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Lord Of The Flies By William Golding Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 2002 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In this paper I chose to analyze the book Lord of the flies written by William Golding as I believe it matches very well the field of organizational theory by presenting the contrast between different styles of leadership and the opposed actions of two very different leaders. I will emphasize four types of leadership styles: democratic, autocratic, laissez-faire and charismatic. I chose this book because in the novel, leadership plays a very important role, as it does in real life for us, because the characters need to feel some sense of security in order for them to survive.

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The situational leadership theory proposes that leaders choose the best course of action based upon situational variables. Different styles of leadership may be more appropriate for certain types of decision-making: for example in a situation where the leader is the most knowledgeable and experienced member of a group, an authoritarian style might be most appropriate, in other instances where group members are skilled experts, a democratic style would be more effective. The fundamental underpinning of the situational leadership theory is that there is no single “best” style of leadership. Effective leadership is task-relevant, and the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the maturity of the individual or group they are attempting to lead or influence. Effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it also depends on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory)

The existence of mankind on earth relies on various factors: the basic needs for humans to survive are food, water, shelter, but these are only the physical needs of man. Humans also have social and mental needs which require the existence of law in order to be able to coexist peacefully with themselves, the nature and the environment. The only way that law and order can be achieved in human society is by a higher authority, or some form of government or leader. William Golding tries to touch on some of these aspects of our civilization through the various characters he creates in his novel “Lord of the Flies”. (http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/12/13/185154/04/)

The main theme of the novel is the conflict between two opposed instincts that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. The two main leaders in the story, through their similar and different leadership characteristics and objectives fight back and forth to gain the discipline of the other boys on the island in order to gain the power to make the decisions that they feel should be made, sometimes for the better of the entire group, and sometimes for their own purpose. The leaders which are presented throughout the novel all have their own method of leading, and serve different purposes. The elected and democratic leader is Ralph while the self-appointed leader who tries to run a totalitarian society is Jack. In the beginning they work towards common goals, but eventually their different views on how to lead the group lead them into conflict.

From the very beginning Ralph assumes primary responsibility for the group’s tasks when he starts organizing their living, because he realizes that not doing so will result in “savagery and moral chaos” (Hynes, 59). Being aware of the situation in which they are, Ralph uses Piggy’s idea of the conch and takes the role of gathering the survivors. When the boys arrive in the island they automatically seek for some kind of law and order, since there are not any grown-ups. They want to belong to a group, with someone in charge to lead them, and make them feel safe. Ralph becomes this person, after being chosen in a democratic election. He tries to hear what everybody has to say. “Let him be chief with the trumpet thing” (Golding, 30). The conch is a symbol of democracy because it entitles everyone to having an opinion in all matters of importance. It also symbolizes law and order, everything which Ralph stands for. Although he is accepted as a leader in the beginning, his priorities as a leader and way of thinking create conflict with some of the others. “There’s another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they might not notice us. So we must make a smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire.” (Golding, 49)

When one observes Ralph’s actions, it becomes obvious that he is not only a task-motivated leader, but also a democratic leader, which results from the fact that he leads an expedition through the forest in order to find out if the island is deserted or not. Ralph also wants shelters to be built where they can sleep, branches to be collected for a signal fire and a specific place beyond the bathing-pool to be used as a lavatory. Furthermore, he introduces rules when he tells the boys that they have to have “Hands up’ like at school” (Golding, 31) and that only the person holding the conch is allowed to speak. In addition, the conch makes the boys feel they participate; when holding it they get a chance to speak their mind and the others must listen. It is a significant trait for a democratic leader to aim for an environment of equality.

Without a doubt, Ralph is also a relationship-motivated leader. He is compassionate and caring when he tries to comfort “the littluns” (Golding, 61) by saying there is no beast to be afraid of. He is interested in what the other boys think and he listens to them and what they have to say before he makes decisions. His closest follower, Piggy, thinks a great deal about what has to be done and how they can do it and Ralph brings up Piggy’s ideas at the assemblies. In brief, these are all examples that support the fact that Ralph is a complex leadership figure. He wants to be a sympathetic and egalitarian leader who does not avoid his responsibilities, but he is only twelve years old and has neither the experience needed for the task, nor the support from the other boys.

In the beginning, all the boys stand by the rules set by Ralph. After a while this society starts to break up as man has a way of choosing the easiest way out. The boys get tired of the responsibility and want to play, hunt and have fun. They do not want to get rescued as they are enjoying themselves too much.

When moving on to the authoritarian leader, represented by Jack, we find a character who starts his advance for the role of leader at the very first assembly when he states that he is the rightful leader of the schoolboys since he is the head boy in the choir. He is arrogant and disrespectful when he yells at his choir and bullies Piggy by screaming “Shut up Fatty!” (Golding, 17). Jack feels humiliated when Ralph is elected. Although he temporarily gives in, Jack soon starts using different strategies to undermine Ralph’s authority, and at the same time making himself more powerful. He stirs up the group by lying about Ralph having said that the hunters are bad at hunting. And even though Jack is the one who suggests that they need rules, and is quick to point out that the one who breaks them will be punished, he soon breaks them himself when he, for instance, speaks without holding the conch or makes himself heard above the other speakers (Olsen, 13). These actions are unopposed and weaken Ralph’s leadership, and according to Kirsten Olsen it is the breaking of “old rules and making his own” (Olsen, 14) that paves the way for Jack coming to power.

After being publicly humiliated when his attempt to have Ralph unseated fails, Jack decides to leave the group and have a fort of his own. Cunningly he tries to win people over from Ralph’s camp by accusing him of being a coward and a bad hunter. Jack also offers the hungry boys meat if they leave Ralph and join his group instead. Not surprisingly most boys rather eat pork and play than pick berries and do tiresome chores under Ralph’s command.

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As a result of Jack’s behavior, one notices how Ralph’s leadership style gradually changes into a laissez-faire leader. At one point he wonders what is going on: “Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy” (Golding, 87). Later he talks to the assembled boys and asks: “Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”(Golding, 200). According to Ralph the first alternative is the only possible one, but the others do not seem to agree with him.

Jack is a charismatic leader who paints his face with clay before he goes hunting for pigs. The hunters join Jack because they feel as if the “mask” on Jack’s face commands them to do so. Most boys just do what the leader says, or what the majority does, without thinking in terms of right and wrong or friendship, since they are afraid to be on their own, or even worse, a target of the other boys’ aggressions.

Compared to the democratic leader Ralph, Jack is an authoritarian leader who yells at his peers to make his point, threatens them into obedience, makes them commit crimes as well as actually hurting them physically. An example of Jack’s tactics when he finally is in power is the situation where he orders his subordinates to tie up the twins Sam and Eric, and then turns to Ralph, saying: “See? They do what I want” (Golding, 199).

As a consequence of Jack’s increasing number of followers, Ralph finds himself being the leader of only a few boys. One person, though, who never abandons him is Piggy, the representative of common sense. He desperately tries to adjust the situation on the island to conditions more like those at home and he asks: “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What’s grown-ups going to think? Going off – hunting pigs – letting fires out -” (Golding, 98).

Compared to Jack, who leads a primary group, the choir, Ralph, with the exception of Piggy, does not have a group of close and loyal allies. A typical example of how Ralph is betrayed by some of his followers is the actions of twins Sam and Eric. They try to avoid conflicts, and therefore never openly take a stand for Ralph. The end of Ralph’s leadership is a fact when Jack and his band of hunters have killed Simon and Piggy, the two most devoted boys. There are no more boys to lead, and without followers Ralph can no longer be a leader.

In conclusion, both leaders have different characteristics and priorities, which make them lead the group in different ways. Ralph is considered to be the elected leader and Jack the self-appointed leader. These leaders have different skills and different views on how to create society, which leads them into many conflicts. This just goes to show that humans cannot be trusted with power, as power corrupts. The moment Jack becomes the leader of his own group he turns into a savage and does things without thinking. The same can be said about governments in the world today, who start wars with the purpose of fulfilling their own needs, and they do not mind harming others to achieve their goals and objectives. Maybe humans really are savages that cannot live in peace and coexist on this earth with all the animals and the environment. It might be quite possible that Golding’s view of humans as being the worst creatures on earth, is not very hard to comprehend, as you can relate to the conflicts created by leadership that are seen throughout the world.


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