Lord Of The Flies

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Lord Of The Flies

Pieces of the Puzzle: the Island as a Macrocosm of Man
In viewing the various aspects of the island society in Golding’s Lord of
the Flies as a symbolic microcosm of society, a converse perspective must
also be considered. Golding’s island of marooned youngsters then becomes a
macrocosm, wherein the island represents the individual human and the
various characters and symbols the elements of the human psyche. As such,
Golding’s world of children’s morals and actions then becomes a survey of
the human condition, both individually and collectively.

Almost textbook in their portrayal, the primary characters of Jack, Ralph
and Piggy are then best interpreted as Freud’s very concepts of id, ego and
superego, respectively. As the id of the island, Jack’s actions are the
most blatantly driven by animalistically rapacious gratification needs. In
discovering the thrill of the hunt, his pleasure drive is emphasized,
purported by Freud to be the basic human need to be gratified. In much the
same way, Golding’s portrayal of a hunt as a rape, with the boys ravenously
jumping atop the pig and brutalizing it, alludes to Freud’s basis of the
pleasure drive in the libido, the term serving a double Lntendre in its
psychodynamic and physically sensual sense.

Jack’s unwillingness to acknowledge the conch as the source of centrality on
the island and Ralph as the seat of power is consistent with the portrayal
of his particular self-importance. Freud also linked the id to what he
called the destructive drive, the aggressiveness of self-ruin. Jack’s
antithetical lack of compassion for nature, for others, and ultimately for
himself is thoroughly evidenced in his needless hunting, his role in the
brutal murders of Simon and Piggy, and finally in his burning of the entire
island, even at the cost of his own life.

In much the same way, Piggy’s demeanor and very character links him to the
superego, the conscience factor in Freud’s model of the psyche. Golding
marks Piggy with the distinction of being more intellectually mature than
the others, branding him with a connection to a higher authority: the
outside world. It is because the superego is dependent on outside support
that Piggy fares the worst out of the three major characters in the
isolation of the island.

Piggy is described as being more socially compatible with adults, and
carries himself with a sense of rationale and purpose that often serves as
Ralph’s moral compass in crisis; although Ralph initially uses the conch to
call the others, it is Piggy who possesses the knowledge to blow it as a
signal despite his inability to do so. Similarly, Piggy’s glasses are the
only artifact of outside technology on the island, further indication of his
correlation to greater moral forces. In an almost gothic vein, these same
glasses are the only source of fire on the island, not only necessary for
the boys’ rescue, but responsible for their ultimate destruction. Thus does
fire, and likewise Piggy’s glasses, become a source of power.

Piggy’s ideals are those most in conflict with Jack’s overwhelming hunger
for power and satiation. It is in between these representations of chaos
and order that Ralph falls. Golding’s depiction of Ralph as leader is
analogous to Freud’s placement of the ego at the center of the psyche.

Ralph performs as the island’s ego as he must offset the raw desires of the
id with the environment using the superego as a balancing tool. This
definition is consistent with Ralph’s actions, patronizing Jack’s wish to
hunt with their collective need to be rescued, often turning to Piggy for
advice. Initially, in the relative harmony of the island society’s early
emergence, Ralph is able to balance the opposing id and superego influences
in order to forge a purpose: rescue. It is only as the balance devolves
that the fate of the island’s inhabitants is darkly determined.

Among Ralph, Piggy and Jack exists a constant struggle to assert their
particular visions over the island. As the authority of leadership by
default falls to Ralph, the conch then becomes symbolic of the
consciousness. Its possession rotates between Ralph and Piggy in order to
determine logical courses of action for the boys. Jack however, constantly
eschews the authority of the conch, consistent with Freud’s model with the
id by definition remaining subconscious, but fully able to exert influence
over decision-making.

Conversely, the masks and face-paints that Jack’s group of hunters come to
wear are very suggestive of Freud’s image of the subconscious. The hidden
and secretive nature of the boys’ faces beneath their disguises gives them a
camouflage blending them into the background of the island foliage, making
them imperceptible to the awareness of the self. Their actions go generally
unnoticed, but still have great impact on the island as they kill and
destroy, eventually overhunting the pigs they so desperately covet.

The general assembly of the island, torn between the conch and the hunters
also becomes symbologically valid, becoming a menagerie of the other major
human faculties, some more important than others. In Samneric comes a sense
of loyalty and fraternity in the lack of unique identity between the twins
and their fidelity to Ralph, even when captured and brutalized by Jack’s
hunters. In Roger’s single-minded devotion to the bloody, gory spirit of
the hunt lies a ruthless viciousness that even Jack must rely on to achieve
his dark agenda. Simon’s loss of emotional coherence and his revelation
give him a fragility coupled with a wisdom that make him an almost neurotic
flaw in the cohesiveness of island society; he is ironically the strongest
and the weakest link of the chain in his unique understanding of their

The older boys then are the dominant faculties of the psyche, variably
giving fealty to each of the three major forces of the id, ego and superego.

As the biggest, strongest and smartest on the island, they are the source of
accomplishment and achievement, both constructive and destructive. The
emotions and human qualities manifested in the “littleuns” seem almost
repressed in comparison, congruous with their relative ineffectuality.

Their nightmares and uneasiness impress a sense of fear, weakness and
anxiety, while allayed, still spread to even the most mature of the island
to some extent.

Among the masses of boys, Golding interpolates other images passingly
suggestive of Freudian psychosexual theory. Ralph’s first call to come
together by blowing the conch implies a reference to the neonatal oral
state, during which Freud postulated was the first conflict between desire
and self-control within a child. Other references to problems in getting
the younger children to adhere to toilet etiquette for health concerns
allude to the anal stage, which psychodynamic theory hypothesized to be a
period of increased awareness of bowel movement during the toilet-training
period in toddlers. Golding notes that the younger boys call out for their
mothers rather than their fathers, hinting at the Oedipus complex.

If the abandoned boys are representative of the aspects of the human
individual, then the lush, rich bounty of the island suggest the resources
available to the individual. The initially luxuriant images of abundant
fruit and the tropical halcyon idyll give a sense of splendor suggestive of
the innate seemingly limitless charity of nature, not only on the island,
but in the human soul. The initial “scar” of the boys’ arrival on the
island presents the first sign of damage to paradise, culminating in its
ultimate incineration, almost suggestive of Gotterdamerhng, the burning of
mythical Valhalla.

As such, other analyses of the island as a whole must take into account the
island in a greater context. Piggy’s relative intellectual maturity and
Ralph’s eventual rescue at the hands of British naval officers are thusly
indicative of the role the seemingly absent adult world plays on the island.

The preeminence of the adult world to the boys and its presumed virtuosity
elevate it to a much higher level than the everyday world of the island.

Despite a passing reference to nuclear war early on in the novel, the
outside world is very much assumed to be superior in functioning by both the
boys and the reader, making it an almost divine figure in the scale of the
island as a macrocosm. The outside world then becomes the ultimate
macrocosm, the cosmic knowledge and wisdom of God. Ralph’s guilt at the
British officer’s comment about the boys’ being British suggests a kind of
tongue-in-cheek repentance, both solemn and at the same time satirizing
alleged British moral superiority.

Ralph and Piggy’s desire to be rescued then becomes a form of faith elevated
to a connotation of spirituality. The signal fire then develops into a plea
for divine salvation, communicating to the adult world a wish to be rescued
spiritually. It is Jack and his hunters that care not at all for the
maintenance for the fire, despite the fact that it is their only means off
the island. They contrast Piggy as the signal fire’s greatest proponent,
who as superego maintains a more externalized sense of what must be done.

In establishing the island as a macrocosm of the self, one must then examine
the manner of Golding’s treatise on the human condition as related to the
plot of the story. The origin of the boys on the island gives birth to the
individual, the “long scar smashed into the jungle” suggestive of some kind
of inherent human weakness, perhaps a kind of Original Sin. Ralph’s call
implies the first inkling of self-awareness as the boys come to understand
their situation and the power structure of the island between Jack, Ralph
and Piggy forms. The ensuing formative phase of the island society then
indicates growth and development, not free from mistakes and flaws in the
psychodynamic of the island, but progressing.

The true downward turn in the island/person then comes as Ralph loses
control of Jack’s hunters and Piggy’s subsequent death. Golding’s reasons
for pursuing this course of action in the collective sociology of the island
is debatable. While it may be a mere exciting plot device, it is also very
possible within the context of the macrocosm that Golding is in fact,
portraying the island as a person in decay. Previous events including the
crash and various untended wildfires indicate the island has suffered
substantial trauma. Golding’s choice to generate conflict between the id
and the ego may well be symptomatic of a greater crisis for the
island/person, where it is reduced to an internalized battle between its two
fundamental psychological processes. As such, Golding’s climax plays much
like a morality tale; out of control, the id destroys the individual due to
its self-destructive nature, leaving only the ego to answer to a higher

As such, Golding’s judgment on humankind then takes on a very slantedly
ambivalent tone; darkly pessimistic, only passingly redeeming in its sense
of morality. In his decidedly Gothic ending in this interpretation of the
book, reminiscent of Poe, Golding comments sourly even on ostensibly
virtuous human faculties such as righteousness and practicality. He
portrays even the protagonists with a humanly flawed skew; Piggy is weak and
whining, Ralph is ineffectual. In their flaws and Jack’s cursory attempts
at virtue, Golding creates a balanced image of the person, where no faculty
is fully good or fully evil, but capable of being used to commit acts of
either or both.