Choose a novel in which an important theme is explored. Explain how the author develops this theme throughout the novel.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation 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 civilisation and savagery. This has an effect on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.
The theme of savagery versus civilisation 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 symbolises 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 civilisation 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 civilised 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 boys fear of the beast grows so to 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 pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.
One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilisation 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 suggests savagery as the boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they don’t care about it. This is particularly clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done thus showing them becoming savages.
We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation developing further when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is really scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now completely open for the boys. This is the first true piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys becoming savages.
A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he said and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still someone with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.
In conclusion The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he wants to enforce rules and let everyone have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. Through the boys actions Golding shows us that we need rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions properly.
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Lord of the Flies” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Lord of the Flies” in terms of the different elements that could be important in an essay. You are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Lord of the Flies by William Golding, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Role of Adults in “Lord of the Flies”
The vast majority of Lord of the Flies takes place without adults. When the boys are stranded on the island, they are left to their own devices and it is not until the novel's end that an adult appears to rescue them. Despite the absence of actual adults, the boys are constantly referring to adults (see quotes, below) and they believe that they are attempting to construct an adult world. Write an analytic essay in which you discuss the symbolic importance of adults for the boys. Consider the possibility that the boys' efforts to imitate the adult world are destined to fail because they are simply not developmentally—cognitively or emotionally– ready to tackle adult challenges. A good place to start on this essay would be to examine the formation and eventual dissolution of the government and tentative society in “Lord of the Flies” (here is more information on that topic) You may wish to offer a close reading of one or more passages that address the role or idea of adults directly for this essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Society-Building in Lord of the Flies
When the boys find themselves stranded on a remote island, they quickly begin the project of building a rough approximation of society and attempt to create a utopia in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A society, of course, is characterized by rules, roles, and activities that identify the group of people of which it is comprised. For this essay on Lord of the Flies, analyze the society building process using a step-by-step approach. At first, there is so much hope and excitement, but everything quickly falls apart: Why? Be sure to examine the passages around pages 45-50, where it appears that nothing is happening. These lapses of activity are just as important as the violence that will follow them. Identify the main obstacle to the boys' society building efforts and explain whether you think there was any single moment where they could have saved their project from disaster.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Dynamics of Power in “Lord of the Flies”
One of the elements of society that the boys attempt to imitate early in their society-building project is that of establishing a hierarchy in which there is a designated leader whose job it is to inspire and guide his followers. While Ralph is elected as the “official” leader of the boys, Jack occupies a leadership role as well, given that it is he who is in charge of procuring food for the boys. Yet these two boys clash with one another because they perceive each as a threat to the other's power. Write an essay in which you explain the dynamics of power in Lord of the Flies. Be sure to acknowledge and discuss the role of the “little-uns” within the hierarchy of power the boys have established. If appropriate, you may also wish to offer some observations in this essay that make connections between the power dynamics among the boys and the power dynamics that characterize the almost invisible yet critically important backdrop of the novel—the war.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Devolving Into Violence
When one is a member of a relatively stable society, it is fairly simple to declare that one would never engage in the kinds of violence that are observed in unstable societies. The reader of Lord of the Flies may be shocked by the way in which the boys' individually and collectively become violent. They become so unimaginably violent so quickly that it is difficult to understand how sweet boys could be so cruel. Write an argumentative or expository essay in which you explain why and how this devolution into extreme, base violence occurred. You may choose to incorporate theories from psychology and sociology, if appropriate. Be sure to address two important motifs: (1) the frequent insistence on the importance of rules (and their inadequacy to protect the boys from their own violence) and (2) the regular references to savages and animals.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Indeterminate Endings
At the end of the novel, the boys are rescued and their ordeal has ended. Yet there is something about the novel that is inconclusive and indeterminate: what happens to the boys when they return home? Can they reintegrate to a normal, stable society and readjust? This essay prompt requires some imaginative guess work in which you take on the role of the author. Explain what you think happens to the boys—either individually, as a group, or both—when they leave the island. Finally, offer some ideas about the reasons why Golding elected to conclude his novel in this way.
* Here is an excellent article on the role of government in the society in Lord of the Flies that will guide you no matter which of these topic you decide to use *
* If you're looking for an idea for a comparison essay on Lord of the Flies, here is an excellent example comparing the novel to Animal Farm by George Orwell