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Lord of the Flies: Is this a utopian story like Coral Island?
Transcript of Lord of the Flies: Is this a utopian story like Coral Island?
Nature versus Nurture
No, it is not a utopia!
There is a "long scar smashed into the
jungle" (Golding 1), which indicates that the island
has been hurt violently. The diction "smashed" is a violent lashing out. This suggests war, and connects the events on the island with the larger war going on in the world around the island--World War Two--but also foreshadows a coming war which is to take place on the island itself. The island has been hurt--presumably by humans. Can you find who or what hurt the island (page 3)?
Seemingly there will also be conflict between
man and nature. Nature has taken the
first blow, but there may be
repercussions for the act
of violence the humans have
inflicted on nature.
The Sliding, Snake-like Forest leaving
"There was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil" (Golding 6).
Ralph is described here as being innocent, which is the popular notion about children. However, at the same time, he, as well as most of the others, quickly strip out of their clothes--their tidy school uniforms. In removing their clothes, the boys are giving up their ties to Britain and the proper British rules and manners. He also mocks "Piggy" by introducing him by the dreaded nickname and fails to show him any regard, at least in the beginning. He then "machine-gun[s]" Piggy (Golding 7) which reveals his savagery. Ralph does not even ask for Piggy's name, which is surely a blatant offense against his proper British upbringing and the basic instructions he would have learned for making introductions.
Piggy thinks about home and civilization when he says, "My auntie--", but "then he open[s] the zipper with decision and pull[s] the whole wind-breaker over his head" (Golding 6). Piggy knows that the removal of his clothing means breaking away from civilization and all of the rules that he had been taught, and so despite the removal of his jacket, he remains mostly dressed. Immediately after that, he begins to give suggestions to Ralph about how to lead and how to bring order to their situation.
A Break from Home
Golding makes his argument for nature versus nurture, by making the innate mix of good and evil apparent in these young schoolboys. They are not contaminated by outside forces; rather, their desire for evil begins from within and grows. Only a short time after landing on the island, Ralph's face becomes "dark with the violent pleasure" of making noise with the conch shell. The joy of making noise is no surprise, but Golding characterizes it darkly to show that the wild rhythm, like the beating of ritual drums, overtakes Ralph's common sense and carries him away into a world of wild fantasies. These are fantasies that will quickly become disturbing without proper restraint. That these boys are alone without the influence of morals and laws is dangerous. This is further shown by the young children who "gorge" themselves on fruit uncontrollably (Golding 17) and another child who lowers his trousers to go to the washroom, and does not bother to pull them back up (Golding 16). On one hand, they are said to be innocent, like "innocent Johnny" (Golding 17), but on the other hand, order and civility is clearly lost.
Not only is this a flawed, scarred setting, but the inhabitants,
the red and yellow tropical "witch-like" birds, act as a warning
sign of coming corruption. The island is dangerous, right from
birds to the creepers.
Why does William Golding choose the word "creepers" throughout his novel instead of the more common expression, "vines"?
Of course, one answer for that question is that the word "vine" is too common, but there is much more to it. The vines, that is the creepers, are creeping. These vines are alive and active. They are personified. The vines are bewitched, like the birds, and their sinister presence on the island indicates that something terrible is going to happen. There is outward danger for the children. The island itself is filled with evil. The children may get "caught up" by the vicious vines (Golding 1).
Is this a utopian story like Coral Island?
"...And stood there among the skull-like coconuts with
green shadows from the palms and the forest sliding
over his skin. He undid the snake-clasp of his belt..." (Golding 5).
The forest is described as being dangerously alive. It is sliding over Ralph's skin like a snake. This image is furthered by the description of Ralph's belt clasp--which is snake-like--but which he promptly removes. This is the beginning of the snake-like beast which causes the boys great fear. The serpent tempter from the Garden of Eden, that is, Satan, seems to be present.
Furthermore, there is evidence of death in the forest with the "skull-like" coconuts, which inspires further fear.
Danger is further indicated through the water that "was warmer than his blood", the light that "shattered just over his face" (Golding 9), and "the lagoon [that] attacked them" (Golding 11). Furthermore, the heat seems villainous and pitted against the boys as they "endur[e] the sun's enmity" and it "crawl[s] across Ralph's hair (Golding 12).
Man versus Nature
The shadowed reflections of a dancing child looks like "a black, bat-like creature that danced on the sand" (Golding 17) with "a fluttering patch of black" (Golding 18). This emphasis on black and the connection with the bat, a creature which has long had a connection with graveyards, indicates that the children are not pure. In early European tradition, the bat was thought to be the resurrected godless dead. This indicates that these children are godless (pagan) rather than innocent. Most revealing of all, the choir is described as being "something dark [that] was fumbling along" (Golding 18) and Jack "vault[s]" into view "with his cloak flying" (Golding 19). He is immediately associated with darkness, and his seeming ability to fly, sets him apart as a powerful, but dark leader.
Dark Clothes, Dark Hearts, Dark Actions