One of the most prominent themes in Lord of the Flies is the arising conflict of civilization vs savagery.
This conflict is displayed in the novel through the rivalry between Ralph, who represents discipline and order, and Jack, who represents a desire for power and ruthlessness. Both characters have a different attitude towards authority and how to rule. The theme could also be written as order vs chaos, or law vs anarchy, regardless, it speaks on human nature, and emphasizes how civilized laws and rules prevent humans from acting on their savage, ruthless ways. In the novel, Ralph, who works to keep an atmosphere of peace and control, clashes with Jack, who desires to abolish rules and establish himself as a dictator. Are humans more inclined towards savagery rather than civilization that contains this savage nature? Golding emphasizes that one of the responsibilities of civilized society is to provide a means of escape for the savage desires that lie inside the thoughts of each individual. This theme is further demonstrated through symbols such as the conch shell.
Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach at the start of the novel and it plays a big role in governing their meetings and maintaining a civilized atmosphere. I somewhat symbolizes civilization and maintaining discipline. Despite this significance, as the island civilization perishes and a more savage nature is adapted, the conch shell loses its power and influence among them. The destruction of the conch shell at the scene of Piggy’s murder signifies the complete death of discipline on the island. The fire also emphasizes this theme.
It symbolizes the boys’ desire to be saved, and connects them to civilization. It is arguably the most important part of their survival that kept them in a civilized manner. As the novel goes on, the fire starts dying, demonstrating how the civilized manner is no longer working and the death of the fire is the reason that they have accepted that their survival is only possible through savage ways. The fire measures the strength of Ralph and his disciplinary ways. Ralph knows that establishing order is best for everyone’s well-being, but Jack fails to see this, and convinces others to see his way.
Human nature is complex. It needs rules and leadership in order to stay civilized. As soon as the discipline is lifted, they adapt to their savage ways. If individuals fail to realize the importance of effective leadership, all peace will vanish.
Jack realized this, but at this time his savage ways have full control over him. Golding’s plot is very relevant in accordance with this theme, and the symbols further emphasize it as well. By the end, savagery has completely displaced civilization as the prevailing system on the island. “Innocence is an illusion and human nature tends toward evil.” Is this statement accurate? Golding’s message in Lord of the Flies is that the lack of civilization causes humans to return to savagery to survive, neglecting their values and morals, and rather doing whatever it takes for complete power.