Study Guide

Lord of the Flies Civilization

By William Golding

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Chapter 2

Ralph and Jack looked at each other while society paused about them. The shameful knowledge grew in them and they did not know how to begin confession.

Ralph spoke first, crimson in the face.

"Will you?"

He cleared his throat and went on.

"Will you light the fire?" (2)

When the story begins, Jack and Ralph are such civilized lads that they don't even know how to start a fire without a match. Someone's not getting the wilderness survival badge.

Chapter 4

There was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which [Roger] dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. (4.14)

"The old life" is civilization. Roger is losing it, but he isn't quite gone. Civilization and all its rules are still holding him back—for now. In a few more chapters, it'll be all savage, all the time.

Chapter 8

Piggy was […] so full of pride in his contribution to the good of society […] that he helped to fetch wood. (8.118)

Ugh, Piggy, you're breaking our hearts. He's basically the only person who seems to care about the "good of society," so naturally he ends up dead. Without people who care about the common good, you don't have much of a civilization.

Chapter 9

[The boys] found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it governable. (9.86)

The boys see themselves as a fence—but this isn't the white picket fence of civilization; it's a fence of their naked bodies, getting ready to reenact their savage pig hunt—before they rip Simon to bits with their bare hands.

Chapter 11

"I just take the conch to say this. I can't see no more and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island. I voted for you for chief. He's the only one who ever got anything done. So now you speak, Ralph, and tell us what. Or else—"

Piggy broke off, sniveling. Ralph took back the conch as he sat down.

"Just an ordinary fire. You'd think we could do that, wouldn't you? Just a smoke signal so we can be rescued. Are we savages or what?" (11.19-21)

Piggy sees losing his glasses as the end of civilization; Ralph sees it as not being able to keep a signal fire going. Either way, they're really hanging on by a thread here.

Samneric protested out of the heart of civilization, "Oh, I say!—honestly!" (11.175)

Sam and Eric maybe be surrounded by painted boys, but there's still a little piece of civilization left—the part that protests when rules of a silly game get broken, or when someone flips over the Monopoly board.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went […]. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig's after it has been killed. (11.209)

There goes Piggy—and there goes the conch—and there goes civilization. It's a good thing the naval officer shows up when he does, or this story might have had a very different ending.

"Which is better—to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?"

A great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again. (11.202-3)

Well, when you put it like that, civilization actually sounds kind of boring—like staying in and doing your homework when everyone else is going to an awesome party at the beach.

Chapter 12

Squirming a little, conscious of his filthy appearance, Ralph answered shyly.


The officer nodded, as if a question had been answered. (12.215-17)

Confused? We're pretty sure that the officer is wondering whether Ralph is a real "savage" or someone from civilization—and the answer comes when he opens his mouth to speak British English. (We're still not convinced.)

On the beach behind him was a cutter, her bows hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. (12.211)

Hooray! Rescue! Oh, wait. Maybe the boys will have to give up their sharpened sticks—but now they're going get to play with much scarier weapons.

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