When a group of children become stranded on a deserted island, the rules of society no longer apply to them. Without the supervision of their parents or of the law, the primitive nature of the boys surfaces. Consequently, the boys live without luxury that could have been obtained had they maintained a society on the island. Instead, these young boys take advantage of their freedom, and life as they knew it deteriorates. Lord of the Flies is influenced by the author’s life and experiences. Golding’s outlook on life changes, due to his heavy involvement in W.W.II, to his current philosophy that “The shape of society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual, and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable” (Baker, 1965).
The major theme that Golding develops in Lord of the Flies is the deterioration of rules and order in a lawless environment. Deterioration is the reduction of value and quality that may result in chaos. In this novel, the rules that are made are quickly broken or forgotten. Through the course of the novel, this statement becomes evident with the neglecting of the shelters, when Jack allows the fire to burn out, and the change in character of Roger. Each of these examples show Golding’s pessimistic attitude that all humans are potentially evil, and also his views on the future of mankind.
An example of deterioration of rules occurs when the building of the huts is neglected. All of the boys have agreed that the need for shelters is important. A rule is made that the boys will work as a group to build the huts for protection from weather and to act as a home for the littl’uns. The boys ignore the task and become preoccupied with hunting, swimming and eating, leaving the huts unfinished and rank. Therefore, the neglecting of the shelters is an example of the deterioration of rules in the novel.
Deterioration is also shown when Jack alters the use of fire. The rule that Ralph, the leader, makes at the beginning of the novel is that Jack and the other choir boys have a duty to keep the signal fire going at all times. When a ship passes, Ralph is enraged to find that Jack let the fire burn out; Jack breaks his promise and the rule. As a result, the boys on the island are unnoticed and fail to be rescued by the ship; there is no fire smoke to signal it. Although the intentions of the fire are good, Jack causes chaos when he uses it against Ralph. At the end of the novel Jack sets the whole island on fire in order to kill Ralph. “They had smoked him out and set the whole island on fire” (Golding, p.197). The fire that at one point symbolizes hope, has now turned to destruction. When the savage instincts are controlled by civilization it leads to good, but when they are out of control it leads to evil. Thus, Jack abuses the advantage of fire and his actions contribute the deterioration of rules.
The final, and perhaps the most significant example in the novel, is the change in character of Roger from civilized to anarchy. Although he appears quiet and civilized when he arrives on the island, he quickly becomes one of the most malicious boys. His first showing of being evil is when he throws rocks near the children. This may not seem evil, but it begins his diabolic ways. Roger realizes that throwing the rocks at the kids is wrong, but his conscience is affected by the fact that there are no adults around to punish him or enforce the rules. When some boys go off to explore the island in search of the beast, Roger agrees to go because he does not fear what they might encounter. This attitude is anything but bravery; he is only doing this because he has reverted to a very primitive life style. Roger reaches his deepest savage emotions and feelings in his participation in killing Piggy with the boulder. In addition to the death of Piggy and the destruction of the conch, is death of all that is intellectual