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Social and Emotional Collapse in Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye

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Essay title: Social and Emotional Collapse in Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye

Social and emotional collapse in Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye

Several characters in both Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye fall, as a result of a breach of social codes, emotional fatigue, or a combination of the two. Both novels can be seen as a social commentary, with each author depicting the all too effective power of society to destroy the individual. In Lord of the Flies, a group of adolescent boys seek to establish social order without adult authority, adamantly emphasizing their independence. Consequently, Golding shows that when we stop abiding by the rules, savagery overcomes civilization and deterioration of society ensues. Similarly, in The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger portrays the detrimental effects of alienation and lack of direction.

The idea of self-government and independence in The Lord of the Flies is paralleled with that of philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rousseau. In The Leviathan, Hobbes described the state of nature, where all individuals are naturally equal, and each person is free to do what is required for survival. In this state of nature, there were no laws or any governing ruler to enforce them. Hobbes proposed that individuals create a supreme power to impose on society and asserted that the people consented to abandon their natural rights of equality and give absolute power to a sovereign person or group, created by the people. For Golding, Jack Merridew was this sovereign figurehead. Jack decides to break off from Ralph’s society and make his own tribe, vehemently saying, “I’m not going to be a part of Ralph’s lot- I’m going off by myself. He can catch his own pigs. Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too”(Golding 127). This example of Jack’s rugged individualism can also be interpreted as Golding’s depiction of the freedom of capitalism. In sharp contrast, Rousseau emphasized collectivism, doing what is best for the general will of the people. Rousseau feared an egotistical subject who may decide that his personal interest should override the collective interest. Jack illustrates the potential damage an egoist can do to society, exemplifying Rousseau’s fear. According to Rousseau, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." This paradox can be seen through the chaos that ensues when the conch breaks. There is no source of order, thus the boys are metaphorically in “chains”, as they struggle to maintain some form of leadership and authority without adults. Golding conveys that their craving for independence resulted in a miserable failure

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