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A Struggle for Power

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William Golding’s Lord of the Flies presents a story of a group of boys who become stranded on an island together, and in their struggle to survive; some begin to fight for power. Having power makes them feel in control of their situation; however, this power struggle quickly begins to consume them. Golding uses the power struggle between Ralph and Jack, the two main characters, to illustrate the power struggle between good and evil.

Ralph and Jack both have very different opinions about the conch. By showing these opinions, they illustrate the struggle between good and evil. From the very beginning, a conch is used to summon the boys and it quickly becomes clear that the conch symbolizes the constraints of society. Throughout the book, Ralph clings to the conch as if it is all he has, while Jack acts as if the thing is useless. “Ralph found his cheek touching the conch” showing how he uses it for actual comfort. Jack, on the other hand, ignores the fact that the conch gives someone the power to speak by ignoring whoever is holding it and speaking anyways. Closer to the end, once Jack breaks off from the main group and starts his own tribe, he dethrones the conch of its rule and deems it insignificant. Ralph tries to converse with him and is interrupted. He then says, “I’ve got the conch,” to which Jack tells him, “the conch doesn’t count at this end of the island.” This is Golding’s way of showing readers that Jack has no desire for order, and in society rules and order are considered good. Anything without rules and order is looked upon as bad. The opposite natures of the two boys represent the opposite natures of good and evil.

One very widely accepted fact is that killing is bad. Sadly enough, the children in Lord of the Flies are pressured to let go of this important rule and give in to the cruel ways of evil. One character who never seems to be affected by this unpleasant act is Jack. When they receive duties to carry out on the island, Jack is deemed hunter and he takes his task very seriously from day one. Saying “we want meat,” over and over again shows that he has given over to the dark side and is channeling his inner savage. He even goes on to imply that killing is more important than being rescued when he says: “all the same, I’d like to catch a pig first,” while Ralph notices “a mad look… [in] his eyes.” Jack and his followers fall so deep into the darkness that they murder an innocent boy: Simon. As the boys chant, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood,’ Jack leads them on to kill “the beast” which is actually Simon. The next day Jack goes on to beat another child and shows no remorse for anything that he has done. That is when it is apparent to readers that he has officially lost all humanity and is completely savage. Golding is showing that anyone, even a young child, if pushed far enough, can give in to that evil inside them. Everyone has a choice, but some seem to give in a little easier than others.

Society has order and rules. These rules are what tame the “beast” in all people. The rules confine us. Without them, we are capable of much evil. Golding uses Ralph to show this desire to be good. Ralph clings to anything symbolizing order, while Jack runs from it. When things start to go sour on the island, Ralph thinks aloud saying, “…the rules are the only thing we’ve got.” He longs for that “good” which he associates with civilization. Jack responds by saying, “bollocks to the rules!” He is enjoying the freedom from civilization and rules. His inner evil has taken over and rules would only tie him down with the same chains he has already broken free of after crashing on the island. By expressing his desire for rules, Ralph shows that he is fighting to hold back the savage within himself just like mankind does each day when they abide by laws.

At the end of the novel, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.” The island stripped him and Jack of their childhood innocence and forced them to pick a side: good or evil. When faced with these options people can go either way, though some may seem more inclined one way or the other. William Golding channels both sides of himself, good and evil, in this novel to make it clear how each person battles within themselves to decide whether they will contain the “beast” or let it free.

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