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Civilisation vs savagery

The battle between civilisation and savagery is represented in a number of Golding’s novels, most famously in Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors.

Lord of the Flies

In Lord of the Flies, the fragile civilisation created by the boys on the island fragments and the boys divide into two camps. Ralph and Piggy remain ‘civilised’, continuing to obey and uphold the rules, despite the threat from violence of Jack’s hunters, who symbolise savagery. Jack’s group don’t just act in a savage manner – they paint their faces in order to look ‘savage’, and to enhance their levels of intimidation. Lord of the Flies is an allegorical tale of the danger when civilisation breaks down, and savagery takes over.

The Inheritors

Civilisation vs savagery is somewhat more complicated in The Inheritors. We might consider that the Neanderthal people are not particularly civilised, as they are a simple group, with a lack of tools, and only rudimentary knowledge. However, they are gentle and non-confrontational, even refusing to kill animals for meat. The ‘new people’ (Homo Sapiens) have an abundance of tools, but seek to dominate the other group. Despite their organised society and family groups, the new people are savage in their behaviour. Here Golding demonstrates that intelligence and strength do not equal civilisation.