Lord of The Flies Essay

Published 31 Aug 2016

Lord of the Flies: Social Contract and Primal Instinct

Golding’s Lord of the Flies is an interesting fictional story which depicts the endeavors, focused upon order and survival, of a number of boys stranded on an island. Most importantly though, the reading the aforesaid story may also be viewed as a means to understand the potential importance and effectiveness of a social contract. While the boys are relatively young, not one more than twelve years of age (Golding, 1954), the isolated nature of the island wherein depending upon adults for food and other concerns have brought forth the need to establish an adult-like manner of living in order to survive and eventually be rescued.

Specifically, the social contract is mainly represented in the story through the leadership of Ralph as well as the authority associated with the conch. Hence, a reading of the aforesaid book would of course initiate thoughts and questions pertaining to the role of the social contract against the possibility of limitless freedom. Furthermore, questions pertaining to the superiority of primal instincts against civilized rationality under certain circumstances would arise as well. Throughout the following discussion such questions would be answered from a personal perspective.

The social contract served an essential role in maintaining order among the children stranded on the island. As delineated in the story, the problems only manifested during the point wherein Ralph’s leadership began to falter. In particular, throughout the first few chapters of the book, it is quite apparent that the boys are maintaining an orderly manner of existence in the island as Ralph has designated some of the boys to search for food while others to keep the signal fires lit. Through time though a civilized manner of existence eventually ceased to exist as the political hierarchy or leadership has been questioned and challenged by those seeking the most instinctive and primal of needs. Thus, without doubt, the emergence and promise of a limitless freedom as characterized by Jack has resulted in unnecessary deaths and the eventual ruin of the island. In this sense, in response to the question as to whether the social contract has been beneficial to the pursuit of keeping order among the children, it is undeniable that the only proper response is yes; repercussions such as harm is definitely not among its repercussions. Nonetheless, it would be proper to presume that some may point out Jack’s leadership as a form of another social contract which has caused ruin; to clarify though, a social contract is a ideally a means of protecting each individual from harm and maintaining rights which are certainly not among the characteristics of Jack’s barbaric tribe which is merely fueled by fear and aggression.

Personally, life under a social contract is much more beneficial and assuring compared to one which entails instinctive freedom. To further expound, as the outcome of the story suggests, the lack of a civilized form of leadership results in both oppression and death, wherein both safety and resources, pertaining to all individuals, are detrimentally affected. While it is tempting to assume and maintain control as Jack did, such a means of leadership would only bring forth continuous conflicts and violence as power is defined according to one’s capability to physically attain it. However, it must be taken into consideration that the boys, aside from being intellectually incapable to maintain order for prolonged periods of time as some may still be egocentric and irrational, are placed in a rather frightening and uncommon predicament which may explain such an outcome. From a personal perspective though, if placed under a similar situation, it would still be quite unlikely to abandon rational thought in favor of primal instincts. Even though such a situation may call for desperation and disorder may become imminent, utilizing a rational manner of thinking do have distinct advantages for maintaining survival; strategy and foresight are both necessary especially if children no longer comprise the competition. Therefore, Golding’s Lord of the Flies may be thought of as a warning that despite the fact that individuals have an innate primal instinct which may surface, rational thought is crucial in maintaining both order and morality.


Golding, W. (1954). Lord of the Flies. New York, NY: Perigree Books, The BerkeleyPublishing Group.

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