Authority and Power in Golding’s „Lord of the Flies“

Hausarbeit, 2010

18 Seiten, Note: 1,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. The Charismatische Herrschaft in Lord oft he Flies

3. Jack´s methods of agitation

4. The Authoritarian Personality

5. The Mask – the loss of personal responsibility

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

William Golding illustrates in his novel Lord of the Flies a very bad image of human mankind. By using children, the apparently most innocent human beings, as the characters of his book, he allows the reader to have a profound view in the human soul and elucidates, simultaneously, essential problems of the society. One of these problems is the permanent fight between different political imaginations and the associated acting of leaders or authorities which is, as history has shown, not always rational. On the contrary, the Second World War, in which Golding was involved as a marine officer, had shown how irrational and cruel authorities are able to act. But even if authorities act irrational, cruel and sadistic, there are always people who follow them, nevertheless, obediently. This syndrome, called Authoritarian Character which describes this behavior, was described and analyzed by philosophers and sociologists of the Frankfurter Schule like Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. They extended the theories of Sigmund Freud, and wanted to find out why certain people are susceptible to totalitarian authorities and systems as the boys in Lord of the Flies. Sociologists like Heinrich Popitz also analyzed the strategies which the authoritarian agitators apply in order to subject other people in order to organize them in mass organizations; Strategies which made the people in Germany tolerating a fascistic ideology during the World War. In respect thereof, Golding’s Novel shows a very negative picture of the society and he uses the uninhabited island for the boys as a kind of laboratory to illustrate the development of the human society in a kind of microcosm because the incident on the island are an allusion of the status of the society in this time. This seminar paper will deal with the different types of authorities in Lord of the Flies, with methods above all Jack uses in order to subject the other boys in order to become a totalitarian Leader, and with psychological processes and preconditions that are necessary for developing an authoritarian syndrome. Particularly with regard to Roger who embodies the ideal of an authoritarian personality and a sadist. Furthermore it will analyze the political and sociological consequences of this phenomenon, the development from democracy to totalitarianism in a process called charismatische Herrschaft, the topic of mass movement and the associated loss of personal responsibility and conscience that results finally in chaos in Lord of the Flies.

2. The Charismatische Herrschaft in Lord of the Flies

In the story, Jack and Ralph have the function of leaders. But they are two completely different types of authorities with different ambitions. Ralph represents the type of a rational and democratic authority, and Jack embodies the type of the irrational totalitarian authority. Right at the beginning of the novel, this difference is visible in the description of the two boys: “There was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil” (Golding 6) is the description of Ralph. On the contrary, Jacks first appearance is reminiscent of a SS-deployment in Nazi-Germany: “The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in steps in two parallel lines and dressed in strangely eccentric clothing.[…] The boy who controlled them was dressed in the same way though his cap badge was golden.” (Golding 19) Jack appears in this situation like an absolute leader who insists on obedience at any price. At first view, a striking difference between the two boys gets obvious. Whereas Ralph, after Piggy’s advice, stresses the importance of an assembly in which everyone shall have the right to express his opinion in order to decide about the further development, Jack emphasizes the importance of obedience of his choir by giving short commands to them and tolerating no weakness in his homogeneous group. That’s why he reacts on the protests from his choir with cold rejection:” The group of cloaked boys began to scatter from close line. The tall boy shouted at them. `Choir stand still!`” (Golding 20) Furthermore he exercises power by controlling other people. Ralph, instead, sees the importance of freedom of speech which is symbolized by the conch as the base of his power: “The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart.” (Golding 23) He treats everyone individually and cooperates with piggy as his closest advisor who embodies rational thinking: “I expect we´ll want to know all their names…” (Golding 7) says piggy, and on this way stresses the importance of individuality. Ralph also respects the opinion of the others, and agrees to vote for the chief. His antagonist Jack, instead, is against a vote and hence against the freedom of speech and opinion. He, contrary to Ralph, insists that he becomes chief for absolute irrational reasons: “´I ought to be chief,´ said Jack with simple arrogance, ´because I´m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.´”(Golding, 22) Skills and expertise, which are completely useless on an uninhabited Island, where it’s necessary to survive. Jack legitimates his power and authority with his former social status as a “chapter chorister”. Another difference between the both is their ideal of a society they want to create. Ralphs community consists of many different types of people: “Some were naked and carrying their clothes; others half naked, or more or less dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed, or jerseyed.” (Golding 17) So Ralph’s ideal of a society is a heterogeneous society. Jack instead creates a homogeneous society, a “painted anonymity.” (Golding 250). In his tribe in which everyone wears an identical mask and is painted is no room for individual behavior or appearance. Jack´s imagination of a society shows typical traits of a fascistic society with a strict racial segregation. Not only according to their appearance, but also according to their thinking he sorts out the weak and different-minded. That’s why he starts right from the beginning to segregate Piggy: “`You’re talking too much,` said Jack Merridew. `Shut up, Fatty` […] For the moment the boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with piggy outside.” (Golding 21) But he affronts Piggy not only because he is weak and hence not qualified for his tribe. He also fears Piggy’s rational influence on the other boys. Jack also sees the evil as something that is “outside”, something that comes “in the dark” that is able to endanger his power. Basically he refers in that case on Ralph from whom he believes to be the biggest danger for his authority. Jacks fear to lose his authority is bigger than his fear to fail as an authority, a behavior, which is characteristically for totalitarian despots. That’s why he hides behind the big walls of the castle rock which looks “like a fort” or a “pink bastion” (Golding, 32) whereas Ralph prefers an open platform for himself and the boys. One can state that Ralph represents the political system of democracy and Jack represents totalitarianism and fascism. The type of the rational authority embodied by Ralph has a kind of teacher-pupil relationship between himself and his inferiors (Bader 3f.) whereas Jack, as the irrational authority, rules in a kind of master-slave relationship over his inferiors. (Bader 3f.) That means Ralphs ambition is not to misuse his authority for his personal status as an authority. His ambition is the social and economic well-being of the whole community. Jack instead sees in the authority a status symbol and wants to rule over the others for the reason of authority and power itself. The development from Ralph’s democracy to Jacks totalitarian system in the novel is a process, comparable with the process of the Charismatischen Herrschaft, which is described by Max Weber and Reiner Lepsius. The term Charismatische Herrschaft goes back on the social relationship between the Charismaträger or Führer (Weber, 140) who is the Leader, and the Charismagläubigen (Lepsius, 141), embodied by the people who follow the Charismaträger and his authority. Lepsius names the precondition for a Charismatische Herrschaft the latente charismatische Situation. (Lepsius 100f) Out of this latente charismatische Situation, which is in the majority of cases a political, an economical or social crisis, arises a “vacuum of authority”. (Lepsius 102) Ralph is the first who fills this vacuum because of the “Not and Begeisterung” (Weber 140) of the others. The crisis in this case is the status quo of the boys on the Island. After the plane crash, they are without direction and completely disorientated. The background of their situation is an atomic war and they can`t be sure if they ever get rescued. Piggy realizes this first: “`Not them. Didn’t you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb? They are all dead […] They´re all dead, ´said Piggy ´an´ this is an island. Nobody don’t know we´re here.´” (Golding, 11) The authoritarian instance of the adults is destroyed, so the boys need a new authority, the Charismaträger, who leads them out of this crisis. Ralph seems the right one for this task. His appearance and above all the conch, which brings the boys together in an assembly, are the reasons for the trust of the boys in him: “But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch.” (Golding 23) The conch in that case represents also the man with the megaphone who is associated with authority by the boys. Above all Jack has the ambition to find him at the beginning and asks: “´where´s the man with the trumpet?´” (Golding 19) And even if he is not satisfied with Ralph, Ralph and the conch are a direct “link with the adult world of authority” (Golding 77) for the boys and “The children [give] him the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with the megaphones.” (Golding, 17) So Ralph becomes the Charismaträger and the process of the Charismatische Herrschaft enters into the next phase: The Manifeste charismatische Situation (Lepsius, 101) . In this phase the Charismaträger achieves the trust and acceptation of the Charismagläubigen and his authority is legitimate. (Weber 140) It partly bases upon the need for an authority and partly upon his superior appearance and the personal surrender of the Charismagläubigen to him. (Weber 140) In this phase the charismaträger has to prove himself, or else he fails in stabilizing his authority. Ralph tries this by establishing rules, building shelters and assuring rescue: “´We want to be rescued; and of course we shall be rescued´” […] The simple statement, unbacked by any proof but the weight of Ralph´s new authority, brought light and happiness.” (Golding, 45) Ralphs failure in this regard isn’t only his fault. Basically Jacks methods of manipulate the others, agitating by using different kinds of methods and power initiate a new latente charismatische Situation. To sustain this latente charismatische Situation and in order to pass into the next manifeste charismatische Situation Jack implements rituals into his tribe. The rituals have the function to substitute logical arguments on critical questions referring to his leadership or to avoid fear because fear would be a reason why Jack´s Leadership could get destroyed. The dance and the song of the hunters serve in many situations as an argument against criticism or fear. In the situation when Ralph asks Jack a critical question: “´Who´s clever now? Where are your shelters?´ […] Jack leapt on to the sand. ´Do our dance! Come on! Dance!´“(Golding, 212) Jack sees no reason to answer him. He initiates his ritual and so gives his tribe a strong feeling of unity, which is more powerful than a logical argument. By the use of this rituals and Jacks associated chief-role in the tribe he advances to a symbol of protection and security. So Jack passes in the manifeste charismatische Situation. Symbols for Ralph´s collapsing authority and associated the collapse of his democratic society are the conch and Piggy´s glasses. Both artifacts get more and more damaged during the story. Whereas the conch is at the beginning depicted as a “gleaming tusk” (Golding, 15) it becomes more and more “fragile” (Golding, 218) like Ralph´s authority until it “exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.” (Golding, 253) Also the collapsing shelters are a symbol for a collapsing society and the glasses, which are more and more damaged, are a symbol for the loss of rational thinking.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 18 Seiten


Authority and Power in Golding’s „Lord of the Flies“
Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg  (Neuphilologisches Institut)
Desert Island Stories
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
600 KB
power, golding, authority, lord, flies
Arbeit zitieren
Daniel Greiner (Autor:in), 2010, Authority and Power in Golding’s „Lord of the Flies“, München, GRIN Verlag,


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