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Civilization vs. Savagery

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by

John Tang

on 21 May 2014

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Transcript of Civilization vs. Savagery

Theme
Quotes
Conclusion
Through "Lord of the Flies", William Golding presents his views on the relationship of civility and savagery. He lets us learn that when being exposed to savagery and lust, civilization looks very vulnerable. At the end of the novel, civility on the island is almost entirely destroyed by human inner evil and barbarity. I think what eventually happens on the island can act as a significant warning to the modern world. Even today's society suffers from elements of this theme. While many parts of the world are highly civilized, there is still plenty of violent crime in the world, such as rape and murder. This reflects the continued savagery of human nature.
Yueze Tang
Civilization vs. Savagery
Symbols
In the Beginning...
The Conch
The conch is originally found by Piggy, and when the conch is first blown by Ralph, all the younger boys gather. In the beginning, all the boys obey the power of the shell. The conch becomes the tool that maintains the rules and authority, therefore it represents civility. However, as the novel progresses, the conch gradually loses its power, which means the boys lose touch of what it means to be civilized on the island. At the end, the conch is shattered by a rock, and with it, civility is also extinguished.
The Painted Faces
The face paint is first used by Jack, as he hunts for a pig. As the other boys start to follow Jack's lead and paint their faces, they not only look like savages, but are becoming savages. The painted faces symbolize the boys' barbarity. In addition, when Jack finishes painting his face in the form of mask, "the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness." (Chapter 4) With this new freedom, Jack renounces accountability for his actions and hides his crimes behind his mask.
Piggy's Glasses
Civility:
The Signal Fire
As glasses are often seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, Piggy's glasses are another symbol that represents civilization. First, the glasses give Piggy his vision, which ensures that he is able to discover important things, such as the conch. Piggy's glasses are also important as a tool from the civilized world which is needed to make the signal fire.
Initially, the fire is made as a signal to alert passing ships and planes. The signal fire represents the boys' hope of being rescued off the island and to return to the civilized world.
Savagery:
The Pig Hunt
The pig hunt represents the lust for blood and murder. This in essence represents savagery. For example, when Jack kills a female pig, his excessive actions go from mere survival to cruelty: "Jack held up the head and jammed the soft throat down on the pointed end of the stick which pierced through into the mouth. He stood back and the head hung there, a little blood dribbling down the stick ... the buzzing of flies over the spilled guts." (Chapter 8)
"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?" (Chapter 11)
This quote is spoken by Piggy to the other boys, as he aspires to maintain civility on the island. This quote directly aims at the theme of the story, as it compares civility with savagery and shows what both worlds look like through Piggy's rhetorical questions. Piggy's words clearly mean that civilization is much better for humanity than savagery; his questions also express disappointment in that the boys choose to be barbaric instead of being civilized.
"The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist." (Chapter 11)
This quote reveals that the conch is entirely destroyed by the rock, as is Piggy. Therefore, this event illustrates that the savage side eventually defeats the civilized side, and savagery occupies the whole island. This quote profoundly reflects the theme of the novel: in the face of human lust and human nature, civility is extremely flimsy compared to savagery.
Characters
Civility
Savagery
In the Middle...
At the End...
William Gerald Golding
1954
The boys elect Ralph as the leader and everyone obeys the authority and power of the conch. They form a primary civilized and democratic society. With the leadership of Ralph, the boys construct a signal fire for possible rescue and also build their own shelters.
As the "beast" appears, the serenity on the island no longer exists. Meanwhile, the conflict between Ralph and Jack starts to build, and eventually the boys are divided in to two groups. Ralph's group represents civility and democracy; he wants to build shelters and create the signal fire. Jack's group is becoming more savage by wearing face paint and stalking pigs.
Because of the need for pig meat, most of the young boys join Jack's group. The hunters kill Simon, thinking he was the beast; they also kill Piggy and destroy the conch. Ralph is now endanger due to the barbarity of Jack and his hunters. Savagery now fully replaces civility on the island until a navel officer arrives to rescue the boys.
Ralph and Piggy represent civility. They believe that being civilized and ordered is essential and necessary on the island. Ralph always insists on making a signal fire so that they can be rescued and return to the civilized world.
Jack and Roger closely represent savagery. They enjoy the bloody ritual of hunting, and wear face paint to look like animals. At the end, Jack and the choir even begin to kill other boys.
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