig and proceeded to torture it and kill it by chopping off its head. They then placed the head on a stick and left it in a clearing as an offering to the “beast.”At this point, all of the hunters now have painted faces and consider themselves warriors.

After meeting with Ralph and Piggy and arguing over who had support from the group, Jack and the hunters began to dance. Simon accidentally ventured into the middle of the circle and was killed. It was then that Jack realized that the “beast” was within themselves, not another being outside their group.

When Piggy and Ralph ventured to the mountains to retrieve Piggy’s glasses from the hunters, Jack’s killing nature shows its full glory. He hurls a huge stone at Piggy which sends him sailing off the cliff and onto the rocky beach below.

By the end of the story, Jack and the hunters have evolved to hunting their former leader and friend, Ralph. They would have killed him in cold blood had it not been for the soldier that appeared on the beach just in time.

The boys are basically wild savages now. They go to the bathroom anywhere, the fire keeps going out, and there is not enough shelter. Society is declining quickly.

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