The Corruptive Nature Of Society As Shown In Golding\'s Lord Of The Flies


In Lord of the Flies, William Golding presents pessimistic view of society. He uses
the story of a group of boys stranded on a deserted island to examine a multitude of
specific social issues, such as leadership, sadism, and the role of intellectuals in society.
Taken together, this presentation of opinions on social issues brings the reader to the
question of the nature of society. As to this question, Golding asserts that society is an
inherently corruptive influence and illustrates this through the breakdown of social order
on the island.

Golding begins his indictment of society with an illustration of innocence. One of
first things that Ralph, the central character of the novel, does upon his arrival on the
island is to strip himself of his clothing and go swimming. During this opening sequence,
Piggy rambles about eating candies in his aunt’s store. Even Jack first appears as a choir
boy. Golding is careful in the novel to introduce each of the boys as the picture of
innocence, emphasizing that they are children and nothing more. This is shown in the
following quote, “ He (Ralph) patted the palm trunk softly, and, forced at last to believe in
the reality of the island, laughed delightedly again and stood on his head. He turned neatly
on to his feet, jumped down to the beach, knelt and swept a double armful of sand into a
pile against his chest. Then he sat back and looked at the water with bright excited eyes.”
(Golding, William Lord of the Flies Wideview/Perigee page 10).

By doing this, Golding strips his characters of any motives that they may have for
their actions down to bare human nature, as the author has shown them to be carrying no
emotional baggage. Because of this, these innocent children become the perfect subjects
for Golding’s test of human nature. Also, by establishing this innocence at the beginning,
before the boys form their society, in such a concrete manner, Golding suggests that man
begins as innocent, before entering society.

After establishing the boys as innocents, Golding wastes little time in mixing them
together into a society. That natural state that they exist in upon arrival on the island is
shattered by Ralph’s first unifying blow of the conch. Golding uses the scenario of the
isolated tropical island to demonstrate the effects society has on individuals. One of the
first things the boys do after assembling is to make fun of Piggy’s weight. Jack does this
to impress and entertain the other boys. Ralph chimes in to impress Jack, as well as the
group. Because of this desire to belong by Jack and Ralph, Piggy is isolated from the
group. To show this in the text, “ ‘Then,’ went on Piggy, ‘that boy- I forget-’
‘You’re talking too much,’ said Jack Merridew. ‘Shut up Fatty.’
Laughter arose
‘He’s not Fatty,’ cried Ralph, ‘his real name’s Piggy!’
‘Piggy!’
‘Piggy!’
‘Oh, Piggy!’

A storm of laughter arose and even the tiniest child joined in. For the moment the
boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with Piggy outside: he went very pink, bowed his
head and cleaned his glasses again.” (page 20).

This only begins the social problems that the boys experience. The caste system
that boys inadvertently create immediately isolates all of the younger children by giving
them no purpose. This caste system also serves to separate the boys who are not in the
choir from the rest of the group. Aside from the caste system and the overwhelming need
to belong, a fear of ridicule exists in the boys that prevents them from communicating
properly. This was demonstrated best at the meeting where Simon was trying to suggest
that the Beast wasn’t a physical thing, as is shown in the following passage, “Simon was
close to him, laying hands on the conch. Simon felt a perilous necessity to speak; but to
speak in assembly was a terrible thing to him.
‘Maybe,’ he said hesitatingly, ‘maybe there is a beast’
The assembly cried out savagely and Ralph stood up in amazement.
‘You, Simon? You believe in this?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Simon. His heartbeats were choking him. ‘But....’
The storm broke.
‘Sit down!’
‘Shut up!’
‘Take the conch!’
‘Sod you!’
‘Shut up!’
Ralph shouted.
‘Hear him! He’s got the conch!’
‘What I mean is... maybe it’s only us’
‘Nuts!’
That was from Piggy, shocked out of decorum. Simon went on.
‘We could be sort of....’
Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness.
Inspiration came to him.
‘What’s the dirtiest