The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilization is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island, we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilization and savagery. This influences the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.
The theme of savagery versus civilization is first introduced to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the person who first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolizes authority amongst the boys. At the first assembly Ralph says, “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted”. This suggests civilization as Ralph is allowing each boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be given the chance to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have created the island to be a democratic place which shows a civilized side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.
Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be associated with Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a” snake thing” but by the end of the novel it has become “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be bad omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However, at this stage of the novel the beast is quite insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boy’s fear of the beast grows so too does the beast itself until it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a strong status as a Lord although it is over something disgusting – the flies. The boy’s belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to lose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.
One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilization is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This sugge...