A psychoanalytic approach to "Lord of the Flies"

This book holds within it many, many themes and heavy symbolism. It is hard for me to find a place to begin writing my thoughts on this great piece of literature. There’s the obvious, good versus evil theme…then the representation of persona, shadow, and innocent fool between Ralph, Jack, and Piggy. Since the majority of my new reading list is Jungian-based, I will write on the latter.

I use the terms loosely in this review because of the informality of the review itself. When I stated that the boys were representations of those archetypes and components of our psyche, I meant that the figures they became on the island are representative of those components and archetypes. I’m sure the boys showed these tendencies before the plane crash, but we cannot be sure of this because we know nothing of the boys’ lives prior to the crash.

Ralph is the strong, persistent, kind, and fair chief of this tribe of children and adolescent boys. He was voted chief by his peers because his obvious drive to get them all rescued in a timely manner. He represents the persona. He is what any mature adult would find the best suited to lead these boys and restore order to the awaiting anarchy behind the unconscious of all of these pubescent boys. He is easy for the children to identify as leader due to the standards set by society on leadership and the qualities a leader should have. He is the persona of civil society. He is what society would have any alien to earth view what society should be. Because he never falls from this grace and is persistent in creating a society that is like that from which they all came, he is undeniably a great representation of persona. Ralph also embodies the warrior archetype in his persistence with the rescue-fire mission and his drive to maintain order and general “good-doing”.

Jack is the equally strong, equally persistent, demanding, adrenaline/hedonia-driven leader of the self-proclaimed “hunters” of the island. He was Ralph’s opponent in the candidacy for chief. He never agreed with Ralph on any of his chiefly delegated duties. He only wanted to seek the meat for the tribe. He only wanted to kill. He is the shadow. He is the opposite of the persona. The shadow is the part of our psyche that we hide, but is always unconsciously present with us. When we have an unexpected fit of anger, the shadow can be found. It is the part of the psyche that isn’t disturbed in our childhood until we experience an event that can introduce the shadow to our awareness. Evil. While further inspecting the island early in the book, the boys startle a pig and Jack hits the pig with his spear, but does not kill it. He becomes obsessed and preoccupied with this control over the life of another creature. This is not the split in the innocent childhood psyche, but the triggering of the suppressed shadow and feelings associated. His thirst for blood and a hedonic utopia on the island eventually surpasses Ralph’s structured civil society, so he and his hunters move to the opposite end of the island. Later, when Piggy (the innocent fool) is killed, Jack is not remorseful of the murder. This, in fact, fuels his bloodlust for Ralph. He is everything Ralph does not want to embody, however, Ralph is subconsciously half-shadow, as we all are.

Piggy is the innocent, adult-like, abandonment-fearing, Ralph-loyal member of the group. He is codependent of Ralph in all of the things he does on the island. That is, when he isn’t withdrawn from the activity due to his asthma. Unlike Jack and Ralph, PIggy does not fully embody the innocent so I almost did not want to suggest that Piggy represented the innocent fool archetype. He isn’t a fool and is sometimes brave in the things that he says and does. I want to suggest him as the innocent fool because of his endearing trust in Ralph and his idea of the fire-rescue. His constant optimism is also a clue into the innocent fool archetype. Another reason I am hesitant in suggesting Piggy as the innocent fool is that he is completely aware of the physical weaknesses he has (visual impairment and asthma) and the lack of respect the boys have for him because of his nickname.

This was such an excellent book. It is a shame that the school system in my home county did not require this book as a reading in middle school. I wish that I had read it then and that this review would be a revisit to the themes in the book with a stronger understanding of those themes within. That is for another day.

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