Speech on Reflexivity and Lord of the Flies


I'd like to begin with some context of Golding's own beliefs and where they came from. Golding self-identified as a Christian, which in itself arguably goes against the concept of reflexivity, as Christianity guarantees the existence of God, and reflexivity argues that very little can be guaranteed. Ultimately, it is unlikely that Golding ever believed in reflexivity. He argued with his father, an evolutionist and athiest, multiple times on the issue. In addition, all of his books have at least one character who, while they may not be likeable, have strong morals and will carry a main message of the book across. In Lord of the Flies, this character is Simon.

Simon's role in Lord of the Flies is very interesting; to the boys, he is another worker, until he evolves, as far as they can see, to him being the 'funny' one - in terms of normality, rather than comedy, and finally Simon becomes the victim. The diversion between the boys' view of Simon and Golding's view is enormous, and where the prospect of the fallacy and reflexivity comes into play.

Golding uses Simon to represent Jesus throughout the novel - 'Simon found for them the fruit they could not reach', and also became the sacrificial lamb of the novel. Golding seems to hold a view of Simon in duality, much like Christianity holds Jesus in duality. Christians see Jesus as fully man and fully God. Golding sees Simon as fully human and fully moral, which you may argue conflict as humans are inherently immoral. You would be correct, and this was Simon's downfall.

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Many could argue that Simon's fallacy was his own misunderstanding of human nature, as he underestimated to what extent he should fear the other boys. This may not be his fault, as he has no reason to expect them to behave in the brutal way they do, but it is a fallacy regardless - a fallacy, just to remind you, is the gap between a person's view and the actual truth. However, others argue that this was not Simon's view, and that he, as a representation of a perfect figure such as Jesus, knew his intentions the entire time. Although, this is difficult to argue, given that Simon's internal conflict between the will of man and his own sense of morality is such a key feature of the novel. An internal conflict is impossible if a person has a full understanding of their own intentions and the outcomes of their actions - therefore, Simon having full understanding would be impossible unless he saw himself as the sacrificial lamb, which seems somewhat ridiculous given that he came back to the boys to warn them, not to be killed.

To fully understand a person's fallacies, one must first have full understanding of their intentions to see exactly where they went wrong, how, and why. This is why it is so difficult to analyse Ralph's fallacies, as his intentions seem so strongly swayed by those around him. It is also difficult because his initial fallacies, such as his arguable mistake to suggest the fire, are strongly reinforced by their intitial outcomes and those around him - this is called 'self validating fallibility', by the way - until it can be unclear whether it was his initial intention in the first place.

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Regardless of this, Ralph's fallability seems to be similar to Simon's; he overestimated the good in the boys. In chapter 12, Ralph 'wept for the end of innocence and the darkness of a man's heart'. This is where his fallibility is corrected, and a truer version of the world is seen. While this might be where we as the reader feel the most sorry for Ralph, but it is also possibly the only time that he sees the world correctly. Impressive for a twelve year old, really.

Jack is difficult to comprehend as a character. His actions seem almost - not quite, but nearly - justifiable as the book is first read. However, there seems to be a phenomenon that every person who has analysed Lord of the Flies, as we have done, seem to despise Jack and no longer be able to relate to him. My theory - and just to clarify, this is a theory - is that we as essentially domesticated teenagers living in a bureaucracy where we are so far from any serious conflict, cannot imagine or understand where this brutality could possibly come from.

It is vital for our analysis to remember that in 1940, Golding fought in the Royal Navy in World War II. Hopefully none of us have been trained in a kill-or-be-killed mindset, and until we are there is little way that we can relate to Jack as a character as Golding seems to. On this note, I will not be analysing Jack's fallibility as it is a topic I have found almost impossible to research as I cannot understand Jack enough to see which of his actions were intentional and which outcomes surprised him.

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I introduced this speech by defining and giving context to the term 'reflexivity', and many of you are likely to be wondering where this has come into play as of yet. And you would be right to wonder - it hasn't. As of yet, we have analysed only the intentions and fallacies of individual characters, and reflexivity becomes important only as we begin to look at the relationships between each character.

Arguably, the most interesting relationship in the book is that between Ralph and Jack. While the reader recognises early on that a parallel exists between the boys, the boys themselves only view it as mutual respect, and an agreement on what is right. In fact, the boys even support each other in the beginning of the novel, with Jack backing up Ralph on the need for some organised hunters in chapter three. As the novel progresses, we can all describe the conflict that emerges between them, but their duality curiously still exists. On a base level, they both stand by what they believe is right. Sure, we - and Golding - may strongly sympathise with Ralph during this conflict, they are fundamentally on the same terms. Neither of the boys have any proof that their method works, or doesn't.

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Several of the biggest escalations in conflict in the last century or so can be at least partly to blame on North America's stance on different political ideologies. The capitalism verses communism debate is ongoing, and efforts to stamp out totalitarian regimes have resulted in many of the wars that continue today.

Again, some may argue that North America has the right morals behind its actions, but that doesn't change the fact that America remains in a very similar position with its nemeses as Ralph does with Jack. It is difficult to prove that either side is correct, so violence erupts.

Ralph and Jack's later conflicts are a microcosm for the worst side of worldwide reflexivity. You may not provide any justification that your actions are right, but nor does your enemy. Therefore, your view is reinforced by your own logic, and the same goes for the other side, until you two are on such adverse stances that you will never, or it will be absurdly difficult to reconcile. This may happen between countries - see North and South Korea, for example - or maybe two previous friends in the classroom.

I have barely touched the surface of reflexivity, both the good and the bad of the theory, but I hope I have offered an insight into the world of epistemology that you might not have seen before, in terms of Ralph and Jack, of course. Thank you.

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