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Lord of the Flies is indisputably one of the darkest dystopian novels of the twentieth century. Although it includes scenes of violence, the physical sphere is not the most impressive tragic element of the story. The greatest struggle takes place inside the characters themselves. The novel depicts the conflict that, according to Sigmund 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 and suppresses evil instincts and the id, which on the other hand, is the centre of our animal instincts, which tend to break free1. Unlike some philosophers who see human nature 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 most impressive is the fact that this approach is applied for description of children, who were 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 an analysis of his character and describes the change of his personality together with factors that influence the development. During his stay on the island, Ralph is also influenced by the other boys; especially his relationship to Piggy and Jack is important. 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 that there is nothing wild or aggressive in his nature2. Nevertheless, further development of his character shows that animal instincts are present in his personality too, but fortunately his good qualities prove to be stronger. At first, the fact that they are alone on a desert island does not appeal to Ralph much. In his school uniform he walks across the beach as if it was a school yard.3 It is Piggy’s question about the presence of adults on the island which draws his attention to the wider context of their situation and, for the first time, makes Ralph realise the freedom that is thus given to him:
“Aren’t there any grownups at all?” “I don’t think so.”
Freud, 1969, pp. 364 – 377 Fielding, 1954, p. 10 3 Fielding, 1954, p. 7
The fair boy [Ralph] said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realized ambition overcame him.4
Ralph’s reaction makes it obvious that, although nearly a pubescent, he has still the mentality of a naive and innocent child. He takes the situation as an adventure and does not consider its negative impact or any danger yet. This is however the first impulse to change his habits and to adapt his thinking to the new environment (after adapting to the climate physically by taking off his clothes)5. Another important experience for Ralph is his first blowing the conch:
Ralph […] hit the shell with air from his diaphragm. Immediately the thing sounded. A deep harsh note boomed under the palms, spread through the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from the pink granite of the mountain. Clouds of the birds rose from the treetops, and something squealed 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 new feeling: newly gained freedom which is not restricted by the limits of civilisation which, according to Freud, forces people suppress their instincts7. Ralph discovers a new object with which he can do anything he wants and which helps him to control the 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 Ralph to become the chief, although he does not seem to have as strong desire for power as Jack 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 the very beginning but which become prominent immediately after Ralph’s becoming the chief. He organises an exploration to find out whether the place where they have landed really is an island10, he decides to light a signal fire11 and starts to build huts12
Fielding, 1954, p. 8 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
for the boys to sleep in. At first the boys share his enthusiasm and cooperate because they all find the new activities exciting. This kind of behaviour follows Freud’s pleasure principle described in his work Civilization and Its Discontents. According to this theory, the main aim of every human being is to be happy and they do their best to achieve this aim. 13 The boys seek temporary amusement, they want to “be happy” here and now and as soon as a particular activity stops to be the source of pleasure for them, they focus on another one. The power of the super-ego starts to grow weak in their minds quite soon. This is the moment when Ralph’s character starts to differ from the other boys more distinctly than at the very beginning. He and Piggy understand how important the signal fire and the huts are for their future but the other boys seek direct satisfaction either from games or, in the case of Jack, from hunting. The conflict in which Ralph (supported by Piggy) criticises Jack’s behaviour14 reflects the conflict between the id and the super-ego. Jack follows his animal instincts, especially the death instinct, which Freud describes as a tendency to turn organic entities into inorganic ones. In this case, the satisfaction originates in the power of particular human being to carry out such a radical transformation of another being:15
His [Jack’s] mind was crowded with memories; memories of that knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink. He spread his arms wide. “You should have seen the blood!”16
On the other hand, Ralph’s activities are productive and his aim is to return to civilization. Compared to the other boys, Ralph’s super-ego is still relatively strong throughout the first half of the story, but it has to face numerous attacks from the animal id, which grows strong in the other boys. It can be compared to an epidemic, which spreads throughout the island and sooner or later affects even the strongest boys. In the first chapters, Ralph does not share the enthusiasm for hunting and the wild, savage life style which the other boys enjoy so much. Thanks to his friendship with Piggy, he clings to civilization values and retains his rational approach.
Freud, 1969, pp. 25 – 36 Fielding, 1954, pp. 54 – 55 15 Freud, 1999, p. 128 16 Fielding, 1954, p. 70
However, Jack’s first successful hunt brings hard time for both Ralph’s leadership and his own personality. In the community, the id becomes dominant and the “disease” threatens to affect Ralph too. During the feast when the boys roast the pig, Jack as the leader of the hunters enjoys great popularity in the group because he meets the basic needs of the “tribe” – he provides them with food.17 Even Ralph, who is the official chief and who is still angry with Jack for his irresponsible behaviour, submits to this order and accepts his piece of meat:
“Ralph’s mouth watered, he meant to refuse meat, but his past diet of fruit and nuts, with an odd crab or fish, gave him too little resistance. He accepted a piece of half raw meat and gnawed it like a wolf.”18
Ralph’s body betrays him and his will becomes weak too. He cannot resist the temptation of a piece of good food and he even catches himself envying the hunters. 19 His super-ego starts to grow weak and he considers leaving his position of the chief because he starts to understand that the power of animal instincts in the boys is too strong for him to control20: “We’ll be like animals. We’ll never be rescued”.21 Even to control his own instincts becomes more and more difficult for Ralph. During their hunt after the beast, which some boys claim to have seen lurking through the island, paradoxically, the beast inside Ralph is awoken. He joins the hunters in chase of a bleeding pig and for the first time, he experiences the thrill of following his death instinct. Although he does not manage to kill the pig, he is highly satisfied with this experience. 22 This short moment of satisfaction, however, is followed by another wave of mental suffering. Ralph’s influence over the boys becomes even weaker than before and his soul is thrown into a great chaos after the sight of a dead paratrooper whose parachute he mistakes for the feared beast. Not only that Ralph feels that the id is taking over the island, but after this experience, he is sure of the presence of evil that is impossible for him to beat.23 After Jack’s rebellion24, the other boys, who used to be the source of problems for Ralph, become his only chance for recovering the initial order of things. If they
Fielding, 1954, p. 73 – 75 Fielding, 1954, p. 73 19 Fielding, 1954, p. 75 20 Fielding, 1954, pp. 92 – 94 21 Fielding, 1954, p. 92 22 Fielding, 1954, pp. 114 – 115 23 Fielding, 1954, pp. 123 – 125 24 Fielding, 1954, p. 127
stayed loyal to him and to the values promoted by the super-ego there would be still a chance to resist the animal instincts and preserve their good qualities. The power of id, however, is stronger than their characters and, just as Ralph has foreseen it, the situation gets completely out of control. One by one, the boys leave for Jack’s “tribe” according to the strength of their will. The weaker cannot resist the temptation of physical comfort and join Jack in relatively short time, on the other hand Ralph, accompanied by his “true, wise friend”25 Piggy resist till the very end. Although Ralph does not join Jacks tribe, he is not able to resist the invitation to Jack’s feast26 and once again he acts according to the pleasure principle, which this time, is a fatal mistake. Ralph’s participation on the murder on Simon during the “tribal” dance around the fire27 is the triumph of the id over his super-ego. The time Ralph had to spend on the island has made a deep mark in his soul. His basic needs have not been sufficiently met for a long time and he has become mentally and physically weak. He is hungry, tired and disillusioned by the betrayal by the other boys. In this state, he easily gets carried away in the wild savage dance, during which they murder Simon, because they mistake him for the beast.28 In connection with the beast a paradox arises again, because it can be identified with the id itself. Thus the victory over the supposed beast (in fact the murder of Simon) is in fact the victory of the id over the whole community together with Ralph. However, Ralph is liable to surrender to his instincts mostly when accompanied by the other boys, who are usually weaker than him. Therefore Piggy’s death and the loss of the shell29 (which can be interpreted as the symbol of the whole group’s super-ego), instead of depriving him of his last hope, motivate Ralph to fight the evil more fiercely. Despite his great failure during Jack’s savage feast, Ralph achieves a moral victory, because he never really stops fighting the id and he demonstrates his resolution by destroying the Lord of the Flies (a pig’s head on a stake left in the jungle by the other boys as an offering for the beast30) and by taking the stake to defend himself against the boys, who intend to find and kill him31. However the taste
Fielding, 1954, p. 202 Fielding, 1954, pp. 140 – 141 27 Fielding, 1954, pp. 152 – 153 28 Fielding, 1954, pp. 152 – 153 29 Fielding, 1954, pp. 180 – 181 30 Fielding, 1954, pp. 136 – 137 31 Fielding, 1954, p. 185
of his victory is far from sweet because nothing, neither the rescue of Ralph’s life by the naval officer32 nor their return to the civilisation can heal the deep wound of bitter knowledge in the soul of once an innocent and happy child.
Fielding, 1954, pp. 200 – 202
1. FREUD, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents . New York: New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1961. 127 s. 2. FREUD, Sigmund. The Psychical Apparatus and The Theory of the Instincts. In LEMERT, Charles. Social theory: The multicultural and classic readings. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999. s. 125-129. Dostupný z WWW: <https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/instructors/civ/optitexts/freudout.pdf>. 3. FREUD, Sigmund. Vybrané spisy: Přednášky k úvodu do psychoanalýzy ; Nová řada přednášek k úvodu do psychoanalýzy . Sv. 1. Praha: Avicenum, 1991. Strukturální rozbor psychické osobnosti, s. 363-377. 4. FREUD, Sigmund. Vybrané spisy: Přednášky k úvodu do psychoanalýzy ; Nová řada přednášek k úvodu do psychoanalýzy . Sv. 1. Praha: Avicenum, 1991. Úzkost a pudový život, s. 379-397. 5. GOLDING, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, c1954. 208 s.
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