When the boys find themselves stranded on a remote island, they quickly begin the project of building a rough approximation of society and attempt to create a utopia in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A society, of course, is characterized by rules, roles, and activities that identify the group of people of which it is comprised. For this essay on Lord of the Flies, analyze the society building process using a step-by-step approach. At first, there is so much hope and excitement, but everything quickly falls apart: Why? Be sure to examine the passages around pages 45-50, where it appears that nothing is happening. These lapses of activity are just as important as the violence that will follow them. Identify the main obstacle to the boys' society building efforts and explain whether you think there was any single moment where they could have saved their project from disaster.
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One of the key concerns of Lord of the Flies is the role of the individual in society. Many of the problems on the island-the extinguishing of the signal fire, the lack of shelters, the mass abandonment of Ralph's camp, and the murder of Piggy-stem from the boys' implicit commitment to a principle of self-interest over the principle of community. That is, the boys would rather fulfill their individual desires than cooperate as a coherent society, which would require that each one act for the good of the group. Accordingly, the principles of individualism and community are symbolized by Jack and Ralph, respectively. Jack wants to "have fun" on the island and satisfy his bloodlust, while Ralph wants to secure the group's rescue, a goal they can achieve only by cooperating. Yet, while Ralph's vision is the most reasonable, it requires work and sacrifice on the part of the other boys, so they quickly shirk their societal duties in favor of fulfilling their individual desires. The shelters do not get built because the boys would rather play; the signal fire is extinguished when Jack's hunters fail to tend to it on schedule.
The boys' self-interestedness culminates, of course, when they decide to join Jack's tribe, a society without communal values whose appeal is that Jack will offer them total freedom. The popularity of his tribe reflects the enormous appeal of a society based on individual freedom and self-interest, but as the reader soon learns, the freedom Jack offers his tribe is illusory. Jack implements punitive and irrational rules and restricts his boys' behavior far more than Ralph did. Golding thus suggests not only that some level of communal system is superior to one based on pure self-interest, but also that pure individual freedom is an impossible value to sustain within a group dynamic, which will always tend towards societal organization. The difficult question, of course, is what individuals are willing to give up to gain the benefits of being in the group.