The Theme of Conformity in Lord of the Flies Essay Example

Conformity is often manipulated by desire; yet despite the illusion of universality, contrasting perceptions of said coherence can ignite tremendous conflict.  In the novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding articulates the foundation of this sentiment through a metaphorical depiction of war portrayed by a group of schoolboys set adrift on an uninhabited island.  Throughout the novel, Ralph manifests a persistent desire to abide by the obligations of civilization.

Despite the immense circumstantial shift, he rejects any possibility of adhering to foreign conventions, ultimately resulting in exile. Contrarily, Jack’s utmost desire to survive and relish the moment is fueled by both a hopeless attitude towards rescue and impulsive tendencies. However, he does not lack logic entirely as it holds significant practicality regarding the circumstances of the setting. In the novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding effectively develops the notion that conflict often arises when one’s personal desires dictate how he or she perceives conformity, thus prompting uncertainty about social conventions.  

Ralph asserts a persistent predisposition to the respect of satisfying his individual desires, which compliment his distinct perception of conformity. He manifests a perpetual stubbornness which accounts for his eagerness to fulfill the provisions of a civil society. The conch is a recurring symbol deliberately revealed by the narrator in order to convey Ralph’s eminent demand for democratic order on the island.  Ralph declares the significance of establishing such order through making a spectacle of the conch: “He lifted the conch… we ought to have a chief to decide things" ( Golding 18).

Flaunting the conch is an ignorant display of Ralph’s incessant desire to oversee the conditions of their civilization, merely based on the assumption that he is obligated to do so.  As the plot progresses, the fundamentally absurd design Ralph has mentally concocted begins to slip through his fingers. He is stripped of his prestige as chief and although he ceases to concede in the face of defeat, a detrimental separation among the boys is taking its toll.  Ralph and Jack's dynamic friendship alludes to the abrupt deterioration of unity among the boys when Jack exclaims, “I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you” (140). Although Ralph maintains upper ground during Jack’s exact departure from the lot, many additional traitors arise; his followers begin to evaporate, and his ambitions perish, ultimately resulting in failure.

The heightened dispute between the rival parties consequently sparks immense confusion around the matter of propriety in light of the circumstances. The children’s naivety obscures their conscience from the quintessential manner of conformity pertinent to the setting.  Piggy gives prominence to this ambiguous feud when he shouts “which is better…”, attempting to silence the clamoring savages, “to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill” (200). This dispute embodies all skepticism around conforming to specific conventions and expectations. It not only reveals the disarray among the boys but it also amplifies the perplexity of the situation.

Contrary to Ralph’s character, Jack manifests an exceptional ability to both adapt and thrive when faced with challenging endeavors, consequently shifting how he perceives conformity.  Although the author suggests that Jack’s actions are exclusively self-seeking, the premise of his judgment is ultimately in the best interest of the collective.  His antagonistic attributes are merely an illusion, as it is unclear, in any case, how one may conform under such grim circumstances.  His autonomous desire to survive is revealed when he passes a portion of meat to Simon: “I stole up. Now you eat—all of you” (78). His adamancy to hunt may be partially for his own content, but can also be seen as a self- sufficient act of survival. Perhaps to conform under the circumstances of the setting is a gratuitous notion and Jack’s approach is sufficiently reasonable.  The drive to kill is solely embedded within his nature, food is crucial to survival, and survival is crucial to satisfying his desires. However, it is evident that Jack’s demeanor becomes increasingly barbaric which provokes immense moral conflict between the stranded children.

Jack is far from eager to conform to Ralph’s demands and lacks all hope for rescue which accentuates the partition occurring on the island. The narrator emphasizes the polarity each boy embodies when he states, “Two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate” (56). The conflict between Jack and Ralph illustrates the debate surrounding coherence in its most general form, as it is unfeasible to reach a consensus on the matter of conformity. However, the dispute persists to escalate beyond mere disagreement and becomes a heinous pattern of violence that drives the two parties farther from unity.  As the divide becomes conspicuously evident, the boys are obliged to formulate a conclusion.

This begs the question of which conditions one must conform to under such pressing circumstances. It becomes evident that all remnants of civilization have nearly deteriorated entirely when Ralph contemplates the situation, “The world, that understandable and lawful world was slipping away” (98). Without any interrelation with the order of the past, the boys are incapable of deciphering right from wrong.  This brings about an immense level of disarray as they simply lack the competence to fathom the complexity of the situation.

In the novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding effectively conveys the idea that desire influences how one views conformity which can often generate conflicting perspectives ultimately invoking immense confusion about appropriate societal conditions.  Ralph exhibits a tenacious attitude towards abiding by the conventions of civilization.  Regardless of the extensive situational transformation, he has no intention of dismissing the customs of society, rendering him an outsider. Contrastingly, Jack’s desire to survive is driven by both a hopeless outlook, regarding any possibility of rescue, and an impetuous disposition. However, his ambitions prove to be abruptly practical under the circumstances the children are enduring.  The premise of conformity itself is a perplexing issue, which can become exceeding controversial when aspects such as personal desire and opinion are brought into the picture.  Perhaps it is virtually beyond the realms of possibility to cohere to a specific set of social and ethical conventions, perhaps it is not, the dispute remains unresolved.



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