The Lord of the Flies – Character Analysis


‘The Lord of the Flies’ a didactic novel by the acclaimed William Golding shows many aspects of human nature through its diverse and complex characters. Although the novel explores many themes and issues, human nature, and the darkness of mans heart, are the key ideas. The authors opinion that all men are born evil is made clear through the sometimes dark and sadistic characters.

The author uses many writing techniques to get his message across, and through this, accuratly conveys human nature as it can be seen even in todays modern society. The use of symbolism is very evident and the religious and political overtones serve to add a more real and relevant feel to the book. The characters that best convey the different aspects of human nature are Ralph, Jack and Piggy.

Ralph represents democracy, morality, leadership; everything that is good. “You could see now that he might make a boxer, as far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil.” It is Ralph who establishes a mock democracy, and he who maintains peace and order. Ralph’s main goal is to be rescued by setting up a signal fire, a plan that fails due to Jack, the antagonists, betrayal.

Although Ralph is meant to portray goodness, even he has his weaknesses. This becomes evident when he joins in the death of Simon, not being able to resist the power of mob pschology. He is also the one who reveals Piggy’s hated nickname to the rest of the group, and so starts his humiliation and ridicule. This is meant to reveal the foibles in human nature, even with those who have the best intentions at heart. The author believed that all men are weak and without resolve, no matter what they may seem, and that the strong will always triumph over the weak.

“Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling along.” This clever use of foreshadowing is when we first meet Jack, the anatgonist of the novel. From this first meeting, we are introduced to his unquenchable thirst for power and his hold over the choir boys, which soon turns into a hold strangling Ralph’s carefully set up democracy. “Inside the floating cloak, he was tall, thin, and bony: and his hair was red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness.” Jack represents everything Ralph doesn’t; anarchy, power, bloodlust and ambition. Everything evil and dark. This quote shows the differences between the two characters: “There was the world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of longing and baffled common sense”

Jack’s totalitarian ideals mean that it is he who leads the boys’ turn to savagery, on a wild rampage of death and destruction. His eventual fall into savagery begins with the sighting of a wild pig. He is fascinated but cannot bring himself to kill it due to “the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood”. This demonstrates his innocence at the start of the novel, but his lust for blood soon wins the battle against his conscience. “He tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up.” With his first kill, Jack is hooked. Killing becomes an obsession : “His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.”

Jack’s obsession with killing soon turns into something a lot more sinister. It is Jack who leads the boys on a wild dance that ends up in the death of Simon, and he who encourages Roger into the death of Piggy. Jacks’s obvious obsession with blood and death and power is what leads to the destruction of Ralph’s democratic ‘government’, and eventually to the demolition of the entire Island. Jack is the pure evil part of human nature. Through his barbaric deeds on the island, he teaches us about the dark side of human nature, and that to choose that path can only lead to complete and utter devastation.

William Golding firmly believed that there is no room for the thinkers in the world. No room for common sense and cleverness. Through the character of Piggy, Golding accuratly conveys his feelings and shows us yet another, purer aspect of human nature.

Piggy is the oddball. The freak, so to speak, in a circus of handsome, able bodied boys who laugh and humiliate him without thought for his feelings. “My auntie told me not to run….on account of my asthma” With this quote, we are introduced to Piggy, the fat bespectacled boy with asthma who is never taken seriously. However, it is Piggy who discovers the conch, the symbol of authority, civilization and peace, and it is him who presents Ralph with the idea of a meeting. Obviously made fun of in school, Piggy is treated like an outcast and is often left out, but the group do not hesitate to use his ideas if they work to their advantage. Piggy is treated like the nanny, and is constantly being made to look after the ‘littleuns’. Even though he is ridiculed, Piggy’s glasses are still crucial to the boys’ survival, for keeping the signal fire lit, and for lighting the fire to roast Jack’s kill, which shows that without knowing it, the boys depend on Piggy a lot more than they think.

It is Piggy who realises and recognizes their eventual turn to savagery, and although he protests: “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or Savages?”, he is not paid any heed. As Jack and Ralph drift apart, it is only Piggy’s loyalty that keeps him with Ralph, and they grow closer, with Ralph slowly realising Piggy’s natural intelligence and insight, and relying on it more and more. Without Piggy, there would be no democracy and no conch, and it makes us wonder whether he should not have been elected the leader in the first place. Blinded when is glasses are stolen, Piggy is killed brutally when Roger drops a rock on him from above. Ralph realises this awful loss, and at the end of the novel, he “wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of mans heart, and the fall through the air of a true wise friend called Piggy”, a quote that summarises the whole point and meaning of the novel.

Piggy represents a part of human nature that the author believes has no part in any society. A part of human nature that will surely be crushed and destroyed at the first sign. A part of human nature that if we did not have it, would leave the world in a state of chaos and confusion.

Through the characters in ‘The Lord of the Flies’ we are shown many aspects of human nature from good and evil, to all that lies between. ‘The Lord of the Flies’ is a novel that shocked and still continues to shock readers all around the world, and through its didactic theme, teaches us about human nature and its sometimes dreadful consequences.


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