Lord of the Flies by William Golding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lord of the Flies, which is derived from Beelzebub in Greek, by William Golding is a mind-boggling story about a band of English young boys aged between 7 years and 12 years marooned on an island after a plane crash during an atomic world war. Written in 1950s, the book questions the defects of human society in respect of the defects of human nature as symbolized by the stranded boys who have once civilized under the parental/societal guidance descending into savagery, which is operated by Id alone. And it only takes about 2 weeks or so to return to the primitive stage of mankind. Which is all the more terrifying to acknowledge.
There are two extreme characters in the story: Ralph, a headstrong, sophisticated boy whose father is a naval officer. His primary goal is to be rescued by a ship, to return to the the world of civilization where all will be normal. Therefore, his main concern is to keep fire ablaze to signal his existence, the last remnant of civilization, the surviving Ego that “wills” his societal existence struggling for existential meaning that a civil community confers upon his singularity and uniqueness for recognition. Ralph’s lifeline for returning to civilized human society is fire as he keeps invoking the mantra of “No fire, No smoke, No rescue.” To him fire is Hope that will save him from falling into savagery. Other boys blindly and almost unconsciously have become animalistic, acting on instincts to satisfy their most basic desire only: Eating by Hunting.
The Hunters are led by obstreperous, belligerent choir leader Jack. In fact, the figure of Jack represents many interesting aspects of psychotherapy. In the respect of psychoanalysis by Fraud, he symbolizes Id that “drives” all his acts and governs his modus operandi. To him fire does not seem to matter. He does not even want to be rescued. What he excites him is a process of hunting a pig – especially a female one – for provisional entertainment and survival on an island. In the view of individual psychology by Adler, gaining power over his “tribe” of the boys and becoming a chieftain by forcefully and unjustly abdicating the legitimate leader Ralph takes precedence over anything, such as keeping fire and going back to the cradle of civilization. The limit of ego qua responsibility does not apply to Jack, who lets his Id dominate his being. According to logotheraphy by Viktor E. Frankl, Jack has ceased to fulfill his responsibilities as a cooperative cohort of Ralph to work together to protect themselves, to guard fire, and to abide by orders and rules of their own until a rescue comes their way.
And there is pitiful Piggy. We don’t know the real name of Piggy. But we know that he does not want to be called such. But the boys, including the civilized Ralph, who has learned how to blow a conch by the help of Piggy, insists calling him the name. The narrative tells us that it’s not that the accents or fumbling that makes him a buffoon of the boys; it’s his corpulent appearance that loses him respect among the boys. Besides, he’s the only one that wears a pair of spectacles, which are used as a magnifying glass to gather sunlight to make fire. In fact, I view the figure of Piggy as a voice of the intelligentsia. Ralph laments over the tragic death of Piggy because he’s the one who “talks sense.” In fact, his spectacles, which is cruelly damaged by the sneak ambush led by Jack and his savage tribe, symbolize the perspectives of the intellectual that view the state of human nature in danger of retrogression and decay to Zero, the raw, primitive nature devoid of existential meanings and values that define human. And the boys ridicule him, deriding his attempts to call their attention to reality of their situations. Piggy betokens a Thinker, a voice of Rationality that loses its footing between provisional needs of survival and existential ennui at the time of abject crisis.
Lord of The Flies by William Golding attests to loss of humanity as a result of catastrophic event in which a survival of the fittest seems only true. This may include a case of war in consideration of the year the book was written; it’s 1954, only 9 years after WWII. Golding saw the evils of the war – the countless deaths, the famine, the ruins of houses and building and nature – the Wholesale Destruction of Humanity. What had once been a great civilization fell into a great catastrophe by the hands of Humankind. It’s a paradoxical truth that ascertains civilized human society debased into brute savageness operated on ferocious instincts for survival… The theme of the book bespeaks a collapse of human conscience governed by our Ego that prevents us from being thoughtless, self-destructive entities solely acting on our raw, dangerously ferocious impulses, our Id. And it is this Id that the devil as symbolized by the fly manipulates such instincts to fall into moral decadence for our ultimate destruction from within. In light of the aforesaid, Lord of the Flies is a modern day fable of the demoralization of human nature laid bare in the limelight.