William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is a novel, which shows both the good and bad sides of human nature. These sides are shown through the many conflicts, which occur during the story. Firstly, there are the minor conflicts, eg the starting conflicts between Jack and Ralph, which was mainly due to their rivalry. However, these minor conflicts led to brutal violence and even death. Apart from violence, conflict played a role at another level. The boys’ conflict about their ethics and the “beast” was evident throughout the novel. In fact, the “beast” was really the boys’ inner evilness, and was not a creature. Thus, throughout the novel conflict plays at different levels.
Minor conflicts occur very often in “Lord of the Flies”. Despite seeming trivial at first, these small conflicts build up which lead to the barbarous havoc the boys create. The very first conflict in the novel is that of Piggy’s name. Piggy tries to introduce himself to Ralph, but Ralph takes no notice. It is only when Piggy tells him of his nickname that Ralph takes notice, and he starts to mock Piggy. After the conch is blown, and children assemble, Jack calls Piggy “Fatty”. Ralph is quick to point out that his name is not Fatty, but Piggy. Everyone laughs and begin to chant his name, and Piggy becomes hurt. It is through this small conflict that Piggy becomes a target for the others, to taunt and hurt, due to his name and physical appearance. This event shows the beginnings of social breakdown, and shows that conflict has already started, even before the plot has started.
One more example of minor conflict is the argument between Jack and Ralph over their work. Jack decides to go out hunting, but forgets about the signal fire, which burns out. While Jack is hunting, Ralph sees a ship in the horizon, and quickly looks at the signal fire. After finding that there is no signal fire, Ralph becomes extremely annoyed, and argues with Jack at his return. Jack does not realise the importance of the signal fire, as he selfishly rambles on about the pig he was hunting. “We need meat” Jack kept replying. As Ralph persisted his argument, Jack realised his mistake and took out his anger on Piggy. This arrogance and immaturity shown by Jack creates the beginning of destruction and the division of the group. Ralph and Jack begin to dislike each other more and more, and the idea of the boys co-operating is gone. This conflict helped lead to the downfall of Ralph’s authority, as Jack took control of the boys.
As the book progressed, these minor conflicts builded up to major problems for the boys, bringing the deaths of Piggy and Simon. The hatred and violence created by the minor conflicts are the most memorable events in the novel, showing that the evil side in human nature will always triumph over the good. The first example of a major conflict occurs when Ralph, Piggy and the twin Sam and Eric go to Castle Rock to acquire Piggy’s specs. When they arrive, Ralph and Jack immediately begin to argue over their morals, but Piggy quickly reminds Ralph of their mission. Jack and his tribe begin to dance wildly. Piggy tries to talk sense into them, but to no avail. He asks Jack’s tribe: “Which is better – to be a pack of painted niggers like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?” After Piggy’s cry for decency, Roger pushes a boulder off the side of a cliff, which hits Piggy and instantly kills him. As this happens, the conch (symbol of order and civilisation) breaks, ending all hope for the return of civilisation amongst the boys.
In conclusion, there are two different levels at which conflict operates in “Lord of the Flies” – minor conflict and major conflict. However, the minor conflicts were just a predicament of the major conflicts. Although conflict was evident throughout the novel, it did not take form of physical conflict. The conflicts were rather between the good and evil sides of human nature.