March 26, 2019
Identity, something that we can’t help but carry with us. Every mistake, fear, and insecurity imprints on our identity and leaves a scar on who we are. Many people look for ways to hide the vulnerability of their identity by using masks that they could use to create a new identity and hide their own. In William Golding’s, Lord of the Flies, the boys on the island are liberated from the captivity of adults and their morals, leaving them to decide on their own. Looking beyond the novel, it is clear that this idea of anonymity is embedded in the philosophy of human nature. When committing acts that go against society’s morals, many people look for ways to maintain an untouched identity so that they can leave their scars with their mask once unveiled.
Throughout history, people have relied on disguises to hide from society’s morals and the constraint that their disguises have brought. Robbers cover their faces before entering a bank while parents shield their children from the corruption of real life. The Ku Klux Klan was a hate group consisting of white supremacists, mainly taking place in the ‘60s during the Jim Crow Laws but still lasting today. The KKK’s main goal was to abolish the idea of equality between African Americans and Caucasians believing that white people were the superior race. By doing this they spent their nights committing violent crimes that would often end in lynching.
Possibly their most recognizable custom was their uniform. “Indeed, the image of a hooded Klansman has become a popular hate symbol itself, displayed on t-shirts and tattoos by white supremacists around the world”(ADL). Their hoods became less of an identity and more of a shield from their shame. Rather than showing superiority, the white hoods would often be correlated with fear and violence due to the numerous amounts of hangings that occurred at the time of segregation. Often we only recognize the iconic white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan, rather than the faces underneath them.
Furthermore, many people believed that the participants of the Ku Klux Klan presented themselves as madmen, outcasts of society. But oddly enough, many of them kept themselves as civilized and put together people. “Though Democratic leaders would later attribute Ku Klux Klan violence to poorer southern whites, the organization’s membership crossed class lines, from small farmers and laborers to planters, lawyers, merchants, physicians and ministers” (HISTORY). Most people correlate these types of jobs with responsibility and trust, but with masks on, no one truly knows who’s hidden underneath. The KKK was known to be one of the most violent and uncivilized hate groups throughout history due to their lack of morals. But with a hidden identity, they could justify their actions, claiming it wasn’t them or perhaps that they were influenced by the liberation in which the mask brought them.
In the novel, Lord of the Flies, a group of schoolboys get stranded on an island due to a plane crash. The boys were introduced as well-mannered and civilized children who relied on
innocent morals to shape the laws they set on the island. Jack, one of the older boys on the island, presented himself as a coarse and orderly character of leadership, yet torn up by insecurity and shame. Only until he discovered the beauty of the painted face, was he able to hide his vulnerability to the rest of the boys. “He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (Golding 64). At the start of the novel, Jack was unable to face the bitter truth of violence, as he was sheltered by the morals of the society he grew to carry with him. But once he painted his face, he couldn’t even recognize his reflection and more importantly, his own identity; “He knelt, holding the shell of water….He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger” (Golding 63). Everything that had held him back from killing the pig, and better yet the savagery it brought him was protected by the mask. It’s human nature to feel the need to protect ourselves from certain things that would sully our status so we look for other ways to purge inner need to go beyond the line of morals that we are taught to never cross.
Consequently, living on an island with little availability to food, the boys were surprised to find that it was populated with pigs. Jack, being the first to spot that pigs lived on the island, believed that it was his duty to act as the provider of the island. Thus, he pulled out a blade he had brought and drew it to the neck of the pig. “The three boys rushed forwards and Jack drew his knife again with a flourish. There came a pause, a hiatus, the pig continued to scream and the creepers to jerk, and the blade continued to flash at the end of a bony arm” (Golding 31). His hesitation was due to the vulnerability of his own self. The idea that he needed to act a certain way in order to be a civilized member of society. From this, his obsession for blood grew and his only resolution was to cover his face in paint in order to conceal himself from the pig while hunting. Towards the end of the book, the mask became less of a tool for hunting but more of an acceptance to savagery. When Jack covered his face, he saw himself as a whole different person; someone who had no shame nor insecurities that would hold him back from feeling the need to follow rules and fit in with society.
When acting on crimes that go against our morals, we will use masks to protect the vulnerability of our own integrity and to leave on less scar on who we are. The Ku Klux Klan used hoods to conceal their faces when lynching African Americans while Jack and the hunters used paint to present themselves as less visible when hunting the pigs. But what if their main reason for hiding their faces wasn’t for appearance, rather something deeper; their own identity? In society, we are taught that innocence is one of the most valuable customs and corruption is looked down on. Both the African Americans and the pigs represented the corrupted innocence caused by the disguise of someone else: a savage.
Kinney, Alison. “How the Klan Got Its Hood.” The New Republic, The New Republic, 8 Jan.
Editors, History.com. “Ku Klux Klan.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009,
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. The Penguin Group, September 17, 1954, pp. 31
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. The Penguin Group, September 17, 1954, pp. 64