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Lord of the Flies, William Golding's classic novel about English schoolboys marooned on a deserted island, is a powerful examination of human nature. The following Lord of the Flies quotes illustrate the novel's central issues and themes.
Quotes About Order and Civilization
“We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything. So we've got to do the right things.” (Chapter 2)
This quote, spoken by Jack, serves two purposes in the novel. First, it demonstrates the boys' initial dedication to "having rules and obeying them." They have grown up in English society, and they assume that their new society will be modeled after it. They elect their leader democratically, establish a protocol for speaking and being heard, and assign jobs. They express a desire to "do the right things."
Later in the novel, the boys descend into chaos. They become the so-called "savages" that Jack mentions, and Jack is instrumental in this transformation, which brings us to the second purpose of the quote: irony. The more we learn about Jack's increasing sadism, the more absurd this early quote seems. Perhaps Jack never believed in "rules" in the first place and simply said whatever he needed to say to gain authority on the island. Or, perhaps his belief in order was so superficial that it disappeared after only a short time, making way for his true violent nature to emerge.
“Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.” (Chapter 4)
In this quote, we see how the rules of society influence the boys at the start of their time on the island. Indeed, their initial period of cooperation and organization is fueled by the memory of the "old life," where authority figures implemented punishment in response to misbehavior.
Yet, this quote also foreshadows the violence that later erupts on the island. Roger refrains from throwing rocks at Henry not because of his own morals or conscience, but because of the memory of society's rules: "the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law." This statement underscores Golding's view of human nature as fundamentally "uncivilized," restrained only by external authorities and societal restrictions.
Quotes About Evil
“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” (Chapter 8)
In this quote, Simon realizes that the the Beast the boys fear is, in fact, the boys themselves. They are their own monsters. In this scene, Simon is hallucinating, so he believes that this statement is made by the Lord of the Flies. However, it is actually Simon himself who has this revelation.
Simon represents spirituality in the novel. (In fact, Golding's first draft made Simon an explicitly Christ-like figure.) He is the only character who seems to have a clear sense of right and wrong. He acts according to his conscience, rather than behaving out of fear of consequences or a desire to protect the rules. It makes sense that Simon, as the novel's moral figure, is the boy who realizes the evil on the island was the boys' own making.
“I'm frightened. Of us.” (Chapter 10)
Simon's revelation is proved tragically correct when he is killed at the hands of the other boys, who hear his frenzy and attack, thinking that he is the Beast. Even Ralph and Piggy, the two most stalwart supporters of order and civilization, are swept up in the panic and take part in Simon's murder. This quote, spoken by Ralph, highlights just how far the boys have descended into chaos. Ralph is a firm believer in the power of rules to maintain order, but in this statement, he seems uncertain of whether rules can save the boys from themselves.
Quotes About Reality
"Jack looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly… He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness." (Chapter 4)
This quote marks the beginning of Jack's ascent to power on the island. In this scene, Jack is looking at his own reflection after painting his face with clay and charcoal. This physical transformation gives Jack a sense of freedom from "shame and self-consciousness," and his boyish laughter quickly becomes "bloodthirsty snarling." This shift parallels Jack's equally bloodthirsty behavior; he becomes increasingly sadistic and brutal as he gains power over the other boys.
A few lines later, Jack gives a command to some of the boys, who quickly obey because "the Mask compelled them." The Mask is an illusion of Jack's own creation, but on the island the Mask becomes "a thing on its own" that conveys authority to Jack.
“The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” (Chapter 12)
Just prior to this scene, the boys have set the fire ablaze and are on the verge of murdering Ralph. However, before they can do so, a ship appears, and a naval captain arrives on the island. The boys immediately burst into tears.
Instantly the trappings of Jack's fierce hunting tribe are gone, any effort to harm Ralph ends, and the boys are children again. Their violent conflicts end abruptly, like a game of pretend. The island's societal structure felt powerfully real, and it even led to several deaths. Nevertheless, that society evaporates instantly as another more powerful social order (the adult world, the military, British society) takes its place, suggesting that perhaps all societal organization is equally as tenuous.