The Fall of Civilization into Savagery
Thomas Hobbes argues that “the life of man, [is] solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short'” and the only way to avoid it is by accepting “mutually recognized public authority” (Lloyd and Shreedhar, “Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy”). In the novel Lord of the Flies, William Golding tells the story of a group of boys who crash landed and are stranded on an island that no one knows about. A few of the older boys attempt to recreate the organized society they once had, but it soon falls apart. The word savages’ is used throughout the entire novel to show the boys that are no longer civilized and following the rules of the society that they came from. The few civilized’ boys left try to talk sense into everyone else, but ultimately fail to do so. William Golding uses this novel to demonstrate that civilized behavior can be taught, but without a civilization and someone to enforce this behavior, they will descend into savagery, which is seen through the growth of Jack, Ralph, and Roger, throughout the novel.
Jack thinks highly of themselves because they are British, who are very civilized people, but his obsession of hunting slowly drives him away from the small civilization they have on the island and turns him into a leader of savages. In the very beginning, when the group of boys just made the fire at the top of the mountain, Ralph brings up the idea of having more rules. Jack speaks up and tells the other boys, “We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything. So we’ve got to do the right things'” (pg 42). Jack thinks highly about the British society because they are civilized people, and he wants them to be just like the British. Also, Jack specifically says the British are “not savages,” which shows that Jack believes in civilization and wants to create a civilized society. However, his obsession with hunting for pigs makes him forget about the civilization he wanted. He left Ralph’s group to create his own tribe where he was the leader. The day after the feast hosted by Jack, he was seen dressed “naked to the waist, his face blocked out in white and red. The tribe lay in a semicircle before him. The newly beaten and untied Wilfred was sniffing noisily in the background” (pg 160). Jack who once believed the English were superior and civilized becomes someone who is entirely the opposite. He uses force, such as beating Wilfred, to enforce his power and has become a dictator of his tribe. The civilization is gone and he has gone to the savage side.
Ralph, the most civilized of them, was the one who tried to create a civilization like the one they had at home, but even he was influenced by everyone and sometimes lost himself into savagery. After grouping together all the boys, Ralph says to them, “There aren’t any grownups. We shall have to look after ourselves’… We’ll have to have Hands up’ like at school,'” then later at the top of the mountain he tells them, “We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting'” (pg 33, 42). In order to achieve his goal of being rescued, Ralph believes they need to have rules and the correct priorities in order to create an organized society. He mentions there are no grownups and it is up to them to create a civilization. However, during one of their hunts, “Ralph, carried away by a sudden thick excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it… [he] was fight to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering” (pg 114-115). The savagery of the other boys was slowly affecting his morals and causing him to lose sight of being civilized people. He was affected so much by their savagery that even he longed to kill in their little game’ of hunting the pig despite the fact that he highly disapproved of hunting in the first place.
Roger’s disobedient behavior is restrained by the the rules of society, but without the presence of adults on the island to control him, he hurts others and descends into savagery. One day on the beach, Roger threw stones at Henry but he did not throw it directly at him because of “the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins” (pg 62). Despite being a very disobedient child, he was still being controlled by the rules of society. Those rules prevented him from hurting anyone as seen by the word “taboo.” Roger was not allowed to injure anyone because the civilization he lived in prohibited it. Although he is not an obedient child, he still knows what civilized behavior is and can be seen restricted by these rules. However, when Ralph’s attempt at civilization falls apart, Roger follows Jack to the creation of his new tribe. Later, when Piggy was making a speech at Castle Rock, “High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever” causing the large boulder to roll down the cliff and smashing into Piggy, killing him (pg 180). When they first got onto the island, Roger was held back by the civilization they were living in, but over time there was no one to restrict him or enforce the rules, and then he kills someone this time. There was no hesitation nor the feeling of doubt. Without society and adults to control him, he has become so savage that he can kill or hurt another person without much thought.
Humans will become savages without a civilized society or adult authority figures looking after them. Jack lost sight of civilization because of his desire to hunt for meat, Ralph was influenced by the other boys in their hunting group, and Roger did not have anyone to hold him back from hurting others. All three boys were taught what civilized behavior was back in Britain, but the result of staying away from home and the civilization there for so long caused them to become savages and forget what an organized society was like.