Analysis of the Lord of the Flies with Sigmund Freud’s Ideas

The Lord of the Flies through the Freudian lenses.

Authoritative figures uphold laws and morals of a civilization. In the novel The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, children are dropped off on a deserted island without any authority. While the children start off well, disaster soon occurs and they lose their inhibitions taught by society. By analyzing the story under the Freudian lens, it can be seen that without authority or a dominant ego, civilization breaks down.

Sigmund Freud, developed a way of thinking that broke down the mind into the id, ego, and super ego. The id represented the instinctual desires that required immediate satisfaction, without contemplating effects of said action. In the novel, Jack represents the id. This can be first seen when Jack goes off to hunt and lets the fire go out. He tells Ralph how his hunters along with himself killed a pig, and how “There was lashings of blood” (69-70). While this satisfied Jacks immediate desire to kill and hunt for meat, it led to the fire going out. Had the fire not gone out, the passing ship may have seen the signal and rescued the children. Jacks connection to id is also seen when the boys are having a meeting to discuss whether or not there is a beast or ghost on the island. Jack had a desire for power and challenged the rule of the conch and Ralph’s rule to try to gain power, completely ignoring the goal of the meeting, to calm the little ones down (91). Another strike to Ralph’s power was after the two groups split up and Ralph’s group goes up to eat with Jack’s group. Jack says, “Who’ll join my tribe and have fun?” (150). Jack just wants immediate satisfaction in his quest for power, not realizing that Ralph is the better leader. It is clear that Jack represents the id, over coming Ralph, the ego, and Piggy, the super ego, with the lack of authority. This proves that without authority or a dominant ego, civilization breaks down.

Sigmund Freud defined super ego as, “An unconscious screening-mechanism which seeks to limit the blind pleasure seeking drives of the id by the imposition of restrictive rules”. In The Lord of the Flies, Piggy represents the super ego. When the boys first arrive on the island, Piggy tells Ralph to call a meeting to get organized by blowing the conch. Piggy reveals that he does not know how to blow one because, “My auntie wouldn’t let me on account of my asthma” (16). This shows that he believes in the rules taught by society. Piggy’s relationship to the super ego can also be seen during the first effort to create a fire when, while holding the conch, Piggy says, “I got the conch…You let me speak” (42). The conch, equal to hand-raising in grade school, represent order to Piggy. Order that was taught by parents, teachers, and others in authority. Order that combats the id’s desires to speak whenever one pleases. Therefore, when Piggy sticks up for the rules he believes in, challenging the id, Jack, he is showing how he represents the super ego. Finally, after the boys lost control of the fire, Piggy says, “That little’ un that had a mark on his face-where is- he now? I tell you I don’t see him…-where is he now?” (46-47). Piggy attempts to stand up and declare everyone wrong for letting the fire get so out of hand that they lost one of the children. This conflicts with the id’s desire to build a huge fire by deeming it poor judgment. Freud always said that a good balance between the id and super ego leads to a healthy psyche, which is the case in the novel, until Piggy is killed and the id becomes dominant, leading to dysfunction. Due to the face Piggy represent the rules taught by authority, when he is killed and the boys lose control, it shows that a lack of authority and a dominant ego leads to the ruin of civilization.

The last aspect to Freud’s theory was the idea of the ego, the healthy balance between the id’s desires and the super ego’s moderation. In the novel, Ralph represents the ego. When the choir boys first kill a pig, letting the fire go out, Ralph says that Jack let the fire out, even though it was his responsibility, which let to a ship passing by (69-70). This shows that he is representative of the ego. Not completely one minded like Piggy, but Ralph does not hesitate to chastise Jack for letting the fire go out. Another time he balances between the id and the super ego is when the council is asking Ralph to step down as chief and he says, “I ought to give up being chief. Hear “em” (93). This shows he is the ego. Where the super ego would have immediately stepped down, and the id immediately shot down any rebellions, Ralph ponders what is best for the group, making him a clear ego. A third time this connection is shown is when Ralph goes back to get Piggy”s glasses from jack and says, “I’ve come to see about the fire… and Piggy’s specs.” (176). This shows he is balancing between Piggy, who would never have the audacity to confront Jack, and also balancing between Jack, who would never have tired to get someone’s glasses back. This is the last time Ralph holds his ego status, the correct balance between id and super ego, because after this moment, Piggy is killed and Ralph is hunted down by Jack. With out Ralph, or the ego, in control, Jack, the id, becomes dominant which leads to dysfunction. This proves that without authority, or a correct balance between the id and super ego, civilization breaks down.

Civilization breaks down without the presence of an authority figure, or a dominant ego. Without any natural leaders, Ralph takes command, and when he, the ego, is gradually loses power, there is a gradual shift to mayhem. Therefore, when seen through the Freudian lens, it is clear that civilization can only stand strong, with the presence of a dominant ego and authoritative figures.

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16 Comments
  1. j to the a to the k to the e
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Yes!!!!!!

  2. f to the u to the c to the k to the YOU
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    this sucks. the grammar, organization and conventions are terrible!

  3. Posted November 17, 2009 at 12:29 am

    very helpful, spank you very much! this assisted me in writing a paper on this very topic. no copyright infringement, don’t worry, haha. thhhhhhanks!

  4. Posted January 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    thanks you helped me write a paper too

  5. Farce of Wit
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    While this gave me some ideas as to which scenes I could look to, I must agree with the individual three posts up from myself: the grammar, organization, and conventions are wretched. Thanks, but you really ought to learn to write before you go publishing articles to the Internet.

  6. The BBB
    Posted June 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    It was helpful but I actually disagree.
    It seems to me that Ralph represented the Superego and Piggy represented the Ego.

  7. Posted July 24, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Hey guys, thanks for your input!

    I actually wrote this article as a high school freshman, so take it with a grain of salt. I posted it mearly for other students to get some basic ideas.

    But now that you mention it, it might be time for a revision

  8. boo
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    great commentary helped very much

  9. Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    @ Alex Donelly
    you spelled “merely” wrong. I am a freshman and looks like I still have better spelling than you.

  10. Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    @ Merher

    Please see my comment above, I wrote this as a high school freshman myself; I plan to rewrite a bunch this summer

    While we’re at it, you spelled my name wrong as well :)

  11. Nikki
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    @ Alex Donnelly

    This is a great article, it helped me find scenes and quotes that I would not have been able to find for my term paper. I’m citing your article in my paper :)

  12. Posted October 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    @ Alex
    what highschool did you go to? Hopefully thats not too personal but I was just wondering why two people who, i am assuming, go/went to different high schools are writing on the same subject

  13. Kermit
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    who cares what his grammar was. he had great ideas..idiots today

  14. e
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Can it be argues that Simon is the superego while ralph and piggy together form the ego?

  15. Posted December 12, 2012 at 11:37 am

    i hate books

  16. Sam
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks for this explanation but I have a simple remark : there is a difference between saying Jack symbolizes the id and saying the dominant mechanism in jack is the id because we consider a shift in the psychological state: from the start the dominant mechanism was the ego but then the deep desires began to float on the surface(Jack) and the same thing for the others ..

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