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Piven, J.S. (2011). Civilizing Massacre: Lord of the Flies As Parable of the Invention of Enemies, Violence, and Sacrifice. Free Associations, 12(1):35-61.

(2011). Free Associations, 12(1):35-61

Civilizing Massacre: Lord of the Flies As Parable of the Invention of Enemies, Violence, and Sacrifice

J. S. Piven, Ph.D.

Lord of the Flies is often interpreted as a dark but simplistic revelation of human cruelty. Beneath the veneer of civility lurk malice, savagery, and the will to slaughter. Placed on an island, without social controls, fear of punishment, or moral condemnation, naïve children begin to hunt one another, hurtling through the forest chanting mantras that glorify murder. Our true nature is unveiled, as our inherent brutality bursts forth in a torrent of savagery and merciless violence toward other human beings. Bereft of law and social agencies that render violence immoral, human beings become the violent paragons of animality hidden and rationalized by the shallow pretences of civilized morality. And yet Golding envisions something more sinister. For the children on the island are placid until they confront their isolation and dread. They begin to imagine monsters, don uniforms, and struggle to adopt the civilized regulations of society. Only then do the children demand order and obedience, and further, begin to invent rituals of sacrifice and murder. They worship death, impaling and erecting the bleeding head of a pig as testament to their dominion. Taking the vantage of sociological, psychological, historical, and theological perspectives, this article considers Lord of the Flies a deceptively simple parable on the sadism and bloodshed that are not merely animalistic instincts, but emerge with the dawn of consciousness and civilization. The parable illumines our own civilized propensities toward slaughter, sacrifice, and atrocity.

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