June 10, 2005

Lord of the Flies: The Freedom of the Mask

An essay for English:

Red, brown, green, blue, colors that surround us everyday, yet somehow the human fascination of applying them to their face makes them seem all the more fun, and interesting. This newfound interest could even leak through to the mind beneath, giving way to a whole new person. In his 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding illustrated this idea in a way that captured the hearts of many and led the story to fame, concocting a reality that had since resided only in the nightmares of children. Inventing a world in which masks of paint were not a fun thing you got at a fair, but a living horror and uncontrollable enemy. Masks are common in our world. They are worn on holidays and to parties. Nearly everyone can recognize at least on super hero or villain who hid behind a mask. These allow people to act as something they are not, producing a faux freedom. Freedom that once the mask is applied, can allow one to do whatever they please. William Golding uses the mask for the same purpose, in creating freedom. To him the mask induces freedom from responsibility, appropriate behavior and ordinary human kindness.
Though a mask may just be a paper cut out, a molded piece of plastic, or in the Lord of the Flies, a painted face, they all have the same ability to create a feeling of freedom from responsibility. They may make they wearer feel more important or powerful and too good for work, leading to a lack of fulfillment of their responsibility. This belief in freedom from responsibility is best exemplified by Jack, the first one on the island to begin wearing a mask. He used a mask because he felt it gave him power and skill, giving him reason to take up hunting as a prime responsibility, opposed to keeping the fire going. In their conversation on page 69-70 (after the fire had gone out), Jack showed little care for the fire. When Ralph first told Jack that the fire had gone out the book states that, “Jack checked [the fire], vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him.” Later as Ralph again repeats the problem to Jack he dismisses it the issue as if he were in charge by saying that “The fire’s only been out for an hour of two. We can light up again-” This ordeal later led to the breaking of Jack and Ralph’s friendship and the destruction of the original tribe. In this instance the face paint gave Jack the strength to stand up to the chief and shun the responsibilities that he had “signed up” for, so to speak.
The painted masks also speared to free the members of the tribe from what could be considered as appropriate behavior. This can include the lack of self discipline in fulfilling assigned tasks as well as disobeying rules and the violent nature adopted in hunting. In spite of the fact that when the boys landed on the island they were naturally freed from all of the laws of the adult world, they still came together to form a tribe. Though some saw this as an important step, such as Ralph, Piggy, Simon and somewhat Jack, many just viewed it as a game to be played whenever they pleased. After Jack began wearing face paint, many of the younger children viewed him as a chief and wanted to follow him over Ralph. As they began following him he, hiding behind the mask, influenced them to do things that they would normally consider wrong, such as adopting such a violent nature when hunting. In hunting they fulfilled their basic need for meat, but they quickly began centering their lives around it, and almost worshiping the hunt through dance and reenactments. This led them to create a tribe centered on their natural yearning for violence and murder, a desire that even Ralph had felt from time to time. During his first “dance” (page 115) “Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.” He, just like everybody else had gotten caught up in the action of the moment, but unlike everyone else, he regained his senses. The masked leader, Jack, couldn’t fool him in to believing something so wrong. He didn’t have a mask to hide his misdeeds behind, but he faced his problems in a more mature manner.
As we saw by Jack’s character, the mask also help him exempt from all ideals of human kindness. Though he wasn’t always particularly murderous, he often displayed cruelty towards Piggy. Despite the natural instinct to challenge opponents by picking out their weakness, Jack picked on everything about Piggy including his moral beliefs. With an exceeding malice and spite, Jack shoved Piggy causing his “specs” the break, thus handicapping him for the rest of the story. All over the course of the story, Jack shows hatred to Piggy by his speech as well. Whenever Piggy begins to talk, having the conch, Jack interrupts him, or tells him to stop talking, but until he wore the mask he had never actually hurt Piggy. When he finally pushed Piggy he didn’t apologize, but continued to further mock Piggy, when he “made a move toward Piggy…[and] mimicked the whine and scramble by saying, ‘Jus’ you wait-yah!’” By doing this, Jack causes all of the younger hunters to laugh, giving him even more power over them all because of the new power that the mask gave him, by allowing him to be cruel and unkind.
The mask is one of the most powerful symbols in Lord of the Flies. It symbolizes freedom from all of civilization’s measures, violence and hatred. However, it also represents leadership, and the new society in which the boys have made for themselves, based on violence and the nature of the human soul being free for the first time in these children’s lives. Though the mask makes many of the boys feel free, they only continue to lower themselves into a pit of regret, destroying everything they have worked for and hurting others who they could formerly trust.

1 comment:

*modest*Musl!mah* said...

wow, amazing blog! keep it goin! i uv tha fact that ure a Harry potter fan, (thats the impression i got anyway). oh and nice review, interestin 2 read, enjoyed readin it!
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just a passer by!