William Goulding’s novel, Lord of the Flies has not only been a classic piece of literature that is studied and admired throughout both the literary and academic world. The fascinating story of a group of young boys stranded on an island after their plane crashes was also produced into a film in 1963 by director Peter Brook, and then remade in 1990 by director Harry Hook. After observing the 1990 version of the film I was able to capture numerous core concepts and theories of sociology that were applicable to the events unfolding among the characters of the story. The movie/story have famously been referred to as a display of the cruel and malicious nature of human being that is innate and likely to be released when societal rules and boundaries are removed.
Evidence of the necessity of Functionalism is seen when the horrors and chaos of life occur among these group of boys when removed from the organized civilized bounds of society. Without the rules and regulations that law and social order bring, the dysfunctional horrors that occur among the boys is symbolic of the chaos that an anarchistic lifestyle would create. Therefore the Theory of Functionalism is confirmed as an important aspect of life to follow in order to have a workable stable society. Another point that I noticed was that Ralph, was aiming to develop an organized system to slowly adapt the boys’ lives on the island to remain as stable as possible through mimicking what he knew of social order; however the selfish and greedy boy Jack forced immediate changes for his agenda, which clearly did not end well. Again, based on the Theory of Functionalism slow change versus forced fast change are not successful for a stable and functional society.
The Conflict Theory is also used in the imbalance of power that existed among the older boys and the younger boys. The younger group was symbolic of the less fortunate subordinate members of society who are forced to abide by the demands of the powerful members of society, in this case the older boys. The group in power took advantage of their position in how life would be led on the island. This is a reality that can be seen among the socio-economic gap in the United States as well as primarily throughout the world.
So much symbolism is present in the movie/story of the Lord of the Flies, through the conch shell, the pig’s head, the signal fire, and others, which is a depiction of the Symbolic Interactionism of Sociology. Each of these ‘symbols’ create a meaning for the group of boys as they develop the context of their life on the island. For example, the conch shell is used for creating civility among the boys during their gathering to organize and discuss what do to. It is the one piece that stands for the organized civilization that the boys had known in their lives prior to this crash on the island. When the conch shell is destroyed, any semblance of peace and civility are lost with it.
Utilitarianism is the final theory of sociology I will discuss in regard to the film Lord of the Rings. What begins as an attempt by Ralph to create order and workability among the group, which is intended to be in the best interests of every one of the boys is destroyed by Jack. Jack is unable to see the benefit for himself in Ralph’s leadership, therefore detracting from the plans implemented by Ralph. The lack of social order becomes the cost of Jack’s greed and motivation to feel powerful, leaving the logical and best practices suggested by Ralph by the wayside. Complete disarray becomes the price that is paid when the greatest good for the group is lost by the self-centered obsession of Jack to rule over the group of boys.
The movie does a fantastic job of taking the sociological concepts and delivering them in the exaggerated and dramatic way that fictional story is able to do. It is not a surprise that this story and movie are highly studied in the academic world for the valuable content encompassing the creation of author William Golding.
Golding, W., & Epstein, E. L. (1954). Lord of the flies: A novel. New York: Perigee.
Lord of the Flies. Dir. Harry Hook. Polygram Video, 1994.