To what extent can Lord of the Flies be considered a Marxist piece?

Lord of the Flies centres on a group of kids stranded on a tropical island when their plane crashes en route from England to Australia as part of an evacuation throughout an atomic war (theoretical war.) The story is essentially an allegorical tale of the inherent evil of guy– excellent versus evil. Of the book, Golding said that he wrote it to illustrate how political systems can not govern society effectively unless they take into account the inherent defects of humanity.

Marxism is seen as the development from an overbearing capitalist society to an equivalent and classless society. Golding attempts to set a utopian world within the island devoid of adult, societal restrictions however in the end the natural animal qualities of man come to the fore.

Golding based his story on the 19th century unique ‘The Coral Island’ composed by R M Ballantyne. Whereas Ballantyne’s novel, an adventure story of 3 boys stranded on a desert island, was positive, Golding’s is terrifyingly downhearted. The book was composed shortly after World War II, in the early days of the Cold War when paranoia about communism was at its height. In the early 1950s lots of people were accused, frequently wrongly, of being communists (the McCarthy period in the U.S.A. at this time is a good example of this.) It is within this context that Golding wrote Lord of the Flies. The fights between Ralph and Jack, the battles between the Conch group and the Savages and above all the battle of great versus evil, come from a degree of fear common of the period in which the novel was composed.

Lord of the Flies’ shows components of Golding’s own life– his experiences during the war made him second guess the traditionally held belief that while society might be evil, man was naturally great. Golding had experienced the evil in guy, not simply in the enemy but in his own allies (he was on the ship that sank the German ship Bismarck.) Golding said in his essay ‘Fable’– initially offered as part of a lecture series in 1962– “My book was to say: you believe that now the war is over and an evil thing damaged, you are safe because you are naturally kind and good. However I know why the important things rose in Germany. I understand it might take place in any country. It could occur here.”

The breakdown of order and discipline is popular throughout the book. This concept was drawn from Golding’s experiences as a school master (his dad was also a school teacher.) Golding taught in an English public school a lot of his insight was drawn mainly from this. Golding felt that at the time, the education system lacked a balance in between discipline and imaginative flexibility. By positioning the boys on an island without adults, free from the constraints of society, he allows the kids flexibility to indulge their desires and impulses. But by setting the story in a tropical paradise, Golding allowed the kids’ downfall to come not through a standard battle for survival but instead from within themselves and commented “If catastrophe came, it was not to come through the exploitation of one class by another. It was to increase, just and solely, out of the nature of the brute … the only opponent of guy is inside him.” (Fable, 1962.)

Golding uses the different characters in the novel to symbolise the differing degrees of savagery exhibited by man and their rift with organised civilisation. For example, Piggy requires that the kids remain within the parameters of organised society– his frequent recommendations to his ‘auntie’ represent the only adult voice throughout much of the novel. Jack, on the other hand, is more thinking about satisfying his own desires and is of the belief ‘if it’s enjoyable, do it.’ Ralph, nevertheless, is caught somewhere between the extremes displayed by Piggy and Jack. It is in the clashes between Ralph and Jack that the dispute between a civilised society and a savage one are dramatised and it remains in their differing attitudes towards authority that these differences in ideology are portrayed.

Ralph aspires to develop order– using the conch to assemble the boys– and although as Golding states “what intelligence had been shown was traceable to Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack” it is Ralph who is picked as the ‘chief.’ There is something about Ralph that has set him apart from the others, an inherent quality; however it is his hold on the conch that seems to identify his election as leader of the group. The conch symbolises the old, recognized adult order the boys had been utilized to– it represents the guidelines and guidelines or law and order of civilised society. Ralph is agent of federal government and authority and utilizes his own authority as chief to attempt and develop guidelines (for instance, you can only speak if you are holding the conch) which are for the good of the group as a whole– he strives to impose the ethical guidelines of the society they are stranded from.

Jack is the antithesis of this– looking for to get control of the boys to satisfy his fundamental impulses (Ralph in fact identifying Jack’s disappointment at not being chosen as leader is consolatory in announcing that Jack is in charge of the choir or ‘hunters’ as they quickly end up being.) Jack’s shift or decrease towards savagery is significant throughout the book. In the early chapters, his passion for killing pigs is really a program of bravery but is linked with the requirement to obtain food for the group. In this sense, Jack conforms to society’s rules. It is just later on in the unique when Jack no longer acknowledges Ralph’s authority and forms his own splinter group with the hunters that Golding reveals the reader Jack’s true and more harmful character. In this way, Golding has the ability to highlight the truth that to a degree particular savage aspects are an inherent part of man’s nature (there is a bypassing will to endure in people) nonetheless in the majority of circumstances this is suppressed to appropriate levels by the mores of society.

Golding himself does not see the novel as a Marxist piece, but as an illustration of “the darkness of guy’s heart”. Whilst the book wasn’t about class distinctions, Golding skillfully utilizes the language of the boys to highlight the truth there are undoubtedly differences. For instance at the beginning of Chapter 1 when Ralph meets Piggy and he asks “… What’s your daddy?” When reacting Piggy asks “When’ll your father rescue us?”

Alternate explanations from critics seem to come to the conclusion that the events of the unique were a result of situation and not of the evil within male. But Golding dismisses the concept that the actions of the young boys were not inevitable. He suggests that the violence happens “merely and solely out of the nature of the brute.” Modern critics will argue that the significance of the text is specific to each reader.

“I no longer believe that the author has a sort of patria potestas over his brainchildren. Once they are printed they have actually reached their majority and the author runs out authority over them, understands no more about them, maybe knows less about them than the critic who comes fresh to them, and sees them not as the author hoped they would be, but as what they are” (Golding, Fable)

Golding is suggesting that the significance of a text is not always governed by the author, so although he plainly did not mean for “Lord of the Flies” to be a Marxist piece, it might be argued that it has turned into one. It could be argued that provided Golding’s life experiences and his dad’s influence, this was unavoidable.

Roger’s sadistic manner was just come by the taboos and laws of society, but without these constraints he is not able to let loose the “id” that is caged by society, however is a demonic function of the human mind. In the chapter ‘Painted Faces and Long Hair’ Roger is seen in addition to Maurice to damage the ‘Littluns’ castle. Then Roger throws stones at Henry, although intentionally misses out on– in this sense his action is managed by the existence of the rules of society. Later on in ‘Castle Rock’ Roger, feeling that all elements of civilised society have vanished is now without the restrictions imposed by society and so unleashes his real savagery by tossing a stone at Piggy– this time intentionally aimed to hurt. It can be argued that Golding uses Roger, who becomes the epitome of savage when he murders Piggy, to embody the central theme of the book.

The dispute in between desire and ethical responsibility is a main style of the book. Golding uses the various personalities of the young boys to suggest the varied degrees of savagery that people show. Piggy juxtaposes Roger as he exhibits no animalistic qualities and follows society’s guidelines. Golding reveals that this vehemence is a more natural aspect of human behaviour which civilization forces empathy onto us rather than it being a natural human instinct. Even the naval officer recognises that the boys have actually ended up being out of control– his comment to Ralph that they may have had the ability to “set up a much better program than that … “illustrates this; Ralph identifies that in the beginning they were a cohesive group, a society.

The signal fire’s function is to hopefully bring in the attention of a passing ship so that the young boys might be conserved. Metaphorically, indicates how savage the kids have ended up being and how far they have moved away from socially acceptable behaviour. The boys start the fire using Piggy’s glasses in an effort to be rescued.This suggests that they still long for the order of civilisation. As the fire decreases, we discover decay in the ethical obligations the kids feel and they end up being more savage. The signal fire allows the reader to evaluate how much of society is left on the island. Golding utilizes significant irony at the end of the unique when the officer arrives on the island. Ironically the fire is the reverse of society at this moment in the novel; it has now end up being a metaphor for the ferocity that male is capable of.

The boys request for some sign of the beast– the sign sent out by the grown-ups is the dead parachutist; the beast is a dead pilot– Golding uses this to symbolize the chaos of an adult world at war. In chapter 5, Simon says “What I imply is … possibly it’s just us”. Simon recommends that “the beastie” is simply a creation of the kids. It is the worry of the unknown that brings the beast to life. Simon’s concept is one that relates to Golding’s views of humankind’s savagery. Simon is the only kid on the island who does not desert his morals, but he is savagely eliminated when he attempts to assist the rest of the young boys. Simon’s morality is overwhelmed by the other kid’s amorality, so while Golding does not claim that humanity does not display generosity, he does make the point that it is helpless when the remainder of the world is wicked.

The island is a microcosm of society, and the young boys represent various political ideologies. Ralph represents democracy, whilst Jack, with his symbolic red hair, represents communism. The young boy’s impact on the island itself can also be seen as a metaphor for human corruption of the planet. The forest scar created by the crashing plane symbolises the infringement of corrupt civilisation onto the island.


“What makes things break up like they do?” is the poignant concern Piggy asks Ralph. Golding himself blames the breakdown of the island’s democracy on the inherent greed and ferocity that is an occupational hazard of being human. In a lecture at the University of California in 1962 he said “So the kids attempt to

construct a civilization on the island; however it breaks down in blood and horror due to the fact that the kids are struggling with the terrible illness of being human”.

The fire is diatronically opposed to hunting which is the activity of anarchy.

Ralph portrays democracy and the function of federal government in any contemporary society. He aims to satisfy the demands of the public at large but recognises that particular rules of behaviour need to be followed in order to avoid anarchy.

Anarchy eventually defeats order– Golding thought that federal government is ineffective in keeping people together. No matter how sensible or affordable government is, it will in the end pave the way to anarchical needs of the general public.