On the Flip Side

Zoë Chernowski

Silver Stream

On the Flip Side

There are always two sides to the same coin, which means that there are always contrasting views in society. One of these strong contrasting views is savagery versus civilized behavior and what they are. One might argue that certain things are savage, such as specific aspects of a religion, while another would view them as civil. However, in truth no one person can decide for the commonwealth what is wrong or right. The definition of "savage" is truly relative to everybody else in the society.

In the beginning of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a group of schoolboys are stranded on an island. Two of the more popular boys, Ralph and Jack, decide to have a vote and see who should be leader. Ralph wins and the boys gather together and Jack and Ralph agree to form one large group. However, later in the book there were many arguments, and different values prompted Jack to break off from the large group with his group of hunters. Jack and his tribe eventually steals another boy, Piggy’s, glasses to start fires. Ralph and his group is outraged, for if Jack’s tribe wanted fire, they could’ve just asked. Ralph’s group decide to go and confront Jack and his tribe at Castle Rock, Jack’s tribe’s home base. “‘Which is better - to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?’ The great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again. ‘Which is better - to have rules and agree, or to hunt a kill?’” (180) Here Piggy asks the questions to Jack’s tribe to try to convince them they are being savage. However this is only Piggy’s viewpoint of the situation. To Piggy, rules and a signal fire is the most important thing they should have on the island. Piggy is trying to make it sound universal; that agreements are better than hunting. His thinking of yelling at the boys and making his statement universal is obviously flawed because he’s trying to push his ideals onto people who don’t believe the same. Also consider the argument that all of the children on this island are high class European boys. Their idea of savagery is different from everyone else’s who isn’t a high class European boy, because they are exposed to a certain environment. If savagery is truly defined in all of society, then why were these conflicts of savagery versus being civil created and still exist today?

Connections can be between Lord of the Flies and the real world also. World War II, perhaps one of the most famous wars in world history is one of many examples. One case in point is in the book Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe. It explains how Europe was ‘savage’ after World War II based on the author’s research and inferences as a British Historian."As Keith Lowe makes painfully plain, Europe in the months and years after the end of World War II was as much a cauldron of hate, murder and despair as it had been during the reign of Nazi Germany." Lowe likes to argue how Europe was still considered 'savage' even when things were supposed to be 'civil' because the war ended. This is again, another British perspective on the events that followed, and naturally views would be different if someone was not British. Lowe describes a moral collapse of the people, but who is he to judge whether or not other people’s morals ‘collapsed’? Much like Piggy in Lord of the Flies, Lowe is projecting this idea that certain people are savage because they are acting differently than him. The fact that people might be bitter about a war recently lost suddenly makes the losers savages and the people moving on and not reflecting on the recent past, civil. The same values of having these so called ‘rules and order’ make people have this great image of being civil. However, the question must be asked, who makes the rules and does this reflect on the image of being civilized?

Now, back to the points presented in Lord of the Flies. The large group of boys have an assembly to discuss the events and the fear of the beast. However unknowingly to the boys, there is no ‘beast’ and it is nothing more than a dead fighter pilot. However they are all overshadowed with their fear and what to do. In the middle of this fearful debate Ralph and Jack start to question his authority in this time of supposed danger. “‘He’s like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief.’” (126) Here Jack criticizes Ralph, his leadership, and how he’s a coward. Jack exclaims later on that Ralph even said the hunters were useless, but he never retrieved meat for the large group. So what can be seen here is the clear differences in the boy's’ values; Jack values survival on the island and hunting for food, although to Ralph and Piggy, this seems savage because his values are different from their personal ones. Because of these conflicting values and how savagery is relative, these boys tend to clash against each other. Jack is seen as bloodthirsty by the boy’s whose priority is to get rescued, meanwhile Ralph and Piggy seem weak and powerless to the boy’s whose priority is to hunt and survive. This in turn causes the group to crumble and weaken because no one is willing to put everything into other’s perspectives.

Well, how does this relate to the example of World War II? Just like how Jack and Ralph had different views, the opposing countries in the war also had this. There is the other viewpoint on how World War II was 'civil' and actually created a lot of opportunities and sparked a national movement for minorities. This is greatly debated, just like the boys and the view of hunting is savage; the war was savage. However, to prevent the collapse of two different views, put the ‘civil’ parts of the war into light. History, Art, and Archives: United States House of Representatives published information about Black Americans in Congress. A lot of the information given was actually about World War II and how it sparked such a great change in the United States. "It brought economic opportunities and opened new avenues for participation in American society… Wartime experiences also mobilized black political activism." These so called civilized events were all created due to World War II. These events could be represented by the values of the boys in Lord of the Flies; specifically Jack. While the War might seem savage (such as Jack), it actually had a lot of civilized behavior associated to it and not all of the outcomes are considered bad.

So as a whole, savagery and being civilized is relative to what people believe and people’s morals. Ultimately, not just one group of people can consider something concretely bad or good. In order to get the whole picture, one must be willing to look at it in many different perspectives, do not become separated by ignorance like the boys in Lord of the Flies. There’s always three sides to a story after all; yours, mine, and the truth’s.

Works Cited:

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin Group, 2003.

Yardley, Jonathan. "“Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II” by Keith

Lowe." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 07 July 2012. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinion/savage-continent-europe-in-the-aftermath-of-world-war-ii-by-keith-lowe/2012/07/07/gJQAihmBUW_story.html>.

"The Second World War | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives." The Second

World War. U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Second-World-War/>.