31 March 2017
William Golding’s Lord of The Flies follows the rise and fall of a civilization created by a plane full of stranded preteen boys. The downfall of the fragile society is when most of the older boys break off into a group of savages. They spin out into stealing, violence, and eventually murder. They completely abandon their values and never think twice about their actions. This is so easy for them to do as they hide behind new identities and painted faces. Their behavior illustrates that it is easy for people to harm others when they are hiding behind a mask because it limits their emotional connection.
This theme is present in the novel. It is introduced in Chapter Four, Painted Faces and Long Hair, when choir leader and aspiring hunter Jack, is frustrated that he has not been successful in catching any pigs. He and Ralph have encountered a pig in the past, however Jack was too timid to kill it. Now, he has the idea to camouflage his face with charcoal, and sneak up on the pigs. Once he paints his face, however, Jack sees his reflection and discovers that the paint is more powerful than just concealment from the pigs. His reaction takes place in front of some of the other choir boys. “He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and lept to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. 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 (63-64).” This is the beginning of Jack’s transformation into a savage, which I believe is aided by his mask of paint. While he is not using violence against or harming other boys at this point, he exhibits signs of unusual behavior, including his snarling and dancing. This newly discovered mask allows him to do these strange things in front of other boys without feeling insecure; the mask gives him the power to act without thinking realistically about what he is doing.
Once Jack has begun to wear a mask, his personality and actions change harshly. He is successful at hunting pigs, and loves to talk about his strength and fearlessness. “Jack, his face smeared with clays, reached the top first and hailed Ralph excitedly, with lifted spear. ‘Look! We’ve killed a pig-we stole up on them-we got in a circle- (69)’”, and later, “‘Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong-we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat-(91)!’” These situations show his changes before he falls into complete savagery. He is using violence against animals, which is not unusual, however the way he goes about it and discusses it surely is. The next time Jack and his hunters kill a pig, Jack decides to strangely rub the blood of the pig onto one of his hunter’s faces. “Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her… At last the immediacy of the kill subsided. They boys drew back, and Jack stood up, holding out his hands. ‘Look.’ He giggled and flicked them while the boys laughed at his reeking palms. Then Jack grabbed Maurice and rubbed the stuff over his cheeks (135).” Until that point, Jack has been the only one to wear paints, now his hunters are masked in the literal blood of their prey.
Jack and some of his close friends decide to break away from Ralph’s civilized group. Jack is furious that Ralph has gotten all of the power and attention. He has been shamed from rejection. Jack decides to expand his tribe. “The forest near them burst into uproar. Demoniac figures with faces of white and red and green rushed out howling… Jack ignored him, lifted his spear and began to shout. ‘Listen, all of you. Me and my hunters, we’re living along the beach by a flat rock. We hunt and feast and have fun. If you want to join my tribe come and see us. Perhaps I’ll let you join. Perhaps not.’ He paused and looked round. He was safe from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of his paint and could look at each of them in turn (140).” The most notable section of the nature of this speech Jack gives is that the author states that Jack is safe behind his mask. And no longer is he safe just from his insecurities about killing animals; he feels safe from the judgement of others. Safe to say and do what he pleases.
Next, Jack and his savages progress from killing animals, to killing humans. “The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face… the beast struggled forward, broke the ring, and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws (152-153).” The death of innocent Simon was aided by the all the boys, however it was led by the savages and would not have happened if they had not started their dance. Later, the death of Piggy is caused by the savage boy Roger, and sparks Jack to attack Ralph. “Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned with all his weight on the lever… The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee… Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea… Suddenly Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly. ‘See? See? That's what you'll get! I meant that! There isn't a tribe for you anymore! The conch is gone-’... Viciously, with full intention, he hurled his spear at Ralph (180-181).” Although Jack does not end up actually killing Ralph, he has that intention and acts upon it. Think back upon the Jack who could not kill a pig right in front of him. This is not the same person. His use of the mask has certainly aided his drastic transformation.
This phenomena is also present in the real world. A common occurrence on the internet, mostly through social media, is cyberbullying. The rise of cyberbullying is clear. It has been reported that half of teens have been cyberbullied, 1 in 3 experiencing threats online. According to EndCyberbullying.org, “Cyberbullies hide behind a computer screen and maybe even behind a false identity…giving them a further sense of control over the situation.” Cyberbullying eliminates the face to face contact of traditional bullying. This is part of its appeal and popularity. A bully can even create an anonymous or new identity to hide behind, masking their previous selves like Jack did.
Jack’s use of a mask is prominent throughout Lord of the Flies as it accompanies his descent into violence and savagery. This use of hiding behind a mask while doing harm to others is also an issue in real life, as it is present in cyberbullying.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Van Edwards, Vanessa. "Guide to Reading Microexpressions." Science of People. N.p., 14 Dec. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. ttp://www.scienceofpeople.com/2013/09/guide-reading-microexpressions/
"Cyber Bullying Statistics." Bullying Statistics. N.p., 07 July 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html
"End to Cyber Bullying Organization." End to Cyber Bullying Organization (ETCB). N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. http://www.endcyberbullying.org