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Analysis of Ralph’s Character in "Lord of the Flies" (Based on Sigmund Freud’s Concept of Human Personality)

Analysis of Ralph’s Character in "Lord of the Flies" (Based on Sigmund Freud’s Concept of Human Personality)

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Published by FurieMarie
My essay for Literary Criticism and Theory course. If anyone happened to be interested and wanted more info, send me an email to formicula@seznam.cz
ENJOY!
My essay for Literary Criticism and Theory course. If anyone happened to be interested and wanted more info, send me an email to formicula@seznam.cz
ENJOY!

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Published by: FurieMarie on Jun 10, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Analysis of Ralph’s Character in
 Lord of the Flies
 Based on Sigmund Freud’s Conceptof Human Personality
 
 Lord of the Flies
is indisputably one of the darkest dystopian novels of thetwentieth century. Although it includes scenes of violence, the physical sphere is notthe most impressive tragic element of the story. The greatest struggle takes placeinside the characters themselves. The novel depicts the conflict that, according toSigmund Freud, forms a part of human nature. In his lecture on structural analysis of  personality, Freud describes the human mind as a persistent tension of three elements:the
ego
– the central element of human mind; the
 super-ego
, which controls andsuppresses evil instincts
 
and the
id 
, which on the other hand, is the centre of our animal instincts, which tend to break free
1
. Unlike some philosophers who see humannature as originally good or at least neutral (e.g. Jean Jacques Rousseau or John Lock),Freud considers all people wicked and evil. Concerning
 Lord of the Flies
, the mostimpressive is the fact that this approach is applied for description of children, whowere always considered as pure and innocent.In the work, the most attention is of course paid to the main character, Ralph,whose inner struggle is thus described in great detail. Therefore this essay includes ananalysis of his character and describes the change of his personality together withfactors that influence the development. During his stay on the island, Ralph is alsoinfluenced by the other boys; especially his relationship to Piggy and Jack isimportant. For this reason attention is paid to this aspect too.At the beginning of the story, Ralph is introduced as a blond twelve-year-old boy with an athletic figure. Although he is physically strong, his features indicate thatthere is nothing wild or aggressive in his nature
2
.Nevertheless, further development of his character shows that animal instincts are present in his personality too, butfortunately his good qualities prove to be stronger.At first, the fact that they are alone on a desert island does not appeal to Ralphmuch. In his school uniform he walks across the beach as if it was a school yard.
3
It isPiggy’s question about the presence of adults on the island which draws his attentionto the wider context of their situation and, for the first time, makes Ralph realise thefreedom that is thus given to him:
“Aren’t there any grownups at all?”“I don’t think so.”
1
Freud, 1969, pp. 364 – 377
2
Fielding, 1954, p. 10
3
Fielding, 1954, p. 7
- 2 -
 
The fair boy [Ralph] said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realizedambition overcame him.
4
Ralph’s reaction makes it obvious that, although nearly a pubescent, hehas still the mentality of a naive and innocent child. He takes the situation asan adventure and does not consider its negative impact or any danger yet. Thisis however the first impulse to change his habits and to adapt his thinking tothe new environment (after adapting to the climate physically by taking off hisclothes)
5
.Another important experience for Ralph is his first blowing the conch:
Ralph […] hit the shell with air from his diaphragm. Immediatelythe thing sounded. A deep harsh note boomed under the palms, spreadthrough the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from the pink graniteof the mountain. Clouds of the birds rose from the treetops, and somethingsquealed and run in the undergrowth.Ralph took the shell away from his lips.“Gosh!”
6
Similarly to the previous quotation, this is the first experience of a newfeeling: newly gained freedom which is not restricted by the limits of civilisationwhich, according to Freud, forces people suppress their instincts
7
. Ralph discovers anew object with which he can do anything he wants and which helps him to controlthe activity of other beings (startle the birds, call the other boys to their first meeting)and fill the whole island with its sound. The possession of the shell also helps Ralphto become the chief, although he does not seem to have as strong desire for power asJack has.
8
The boys vote for him because he is “the being”
9
that blew the conch,which make him someone special.In fact it is not only the shell which makes Ralph different from the other  boys. It is his rational approach and sense of duty, which are not much obvious at thevery beginning but which become prominent immediately after Ralph’s becoming thechief. He organises an exploration to find out whether the place where they havelanded really is an island
, he decides to light a signal fire
and starts to build huts
12 
4
Fielding, 1954, p. 8
5
Fielding, 1954, p. 10
6
Fielding, 1954, p. 17
7
Freud, 1969, pp. 396 – 397
8
Fielding, 1954, p. 22 – 23
9
Fielding, 1954, p. 22
10
Fielding, 1954, pp. 23 – 31
11
Fielding, 1954, pp. 38 – 47
12
Fielding, 1954, pp.49 – 51
- 3 -

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