If some adult has ever snapped at you to be “civilized,” then you probably know that “civilized” ends up referring to all kinds of arbitrary things: get your elbows off the table; say “please” and “thank you”; don’t chew with your mouth open; don’t flick spitballs at your sister. You know. Being “civilized” usually means not doing what comes naturally. At least, that’s howLord of the Flies seems to see it. What comes naturally is running around slaughtering pigs in war paint; and what’s civilized is having names, addresses, meetings, and elected leaders. But those arbitrary markings of civilization might be the only things that make life worth living.
Questions About Civilization
- Are Ralph and Piggy the only defenders of civilization on the island? What does “civilization” mean to them?
- Does Ralph end up giving up on civilization by the end?
- What are the differences between “savagery” and civilization? And is “savagery” actually the opposite of civilization? If not, then what is?
Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
In Lord of the Flies, civilization is arbitrary but necessary; it’s the only thing keeping us all from killing each other.
Golding suggests that civilization is ultimately doomed to fail, because the beast in all of us will eventually break free.