Lord of the Flies Meets Sigmund Freud


Have you ever been watching a television show and the character on screen is trying to make a decision when a small angel and a small devil pop up on his shoulders. The angel says what should be done and the devil says what it wanted to be done. This can be connected to Freud’s theory of personality. Freud suggested that each personality has a large unconscious component. He believed that many of our pleasurable and painful experiences are forgotten or buried in the unconscious. We may not consciously recall these experiences but they may continue to influence our behavior. He came up with what is now known as the structural concepts of the mind: id, ego and superego. They tell you how the mind functions and how the instinctual energies are regulated. You can find evidence of the structural concepts of the mind in many things from television shows to books to movies, like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. But do the boys in Lord of the Flies display being driven by the three states of minds and do they use the seven defense mechanisms to avoid anxiety?


In the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a school of British boys are on a flight during the war. Their plane gets shot down, and it lands on an island in the middle of the ocean. There are no adults alive so the boys must fend for themselves and work as a team in order to survive. At least one of the characters displays being driven by id, ego or superego. Most of the defense mechanisms are used in order to avoid the pressure of living on an island, with no one to help you.


At one time or another in the book, each of the boys displays being driven constantly by id, even Ralph. However, Jack shows that he is constantly being driven by id. Id is the part of your mind that desires instant pleasure and immediate gratification. It is concerned with what you want versus what you need. The first sign of id in Lord of the Flies is when Jack, Ralph and Simon are going to the highest point of land, to see if it is in fact an island. On their way up they find a boulder and push it over. Jack was the first one to notice it and start pushing. This shows id because had someone been in the way, the rock could have caused serious injury or even death. They pushed the rock merely to have fun and prove to themselves their own strength. They didn’t think of any of the possible consequences. Another example of Jack being driven by id is when he and his hunters go to kill the pig instead of keeping the fire going. While the choir was off hunting, the fire went out and a plane overhead. Since the fire went out, their chances of being seen and rescued were decreased. The hunters desired the meat. They didn’t need the meat because they had only been on the island a short period of time and could have survived longer without it. Instead of being rescued, id took over their minds and they went to kill the pig for food.


The boy who seems to be constantly driven by ego is Ralph. This is why he was chosen to be their leader instead of Jack. Ego is the reality principle. It is the most conscious part of the three parts of mind. It considers the external consequences of direct actions and behaviors, whether they be good or bad. Ego makes the final decision of what is going to be done. Ralph shows this when he decides to light a fire in case a plan flies over the island. The outcome of being seen by a plane could be getting rescued. He also shows it when he decides whoever has the conch in group discussions is the only person allowed to talk. This shows ego because Ralph is considering the consequences of group conversations. He knows that without this rule, everyone would talk at once. With it, everything is more organized, and everybody who wants to speak has their chance.


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