The Two Pigs: Rationality Versus Brutality in “Lord of the Flies”

PIGGY REPRESENTS RATIONAL THOUGHT, wisdom, science; his “flashing glasses,” resemble the wisdom/civilization goddess Athena’s epithet “flashing-eyed,” and focus the symbology more, considering Promethean fire dispenses from them. Perhaps William Golding had more than Christian mythology in mind when he constructed the Lord of the Flies plot, for Athena, also goddess of strategic/just war counteracts the bloodlust aspect of war tied to Ares, just as Christ/peace opposes Beelzebub/disorder. In any case, the novel explores the true nature of humanity, using adolescents isolated from civilized controls, incomplete. Golding hints at the greater force on human nature in his title, and illustrates that the savagery holds sway over any impulse toward civilization at the core of human nature through the rapidity of the fall toward darkness by the marooned boys.

Much of the novel revolves around the hunt for an imagined boogeyman (externalized primal disposition or unconsciousness), yes, but the original urge for hunting is hunger, a primal need, seated in the earliest brain layer. Golding seems to come to the same conclusion as Conrad in Heart of Darkness: without the façade of civilization and governing law, the roiling, unconscious waters of primitivism would overwhelm the precarious foothold held by civilization-leaning consciousness. In short, we are more animal than angel. The first prize of the hunt becomes the Lord of the Flies, tying the Devil to savagery, surrender to basal instincts.

Surrender to instinct connects not

only to evil, but also innocence. The first sign of the quickness of dissolution of civilization occurs when Ralph, who can be seen as allegorical of civilization, sheds his clothing, to bask in the warm sun (consciousness in most myths). Clothing marks order, and interestingly, Jack, in whom even his skin is marred, standing for unbridled force, controls troops with uniforms at first, against the sun. That the Lord of the Flies is a pig and science is Piggy suggests science can be used for good or ill, as the fire born of Piggy’s specs. Order does return suddenly, summoned by the wildfire designed to deliver the final blow to civilization on the island; the uniformed savior provides the final irony–the beast still lives.