Civilization is where a society of people reaches an advanced stage of social and cultural development. William Golding explores the need for civilization in his novel Lord of the Flies. In this novel, a group of boys get stranded on a deserted island after their plane is shot down. The boys have to form a society due to their predicament. For the boys to thrive, there is a need for social development through building an orderly civilization, but this does not happen. Because they cannot create a civilization, the boys on the island quickly become savages. Golding uses the theme of civilization to show that rules in society are necessary.
Attempts to create a civilization are made when the boys crash on the island; one of the boys, referred to as “Piggy,” asks another survivor, Ralph, to blow on a conch shell to call out for other survivors. The conch works in carrying out a rallying call, and it becomes the tool used to convey meetings between the boys. “We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us” (Golding 20). At first glance, the attempt to create a civilized society is successful due to using the horn to create order in their meetings. The boys use a democratic process for choosing Ralph as their chief and the decision is accepted by Jack, albeit begrudgingly (Golding 28). The use of democratic processes to elect leaders is an indication of a civilized society (Schorr 2018). The boys forming this civilization had different roles, such as hunters, and others were given the work of getting wood to build a campfire. Huts were to get built on the beach. “You remember the meeting? How everybody was going to work hard until the shelters were finished?” (Golding 69). Having designated roles in society is an aspect of civilization, and the boys were utilizing these concepts to create a civilization and ensure they thrived. Initially, the boys did a lot and made progress in establishing a civilized society. The attempts to have a democratic leadership and progress in making better lives are how this is seen. Societies can disintegrate for a number of reasons and this one eventually failed.
The boys’ attempt to create a civilization on the deserted island was unsuccessful. The social order began undergoing systematic disruptions (Wang 117). Boys who had specific duties assigned to them neglected their roles in society. An example was when those in charge of keeping the fire lit discarded their role, and they lost a potential opportunity to get saved. “You let the fire go out” (Golding 97). Violence among the boys contributed to the boys failing. An instance of violence is seen when “Jack smacked piggy’s head” (Golding 100). The efforts to establish a civilization failed when a rebellion by Jack and his group threatened the natural order of the society. “I’m going by myself. He can catch his own pigs” (Golding 183). The boys finally become savages, and they descend into a crazed frenzy. Before they are eventually helped, two of their members die and the conch symbolizing leadership is destroyed “the conch exploded into a thousand fragments and ceased to exist” (Golding 260). The conch breaking symbolizes the civilization falling into savagery.
The boys’ failure to create a civilization had been a gradual process that had deteriorated into full-blown savagery. Rules and a system that ensured order and progress had been established, but there were factors undermining this society’s progress. The disruption of these systems through the application of these systematic destructive factors had eventually led to the fall of civilization and a complete descent into savagery.
Golding, William, and Edmund L. Epstein. Lord of The Flies: A Novel. Pedigree, 1954.
Schorr, David B. “Savagery, Civilization, and Property: Theories of Societal Evolution and Commons Theory.” Theoretical Inquiries in Law, vol. 19, no. 2, 2018, pp. 507-531.
Wang, Tianyue. “Discourse Analysis of Lord of the Flies: A Systemic Functional Approach.” Advances in Literary Study, vol. 09, no. 03, 2021, pp. 114–126.