“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?”
Piggy says this to Ralph during one of their assemblies. Piggy is consistently in support of keeping a signal fire going, and concentrating on their rescue. He sees the boys’ potential for violence long before the others. Here, he pleads with his listeners to remember their civilization back home, while articulating a central question of the novel.
“Jack stood up as he said this, the bloodied knife in his hand. The two boys faced each other. There was the brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of longing and baffled commonsense.”
Throughout the novel Golding suggests that the path to civilization is more difficult and less likely than the path to tyranny. Here, Jack and Ralph fight. Jack is described in terms of his adroitness, Ralph in terms of his shortcomings, and the ideals he represents are presented as less tangible or attractive.
“Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat - !”
Jack shouts this to Piggy, who advocates against believing in the beast, and in maintaining the signal fire. Again, Golding shows that Jack’s pitch is simple and compelling, while Piggy’s and Ralph’s is mired in debate and indecision. By offering simple, brutal solutions and by playing off of the other boys’ fears, Jack positions himself as likely chief.
“’We’ve got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day there may be a ship out there… and if we have a signal going they’ll come and take us off. And another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting. The same up here as down there.”
Ralph sets up his society with the express mission of looking to the future, and focusing on the boys’ safety, by way of shelter, and rescue. This need for rules, and constant decision-making, proves untenable for the boys, who gravitate toward authoritarianism throughout the novel.
More quotes by theme from Lord of the Flies