A theme is an overarching idea that runs through a literary text in one or some parts. It makes up the major point the author he wants to convey to his readers. Lord of the Flies is a rich literary text that contains multidimensional themes. Some of the overarching themes are discussed below.
Themes in Lord of the Flies
Loss of Innocence
Loss of innocence is one of the major themes of Lord of the Flies. Piggy, Ralph and “littluns” represent innocence. The death of Piggy and flight of Ralph from fear of death at the hands of Jack and his hunters is the loss of innocence. At first, the innocent boys have become hunters symbolically. However, later in the novel, they turn upon Ralph after killing Piggy. Hence, they become hunters of human life. This is where their innocence is lost in the maze of confusion.
Savageness and Society
‘Savageness’ in the society is another overarching theme of Lord of the Flies. Through the character of Jack and his hunters, William Golding has wonderfully displayed that human nature can quickly turn from prey to savagery. Except for Jack, all others are just followers. The ways of Jack tempt them toward hunting which is savagery in nature. With the passage of time, they become savages and start hunting human beings. This shows how savageness or savagery spread in a society when there are no restrictions.
Vice against Virtue
Vice against virtue is another major theme of the novel. William Golding has deliberately put children in the wilderness to evaluate how virtue is an innate feature of human nature, and how it loses against the vice. Although simple at first, a devious immoral action of Jack to dominate the children by taking leadership from Ralph turns into a vice. It gradually dominates others, and by the end of the novel, Ralph is left alone to represent virtue on that island.
End of Rationalism
Lord of the Flies shows how rationalism is a good virtue but also very difficult to practice. Piggy, the representative of rationalism and rational thinking, is timid when it comes to asserting his rationality. He fears that absurdity is dominating, and it will swallow him. Jack’s irrational reasoning becomes Piggy’s foe. Eventually, Jack succeeds in killing Piggy as soon as he finds an opportunity. With Piggy’s death, the rational thinking among the children comes to an end. Soon they degenerate into a herd of killers.
Absence of Social Norms
A major latent theme that William Golding has put into Lord of the Flies is the presence of social norms and traditions. The idea behind this theme is that it is the pressure of the social norms and traditions that force people to obey laws and rules or traditions. If there is an absence of social norms, people show their true nature, and it is mostly evil and vicious. However, social norms, traditions, and customs protect the weaker group. Hence, Piggy remained safe until there were a proper leadership and rule of conch. Yet he is instantly killed when conch becomes an obsolete thing.
Dehumanization of Relations
Relations between human beings is one of the greatest mysteries. This novel shows when relations between human beings degenerates they reach to low-down state. Seeing the corrupt humans, you may want to believe the animals are better. Jack instantly orders the killing of Piggy when they become two parties, and war for domination ensues. Ralph and Jack are just two boys with normal relations. However, when Jack becomes his enemy, their relationship deteriorates. This is called dehumanization of relations; both boys turn against each other.
The Nature of Evil or Vice
It is generally believed that all human beings are good and that vice dominates only during trying circumstances. However, Lord of the Flies shows a different perspective. It shows that not only human beings are good or bad, but also some have a tendency toward evil or vice such as Jack. This leads to a total lapse of character if there is no social or legal restriction on humans. This also shows that evil spreads quickly if goodness is not present to obstruct it with the same proportion.
Community against Individual
Although the theme of a community against an individual is a minor one, it runs throughout the novel. From the very start, when Ralph becomes the leader and Piggy supports him, Jack turns against them. He forms his own group and community of hunters. Eventually, this community turns against Ralph after killing Piggy. Ralph is left alone and is on the run for his life. It shows how a community persecutes an individual who refuses to conform to destructive rituals.
Progress of Civilization
Lord of the Flies shows the progress of civilization through its incidents. The two group of boys, hunters of Jack and followers of Ralph, compete with each other. Ralph represents civilization, order, and rule, while Jack and his group represent savagery and barbarism. The competition reaches its peak when conch is defied, and rules are broken. Finally, the hunters take over the island and hinder the progress of civilization. The representative of rationality, Piggy is killed, while Ralph runs for life.
Absence of Laws
When the children land on the island, they are left on their own. They do not have any social setup with traditions and rules. Ralph and Piggy try to set up a decent society through the assembly with the help of the conch. However, due to the absence of responsible adult supervision and guidance, they soon resort to violence. The strong group of hunters see that there are no binding laws and punishing authority. Therefore, they form a separate strong group and try to break their rules. Once the rules are broken, they are on the loose. Unfortunately, Piggy is killed in this mayhem. Lack of a leader makes them bolder, and they try to kill Ralph too, who fortunately saves himself when the British officer arrive. This shows that absence of laws creates chaos and disorder that leads to killing the innocents and the weak.