Lord of the Flies

Organizational Behavior of the Individual vs. Pack

By: Paskalina Bourbon, Lilian Kao and Clint Blackwell


The Clan-like behavior of the boys on the Island prevents any long term stability of political organization. This tribal behavior is driven by the desire of the Individual to be secure and to pursue their own self interest.

“He wanted to explain how people were never quite what you thought they were.” (Golding, 54)

The Individual

Two Basic Types of People: Dominant / Submissive

Activity: Who is the Leader?


"Something deep in Ralph spoke for him. 'I'm chief, I'll go. Don't argue.'" (Golding, 104)


"'I voted [Ralph] for chief. He's the only one who ever got anything done. So now you speak, Ralph, and tell us what." (Golding, 170)

Important to note: Dominant people also want to be safe, but are not able to accept another person's definition of what is safe.

Self Interest: A concern for one's personal advantage and well-being.

Self-interest does not necessarily lead to demise.

Instead, what leads to the demise of organizational structures are the natural negative qualities all people have.

Ex: Pettiness, weakness, desire to be accepted.

These qualities lead to the disintegration of political stability.

These inherent weaknesses in humans make it impossible to moralize politics.

Self-interest, while sometimes leading to unsolvable conflict, can lead to greatness and success.

“I ought to be chief,” said Jack with simple arrogance, “because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.” (Golding, 22)

From the beginning, Jack was arrogant and simple minded. He disrupts the social order Ralph had established. He wanted power simply for the heck of it, and did not care about the long term consequences of his actions. A representation of Anarchy. Though Jack precipitated many conflicts between the boys those conflicts arose because of the inherent weaknesses in people.

“Irritably Ralph shook himself. This was all Jack’s fault. ‘Course I am. But we’re still being fools.’ … Ralph heard the mockery and hated Jack. The sting of ashes in his eyes, tiredness, fear, enraged him.” (Golding, 121)

Ralph was frustrated at the endless pettiness of those around him. He was driven to the point in which he was not able to think clearly because of the structures falling around him. He represents the drive for order and democracy. An example of successful perseverance of self interest. (He wanted the rescue that came with the signal fire, but this was also good for everyone else.)

Analogy: Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand

Clarification X:

So by self-interest, we do not really mean concern for one's self, we mean concern for one's position within a community. In other words, (after basic concerns) the concern for appearances. This is another example of confused priorities that lead to corrupt and worthless political systems.

The Organizational Structures of the Pack

"'I gave you food,' said Jack, 'and my hunters will protect you from the beast. Who will join my tribe?'" (Golding, 150)

Pack Ethos:

When people are arranged in mobs or packs, minor incedents become of the upmost importance. People are kept in check by eachother. The worst thing that can happen to someone in a pack is rejection. This leads to people encouraging each other to do bad things in order to fit into the group and be safe. This intense context of fear leads to people refusing to listen to others. They will focus on the way people say things, not why or what they are saying. They will do other petty things in order to assert themselves and undermine others. Within a level of a hierarchy, another drama plays out.

Lord of the Flies as a Parable:

Lord of the Flies incorporates symbolism and many metaphors to portray life lessons. This story contains a multitude of morals that can be interpreted many different ways.

  • Violence
  • Authority and hierarchy
  • Hypocritical nature of humans
  • Survival of the fittest
  • Savage capability of everyone
  • Failure of organization

The beast represents the failings in the boys. The beast is inseparable from the boys.

"Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!" (Golding 171)

Hierarchical separations are relative. This means that real divisions among people are superficial because in the end, humans will behave in order to preserve their position in their community regardless of the cost.

Note: Like everything there are exceptions. But Golding wasn't really talking about exceptions, he was talking about a general human condition that guides the way people act.

"Ralph sat on a fallen trunk, his left side to the sun. On his right were most of the choir; on his left the larger boys who had not known each other before the evacuation; before him small children squatted in the grass." (Golding, 22)

The boys had already naturally organized themselves into groups, relative to the others. Ralph's presence gives him authority, but really there is no difference between him and the other boys, (at least at first).

"They obeyed the summons of the conch, partly because Ralph blew it, and he was big enough to be a link with the adult world of authority...” (Golding, 50)

Regardless of the qualifications Ralph has for authority, he fulfills the image, and therefore the appearance of authority, so it is given to him. People value images more than truth. This again leads to ineffectual and corrupt governmental Structures.

"'We'll have rules!' he [Jack] cried excitedly. 'Lots of rules!'" (Golding, 33)

"But Jack was shouting against him. 'Bollocks to the rules! We're strong - we hunt!'" (Golding, 91)

Along with being hypocritical, Jack is merely doing whatever he can to keep up appearances.

Human Nature Doesn't Change

Discussion Questions

1. How does the organizational failure in Lord of the Flies compare to similar situations in other forms of literature? What about in Animal Farm?
2. How does love change the organizational behavior of groups? How is the individual redefined in terms of these relationships?
3. What was Golding saying about the difference between the way adults organize themselves and kids organize themselves? is there a difference?
4. Do the organizational structures in your classes correlate with the organizational structures in real life? How do the everyday hierarchies change with the presence of a teacher or an adult?
5. How do the organizational structures of governments in history compare to the current organizational structures? Are these structures fundamentally or superficially different? What kind of levels of organization exist and how do these levels fit within each other?


Golding, William. Lord of the flies. New York: Coward-McCann, 1962. Print.