Lord of the Flies

Around the world, many people’s lives are affected because of stereotypes, beauty standards, and even laws that tell them that they aren’t “good enough” in the eyes of the society they live in. Beauty standards have an immense impact on the way people are viewed and judged in their day to day lives, which can barr them from jobs and even hurt their credibility. This can be clearly seen in Lord of the Flies, written by William Golding, through one of the main characters, Piggy. Piggy had a lot to say throughout the novel about him and his peer’s survival, yet he was seldomly taken seriously. Due to the societal beauty standards the boys were groomed to believe, Piggy was not taken seriously through his life on the island because of his weight.

In the beginning, Ralph and Piggy are becoming acquainted with one another after discovering the other on the deserted island. They begin to go over simple things like what their names are and what they are to do when and if they find any boys on the island besides themselves. After having not been given the same initial respect he gave by asking Ralph his name, Piggy sets himself up to give his name by saying, "’I don't care what they call me,’ he said confidentially, ‘so long as they don't call me what they used to call me at school.’"(11) This interests Ralph so he prompts Piggy to tell him more, which lead to Piggy telling him the name and Ralph immediately making a mockery of it by laughing and jumping around. Ralph calls him Piggy from this point on despite being told not to, and even introduces him to the rest of the boys as “Piggy”. Piggy’s weight makes him a target for the other boys’ nitpicking and bullying throughout the entire novel. None of the other boys look like Piggy which makes him stick out and become easier to bother. This contributes to the boys discrediting the things that he says because they see him as the laughing stock of the group and nothing more. Throughout the novel, Piggy displayed great signs of maturity and intelligence that could’ve been immensely beneficial to the boys survival, yet he was continuously pushed to the side since the boys took away from his credibility because of his appearance.

Later on in the novel, Jack was being chastised by the other boys for allowing the fire to burn out when he said he wouldn’t. He tried to save himself from the embarrassment of the situation by saying that he went to hunt because everyone needed food. Piggy stepped in and attempted to hold Jack accountable for his actions like everyone else was. The embarrassment  infuriated Jack and made him say to Piggy, "You would, would you? Fatty!" (71) This is an explicit example of Piggy being discredited, and bullied, for his weight. He was doing the exact same thing all the other boys were doing but Jack only had a problem with and retaliated against Piggy. Piggy’s weight leads to constant attacks by Jack and the others, and it creates friction in the group when he tries to suggest an idea and immediately gets shot down.

Weight discrimination can be seen in many forms through media, laws, beauty standards, and many other things. It is also often times a major source of bullying, especially when it comes to children, teens, and young adults. This is done to make “the fat kid” feel inadequate for looking different when compared to the bully and the audience they have. Bullying ensues when the victim can’t stick up for themselves or when the bully is being encouraged by others. In The Fat Studies Reader, Weinstock and Krehbiel write, “Like hate crimes, bullying sends a message to the victims-- and those who are (or believe they are) similar to these victims-- that they are unacceptable, bad, wrong, inferior, and so forth.” These feelings tend to stick with the victims through their lives when weight discrimination begins to take on different forms as they grow older.

In December 2016, a BBC article explored this topic when talking to Shavonne Patrice Owens. Owens had just been laid off from her job at Comcast and decided to apply for work at a childcare center. After calling back to follow up multiple times, none of her calls were returned and she says, “I had worked in a day care centre before and was qualified for the position, but they told my friend they weren’t going to hire me because I was too big.” This event took place in Huntsville, Alabama where it is completely legal to discriminate against someone for their weight. In fact, it is legal in forty-nine of fifty American states as stated by the NAAFA. Owens was qualified to work in a childcare center having worked in one before, so there was no actual reason for her to be denied the job opportunity. Societal beauty standards have come a long way in recent years, yet the standard of always being “thin” is still lingering around. Anyone opposite of this standard is targeted and slandered relentlessly whether it be in the workplace, like Owens, online through social media, or in societal and friend groups, like Piggy.

Weight discrimination is a big problem in our society that has severe consequences. In the case of Lord of the Flies, Piggy tragically died because no one took him seriously and they were more concerned with their childish bickering than they were listening to logical reasoning that could’ve kept them all alive. This is an issue everyone is involved in, whether you are the victim, the aggressor, or just a mere bystander. So, what are we to do to fix it?