Why is the Killing of the Sow so Symbolic?

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 Mankind has been able to transform themselves from primal savages to in depth creative human beings. We are able to adapt ourselves within any situation and truly assimilate to society. William Golding, however, views humanity as there being no hope for mankind in his despondent novel, Lord of The Flies. This book tells the story of a different form of civility that occured once a group of British boys were left stranded on an island after an unfortunate plane crash. Golding conveys three different views of humanity. He expresses that, in a setting without guidelines of society, humans are innately egocentric, impetuous and savage.

Golding believes that societal people, as a whole, are egocentric, thinking of themselves without regarding the safety, feelings, or desires of others. Jack, the leader of the choir, has a selfish longing for power. With “simple arrogance” Jack says, “I ought to be chief because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C-sharp” (Golding 22). His motives for wanting to become leader are selfish as they essentially have nothing to do with his utility or his contribution to the group. However, Jack's desire to become leader is partially granted when he is assigned to lead the hunters. With Jack being a partial leader, there is little to no attention to the means that matter most to the group, such as getting rescued. As a result, the boys' unattended signal fire burns out, but when Ralph mentions this, Jack becomes “vaguely irritated by this irrelevance” (Golding 69) but is also “too happy to let it worry him” (Golding 69). The self-absorbed boy has no desire to be rescued and even wants to stay on the island, therefore he puts his desire to hunt before everything else and endangers everyone by not tending to essential chores. The boys who hunted with Jack also seem enjoy the experience selfishly, albeit not without regret. Later on, Jack successfully takes advantage of man's selfish nature by saying things such as “Who'll join my tribe and have fun?” (Golding 150) to gather followers for his tribe. This approach works because the boys are deeply savage at this point, which means there is almost nothing to stop them from responding to their selfish appetites. Most importantly, Jack acts as a catalyst for the boys' descent into savagery with his characteristic selfishness, and although it is not his only opinion, Golding uses the boys to demonstrate his view of man being innately selfish.

Furthermore, Golding sees man as impetuous, which is to say quick-acting and impatient. The boys on the island hold seemingly civilized meetings to set objectives for themselves (building shelters, for example), but hardly anyone commits to them. “When the meeting was over they'd work for five minutes, then wander off or go hunting” Ralph explains (Golding 51). This shows how much the boys want to satisfy their immediate desires for play, or their desire for better tasting food; these impulses outweigh their objective of building shelters for the night. The boys are also impulsive in the sense that they act with spontaneity: when the boys re-enact the pig hunt the game escalates suddenly at the encouragement of Jack. “The desire to squeeze and hunt was overmastering” (Golding 115) for Ralph as he participated in the game where Robert receives a savage but non-lethal beating while being surrounded and restrained by a circle of hunters . What started out as a harmless game quickly changed without delay or hesitation. The scenario repeats when the boys hastily begin to beat Simon to death, not noticing or caring about his cries of protest: “At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore” (Golding 153). The boys were being driven by their impulses, not rational thought. In fact, these boys would not have stopped for anything. As a result, these three significant events are proof that Golding believes humanity is naturally impulsive. Incidentally, impulsiveness can lead to another trait of man.

Humanity is fundamentally savage and Golding undoubtedly expresses this in his novel. To illustrate, it does not take long for Jack to succumb to violence. “He took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy's stomach” (Golding 71). With nothing in his way, Jack hits Piggy simply out of anger. Besides Jack, the admirable Ralph is also capable of resorting to violence, though unlike Jack in this instance, he is calling up a primal instinct for survival. “He began to pound the mouth below him, using his clenched fist as a hammer; he hit with more and more passionate hysteria as the face became slippery” (Golding 167). Granted, he was under attack, yet he did seem to lose control of his fists for the first time and even go overboard in his hysteria, which shows how anyone can lose control and yield to violence. In general, all of the boys are violent (with the exception of Piggy, Simon and perhaps Samneric), which can be seen with the vicious killing of the sow by Jack's large tribe of hunters. “...The sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her.... Roger ran around the heap... Jack was on top of the sow stabbing downwards with his knife.... The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her” (Golding 135). Indeed, the gruesome description is reserved for Jack and Roger; however, it is clear that all the hunters are vehemently piled on top of the sow as they are killing it with ubiquitous violence. In short, humans are elementally violent and Golding expresses this with vivid descriptions of the boys' vigor in several violent situations.

Golding has a rather pessimistic view of humanity having selfishness, impulsiveness and violence within, shown in his dark yet allegorical novel Lord of the Flies. Throughout the novel, the boys show great self-concern, act rashly, and pummel beasts, boys and bacon. The delicate facade of society is easily toppled by man's true beastly nature. 

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Why Is The Killing Of The Sow So Symbolic?. (2021, Jun 29). Retrieved December 9, 2023 , from

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