Lord of the Flies

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The Weak and the Strong Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lord of the Flies, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon

Within the larger battle of civilization and savagery ravaging the boys's community on the island, Lord of the Flies also depicts in great detail the relationships and power dynamics between the boys. In particular, the novel shows how boys fight to belong and be respected by the other boys. The main way in which the boys seek this belonging and respect is to appear strong and powerful. And in order to appear strong and powerful, boys give in to the savage instinct to ignore, pick on, mock, or even physically abuse boys who are weaker than them. Over and over, Lord of the Flies shows instances where a boy who feels vulnerable will save himself by picking on a weaker boy.

The Weak and the Strong ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Weak and the Strong appears in each chapter of Lord of the Flies. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Weak and the Strong Quotes in Lord of the Flies

Below you will find the important quotes in Lord of the Flies related to the theme of The Weak and the Strong.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They'll come when they hear us—"
He beamed at Ralph.
"That was what you meant, didn't you? That's why you got the conch out of the water."
Related Characters: Piggy (speaker), Ralph
Related Symbols: The Conch Shell
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Piggy and Ralph find a strange object, a large sea shell called a conch. Ralph is immediately attracted to the conch because of its beautiful, patterned shape. Although he doesn't quite seem to know what to do with the shell, Piggy suggests using it to "call" other children on the island--Ralph can blow into the shell to make a loud sound.

The conch is one of the most famous symbols in the novel, and it's worth discussing a little here. One could say that the conch is a symbol of civilization at its best and most orderly: the conch is an almost religious symbol, designed to unite people together and make them respect one another. It's also worth noting that Piggy, not Ralph, is the one who first considers using the shell to call the other boys, and yet Piggy wants Ralph to blow the shell. Piggy, we could say, is the intellectual advisor--wise, intelligent, but not really a leader. Ralph, on the other hand, is the principled leader--not particularly brilliant, but smart enough to listen to his advisors.

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Chapter 4 Quotes
Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry — threw it to miss. The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounded five yards to Henry's right and fell in the water. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.
Related Characters: Roger, Henry
Related Symbols: Adults
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, we meet a boy named Roger, who becomes one of the novel's antagonists. Here Roger picks up a handful of stones and begins throwing them--he's just blowing off steam; in short, being a kid. Roger then notices a younger boy named Henry. Although Roger is throwing stones and trying to scare or intimidate Henry, he's careful not to actually hit Henry. As Golding makes clear, Roger doesn't try to hit Henry because he's been well-trained by civilization: all of society is built on the idea that people are supposed to not be able to hurt each other with impunity.

It's important to note that Golding never once mentions Roger's natural inclination to be respectful and kind. While some people argue that humans are naturally good and loving, Golding suggests just the opposite. As he sees it, the only thing than can keep human destructiveness in check is civilization: precisely the combination of "parents and school and policemen" that the passage mentions.

His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.
Related Characters: Jack
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Golding offers us a window into Jack's inner thoughts. Jack is a violent, bullying boy, who seems to savor any opportunity to dominate other people. In this passage, we learn that Jack enjoys hunting the pig--not because he wants to eat, but because he enjoys the feeling of dominating another being and taking away its life.

Jack's thoughts might seem violent or brutal, and yet they're an undeniable part of what it means to be a human being. In other words, Jack exemplifies the dangers of civilization. There will always be people like Jack leading society: people who pretend to be calm, rational leaders, but who in reality enjoy leadership because it allows them to control others. (It's worth remembering that Jack was a prefect at his school in England--it's easy to imagine him sadistically disciplining other students and enjoying every minute of it.)

Chapter 8 Quotes
The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her.
Related Characters: Jack
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jack engages in another hunt--one that's depicted in heavily sexualized language. Jack and his followers pursue a pig, but not just any pig--a sow (i.e., a female pig). By any rational measure, it's a bad idea for Jack to kill a sow--if the boys want to eat, then they should let the sow live to give birth to more pigs. But of course, Jack and his followers aren't entirely concerned with eating, or any other practical issue for that matter. They want to savor the feeling of murder.

Jack's killing is presented as a sexual act: he thrusts a phallic spear into the female pig, followed by a burst of bodily fluids, and finally, a tired, heavy "fulfillment." Golding, a Freudian, associates sex and aggression: they're two sides of the same savage, brutal, yet quintessentially human coin. In short, the scene exemplifies everything irrational and violent about human nature--everything that Ralph is trying, unsuccessfully, to eliminate from his island society.

Chapter 12 Quotes
What did it mean? A stick sharpened at both ends. What was there in that?
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker)
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Ralph prepares to be hunted down by Jack and his gang of boys. Shortly before he's to be hunted, Ralph crosses paths with Samneric, who have been forced to join Jack, but don't respect him at all. Samneric tell Ralph that Jack is sharpening a stick at both ends. Although Ralph has no idea what this means, it's suggested that Jack is planning to cut off Ralph's head and "sacrifice" it to the Beast, much as he did with the pig earlier in the novel.

As the passage suggests, Jack's society is a dark mirror-image of the one Ralph founded at the beginning of the novel. Where Ralph's society was based on reason, free speech, and practicality, Jack's society is based on murder, brutality, and bloodshed. And yet both societies "work" in the same way: they're organized around a central figure (Ralph, Jack), who's armed with a barrage of symbols (for Ralph, the conch; for Jack, the pig's head and Ralph's head). As Jack sees it, there is no right or wrong in the world. His society is based on one thing: power. Jack will hunt down Ralph and kill him to cement his power and create a new symbol of his power.

His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
Related Characters: Ralph, Piggy
Related Symbols: The Island, Fire, Adults
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of Lord of the Flies, the boys are faced with a surprising rescue. Confronted with a grown-up for the first time in weeks, the boys suddenly realize how far they've fallen. In no time at all, the boys have become bloodthirsty murderers, savoring murder and violence of all kinds. The evidence of their barbarism is visible everywhere--their island itself is in ruins, burning to ashes by fire.

Confronted with the misery of his situation, Ralph has no choice but to cry. He can see very clearly what has gone wrong: Piggy has been killed; his peers have tried to murder him, etc. But Ralph goes further, weeping for the general savagery of humankind. The quotation is important, then, because Golding uses it to make explicit what he'd previously implied: the children's experiences on the island are a metaphor for humanity itself. If innocent, "pure" children, left to their own devices, are capable of murdering each other, then humanity as a whole is hopelessly destructive, too. The fact that children are capable of such destruction suggests that there is always innate evil in the human soul--the only thing that can save the human race from its own "heart of darkness" is civilization, grounded in reason, law, and respect.