25 March 2019
Trauma: A Cycle
Lord of the Flies by William Golding presents a story of 13 boys who crashed onto a deserted island. Over time, these children's personalities began to transform. The more separated and desperate the boys became, the more volatile their actions became. Being left alone and helpless on the island took a mental toll on the boys, similar to that of soldiers in WWII. This cycle of trauma can be seen in the real world by looking at the mental effects of WWII in soldiers suffering from PTSD.
When the boys landed on the island, they acted like they were fine being alone and separated from their parents. This can be seen with Piggy and Ralph in their first interactions when Ralph says, "Aren’t there any grown-ups at all?" to which Piggy replies "I don’t think so." (8, Golding). After this, Golding describes Ralph as having, “The delight of a new ambition” (8, Golding) overcome him. It’s almost as if Ralph had a fantasy of being independent from adults. This fantasy of being separated from authority figures and choosing a path at a young age can be also seen at the start and during WW2. In the article, “World War Two Veterans: 'The people who say they weren’t frightened are liars” Clifford Guard tells the story of how he enlisted into the army at the age of 15:
I went to New York, and I met a physician who asked me what I wanted to
do with my life. I said I’d like to become an American sailor, and he said,
‘... you’re not a citizen – but I can get you in the army.’(Buist, Erica. 2015)
While the boys in Lord of the Flies, such as Clifford Guard, did not ask to be separated from their parents, some saw their journeys in a positive light. For both young WW2 recruits and the children in Lord of the Flies, this positive outlook did not last long.
As any thoughtful person would realize, taking a young child out of the safety of their home and throwing them into the horrors of war is going to cause that child to go through many emotions and will affect them for a lifetime. These effects include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Gilbert Arbiso, for example, described his reaction to being shipped out with the Navy for the first time to Newsweek: “[I wanted to go home, I was home sick,] I cried all night. Some of the older fellas said, ‘Look, son. You can’t get out and can’t go home.’”
The same reactions can be seen with multiple boys in Lord of the Flies. After a couple of days on the island, fear starts to surround the boys. Distress is clearly shown in one of the meetings Ralph calls. “The littluns were no longer silent. They were reminded of their personal sorrows, and perhaps felt themselves to share in a sorrow that was universal. They began to cry in sympathy” (87, Golding). This dread does not just overtake the little children on the island though, it takes over the older characters who are supposed to be shown as the strong leaders of this island community. The most poignant scene demonstrating this is Ralph walking along the beach, thinking about life. “Pacing by the water. . .He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one's waking life was spent watching one's feet” (76, Golding). All three of these examples show another key piece to the cycle of trauma: acceptance. In other words, the truth of their situation is sinking in. Acceptance can manifest itself in several ways. Littluns and Gilbert Arbiso cried after realizing they were trapped on the island, while Ralph expressed what can be interpreted as pure shock.
Eventually, the kids in Lord of Flies complete the cycle of trauma they woke up on a deserted island separated from authority figures who can tell them what is right or wrong. The boys then emotionally spiraled out of control until they eventually killed people in their own group and burned down their island. They have all participated in or witnessed this destruction, which in an ideal world no child should ever have to witness. This separation and isolation is an eerily similar parallel to the experiences of WW2 veterans. Like the book’s characters, veterans also had to face the harsh question of whether their actions are moral. Many WW2 veterans faced the choice of whether to kill in order to survive the day. They also witnessed a raw, sometimes ugly, side of human nature that few in civilized society get to experience.
War the central theme in the book Lord of the Flies. Since the book was written only eight years after the end of World War 2, Golding most likely had this real-world event in mind. The author used little boys to represent how anyone could find themselves in the middle of chaos and conflict given the proper set of circumstances. The boys can also represent innocence, we possess before life gives us dilemmas, and traumatic events.
This essay analyzes the journey of the boys in Lord of the Flies while showing a comparison to the experience of combat soldiers in World War 2. The essay presents how both stranded schoolboys and the innocent army recruits start off innocent and unaware of what events will hit them. As time moves on, however, both become subjected to loneliness, sadness, and life or death situations, causing immense emotional trauma A.K.A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder..
Buist, Erica. “World War Two Veterans: 'The People Who Say They Weren't Frightened Are Liars.'” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 June 2015, www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/06/d-day-anniversary-veterans-remember-years-living-dangerously.
Edition, Newsweek Special. “World War Two Veterans Share Firsthand Accounts of the War.” Newsweek,
27 Mar. 2016, www.newsweek.com/soldiers-stories-325883.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Spark Publishing, 2014.
“War.” William Golding, www.william-golding.co.uk/explore-search/war.