In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, conflict between two instincts of civilization and savagery is the driving force of the novel, explored through the dissolution of the young English boys’ civilized moral behavior as they accustom themselves to a brutal barbaric life in the jungle. As conflict rises between the groups of boys, a theme of polar opposites such as good vs. evil, order vs. chaos can be seen through the young men’s transparent demeanor.
The central concern of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: The will to live by the rules, behave peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain power over others, and enforce one’s will. This conflict might be expressed in a number of ways: civilization vs. savagery, order vs. chaos, or the broader heading of good vs. evil. The theme of good vs. vil is evident when Simon saw the pig in a different manner than the rest of the group.
Rather than just an animal meant to “feed” their hunger… “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt and kill! … You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? ”(143) Simon had realized that the beast was nothing to be afraid of, that this so called “beast” was just a humans’ natural disposition when there is no system of order to control them. Throughout the novel, Golding associates the instinct of civilization with good and the instinct of savagery with evil.
He represents the conflict between civilization and savagery in the conflict between the novel’s two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, who represents order and leadership; and Jack, the antagonist, who represents savagery and the desire for power. A distinct sense of savagery can be seen in Jack when he states, “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood. ”(69) He has lost his sense of civilization and is allowing for his lust for freedom to be overcome by humans’ instinctive nature of savagery.
However as the novel progresses, Golding shows how different people feel the influences of the instincts of civilization and savagery to different degrees. Piggy, for instance, has no savage feelings, while Roger seems barely capable of comprehending the rules of civilization. However, Golding implies that the instinct of savagery is far more primal and fundamental to the human mind than the instinct of civilization. From the start, the children want to have rules so it can be like they were back at home in England. “We got to have rules and obey them. (42) The boys created the rules because they want everybody to feel comfortable on the island, like they are part of their very own civilization. Golding sees moral behavior, in many cases, as something that civilization forces upon the individual rather than a natural expression of human individuality. When left to their own devices, Golding implies, people naturally revert to cruelty, savagery, and barbarism. This idea of innate human evil is central to Lord of the Flies, and finds expression in several important symbols. Among all the characters, only Simon seems to possess anything like a natural, innate goodness.