Lord Of The Flies

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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



situation.



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



authority.



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.
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