Spectacles of Wisdom: a Mediator of Civilization and Savagery Essay example

Submitted By laurenlin
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Spectacles of Wisdom: a Mediator of Civilization and Savagery
In fairy tales and movies, the good guy always triumphs over evil—however, in reality this is rarely the case; in fact, in the real world, there is rarely a distinct line between good and evil. There is only a battle between civilized and savage behavior, ultimately ending with the destruction of both sides through pointless strife. The opposing groups fight each other through attack and sabotage, and eventually, they doom both sides by destroying the environment to the point where it can no longer sustain human life. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding points out the conflict between civilization and savagery by describing the problems faced by a group of stranded boys on a deserted island. They attempt to establish a government, but differences in priorities tear the group apart into tribes of proper and savage boys until in the end, they release a fire that tears through the forest, thus cutting off their food supply of fruits. Throughout this conflict, Piggy’s glasses symbolize wisdom and logic as he attempts, but ultimately fails, to restore order in the midst of a dystopian island. Golding demonstrates this battle through the glasses’ initial use to start a fire, their shattering in a battle, and their ultimate theft by Jack’s wild tribe.
Golding shows the power of wisdom in the struggle between civilized and savage behavior when the glasses are used to start a signal fire, which grows into an unstoppable blaze. The mob of boys, desperate for rescue, tries to create a fire to call attention to the island from passing ships. Jack has an idea to use Piggy’s spectacles as burning glasses, and Piggy is surrounded before he can back away. In an attempt to defend himself, Piggy exclaims: “‘Here–let me go!’ His voice rose to a shriek of terror as Jack snatched the glasses off his face. ‘Mind out! Give ’em back! I can hardly see! You’ll break the conch!’” (Golding 40). Piggy understands the potential danger that knowledge poses when possesses by the wrong hands, such as the knowledge that the glasses are capable of starting a fire, so he attempts to prevent the boys from taking his glasses. While protecting knowledge, he also protects power, which is represented by the conch, in order to maintain peace amongst the boys. However, Piggy is overpowered and “The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly… Beneath the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame” (44). Piggy fails to keep the glasses from the boys and in doing so, allows them to release a fire that none of them can stop. Like an idea conceived from wisdom, the fire is unstoppable once released until it burns out and dies away. This child of wisdom, the fire, is powerful and consumes all it encounters until it has nothing left to burn, similar to how an idea is impossible to be rid of once conceived until its owner loses interest. Unfortunately, the island is not the only victim of the ravaging fire, which Piggy realizes when he gasps in horror, “’That little ‘un… him with the mark on his face, I don’t see him. Where is he now?’”(46). Not only did the boys lose control of the situation, but they have lost control of one of their own due to a mismanaged fire, or idea. However, despite this early encounter with the danger of knowledge, the boys do not respect it nor do they respect the owner of it, Piggy.
Knowledge and wisdom are portrayed by Golding to be dominant in one character: Piggy, the wearer of the spectacles. However, because Piggy does not have an ideal appearance in this dystopian environment in which physical appearances hold priority over inner qualities, he is disrespected and his ideas are often rejected. When Ralph meets Piggy, “[Piggy] put on his glasses, waded away from Ralph, and crouched among the tangled foliage. ‘I’ll be out again in just a minute—’Ralph disentangled himself cautiously and stole