Civilization vs Savagery: LoTF Essay by Ariana Flores

What makes an individual or a culture uncivilized? Some people may say lack of order, while others could say not socially advanced. However, what does someone consider to be savage? Stripping families from their home lands? Not allowing the conservation of one's culture? Physically abusing others? They all can be seen as unacceptable acts by those in the “civilized” world, and yet they are all acts that were perpetrated by supposedly “civilized” colonists as they [describe what they did]. However, killing for no reason and screaming threatening chants are no great deeds either. Readers of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, view the boys on the island the same way colonists view the “savages” they colonized.

In the scene where the boys on the island portray the killing of a pig, the “beast” emerges from the forest. This beast is no beast at all, but fear disguising Simon as a monster. "At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt onto the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, no movements but the tearing of the teeth and claws (153)."  Here, the reenactment has turned into an execution of the "beast". The boys do not try to make peaceful contact or communication with the foreign living being in front of them. The vulnerability of the "beast" as it comes out of the forest is not taken into account by the boys, that maybe the "beast" has feelings and is scared. The adjectives get more intense as the scene goes on, using words like demented, dark, blind, urgent, unbearable. The intensity of the adjectives reaches a climax right before the “beast” is killed and when the boys turn into animals. Their fear blinded their better judgment, and enabled them to look further than the rumors of the beast. This caused them to kill one of their own, who was on his way to them to clear the air about the suspicions of the beast in the first place.

This behavior in the novel also happens in the real world. European pioneers encountered Native Americans, and much like the boys on the island killing the beast, almost destroyed all of the Native Americans. “[...],European conquest shattered many Native communities through forced relocation, warfare, broken treaties and foreign-brought diseases. Most Native communities were completely wiped out,” says Indian Europeans came into a new territory, claiming it as their own without thinking of the lives already present there. With this mindset, they did everything in their power to get rid of anyone who didn't look like them or embrace their culture while degrading them in the process.

Savage was a term used to describe the Native Americans. It is a word that was also incorporated into Lord of the Flies. In this scene, Ralph is furiously trying to avoid being caught by Jack’s tribe. “A smallish savage was standing between him and the rest of the forest, a savage striped red and white, and carrying a spear (195).” This depiction of a feral, small mammal of some sort is a complete one eighty compared to the seemingly innocent boys who crash landed on the island. Jack’s society has turned into a group of boys who smear the blood of animals on their faces, kill for sport, and who kill anyone who doesn’t agree with their ways. In other words, being brought up civilized does not mean that children stay civilized without the guidance of an adult at an age where they're malleable. The “savage” nature will be forced away when the children would be brought back to society. However, the after effects would still be traumatic and possibly cause the children to question what's right and what's wrong after Roger mercilessly killed Piggy in front of many witnesses, who did not necessarily protest, because Piggy did not agree with the conceptions of the new tribe under the leadership of Jack.

This representation of a savage correlates with the European perspective of Native Americans. National Humanities encourages students to watch 1990 Academy Award winner, Dances with Wolves as opposed to 1992 adaption of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel Last of the Mohicans. The novel was based on the earliest meetings of Europeans and Native Americans. “Besides a sympathetic white hero in line with Cooper’s own Natty Bumppo, it starkly contrasts “good” Indians (the ever-so-noble Lakotas) and “bad” Indians (the villainous Pawnees, with their roach-cuts and face paint making them look like English “punks” on a rampage).” The painting of faces, and spears are something commonly associated with the “savage”/ “bad” Indians. Familiarity struck with this portrayal, which fit the description of Jack’s tribe. However, the Iroquois Confederacy is what the current Democratic Republic is based off of here in the United States. European philosophical ideas that Locke and Rousseau published were established from Native American ideas. The Europeans called Native Americans savages while they were the ones who published Native Americans ideals, captured Native American land, and took Native American lives?

Overall, biased information can change lives. Decisions based on prejudice won’t necessarily benefit the human race as a whole. Claiming things that aren’t your own, also does not benefit one or more groups in the situation. This is something learned since childhood. However, sometimes it takes people a long time to learn one lesson, and they often have to learn it the hard way.

Works Cited

  1. Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

  2. Dippie, Brian W. "American Indians: The Image of the Indian, Nature Transformed, TeacherServe®, National Humanities Center." American Indians: The Image of the Indian, Nature Transformed, TeacherServe®, National Humanities Center. National Humanities Center, May 2008. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <>

  3. "Chp 4: Ennobling `Savages', Native America in European natural-rights philosophy, "Exemplar Of Liberty"." Chp 4: Ennobling `Savages', Native America in European natural-rights philosophy, "Exemplar Of Liberty". N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <>

  4. "Traditions & Culture." Traditions & Culture | Running Strong. N.p., 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <>

Comments (2)

John Sugrue (Student 2019)
John Sugrue

I think your work did a good job portraying the human ability to portray others as savages. It was interesting to see the comparisons between a reader's perspective of the boys from Lord of the Flies and a colonist's perspective of the Native Americans. Another really good real-life example of this comes in European colonization of Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. Not only were Europeans taking away a lot of native culture, they also portrayed the African people as primitive and savage. This became part of writing and art. Even some of the most innocent works of the time, like Tintin or Babar, would feature stereotyped "savages". It's an interesting look into how media like books influence public understanding, which you discussed with your "Last of the Mohicans" example.

Sarah Berg (Student 2019)
Sarah Berg
  1. Yes, it convinced me that readers view the boys as savage just as the colonists viewed the Native Americans as savage.
  2. You mentioned that our form of government is based off of the Iroquois Confederacy in order to point out the hypocrisy of the situation. Another way this connects is how the boys on the island vote and select a leader. This shows their civility and the connection to the adopted governmental system.