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THE CONCEPT OF THE NOBLE SAVAGE IN LORD OF THE FLIES

Noble savage, in literature, is an idealized concept of uncivilized man, who


symbolizes the innate goodness of one not exposed to the corrupting influences of
civilization.
The glorification of the noble savage is a dominant theme in
the Romantic writings of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in the works of Jean-Jacques
Rousseau.
The concept of the noble savage, however, can be traced to ancient Greece, where
Homer, Pliny, and Xenophon idealized the Arcadians and other primitive groups, both real
and imagined. Later Roman writers such as Horace, Virgil, and Ovid gave comparable
treatment to the Scythians. From the 15th to the 19th centuries, the noble savage figured
prominently in popular travel accounts and appeared occasionally in English plays such
as John Drydens Conquest of Granada (1672), in which the term noble savage was first used,
and in Oroonoko (1696) by Thomas Southerne, based on Aphra Behns novel about a
dignified African prince enslaved in the British colony of Surinam.
(https://www.britannica.com/art/noble-savage)

Ter Ellingson analyses the myth of the noble savage, presents it differently from
others and highlights the fact that it may contravene human rights and human equality. In
European literature most noble savages appear as native Americans,Africans and Indians as
well. The Noble Savage indeed has a history, one grounded in the dual time points of
Lescarbot's invention of it in 1609 and Crawfurd's construction of the myth as we know it in
1859. ( Ter Ellingson, The myth of the noble savage)
The most sanguine view of human nature emerged in the work of Jean-Jacques
Rousseau , who argued, "above all we shall not conclude with Hobbes that just because he
has no idea of goodness, man must be naturally wicked; that he must be vicious because he
does not know virtue; . . . nor that by virtue of the right he reasonably claims to the things he
needs, he foolishly imagines himself to be the sole proprietor of the whole universe"
(Discourse on the Origin of Inequality ,1751). He believed that in a state of nature men are
essentially animals, and that they become fully human only by accepting and abiding by a
social contract. He looked upon the distant past -- the era preceding the formation of cities
and civilizations -- as halcyon days when men were more or less universally equal, and thus
untroubled by envy and greed. As a corollary to this perspective, Rousseau saw private
property, and the desire to acquire ever-more of it, as the root cause of human suffering.
(Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality)
From another point of view, the noble savage was a fiction, a literary device
that allowed social critics to invert European culture, to point out its flaws, and to suggest
ways it might be improved.

What made some savages noble was their rejection of the luxuries with which
Europeans made life more comfortable. The noble savage desired nothing beyond the
necessities of life, acquired from nature without work, and he subsisted on venison, fruit, and
acorns.
From the information above we can conclude that the concept of the noble
savage has its own history starting in ancient Greece, critics and even a philosophical point of
view because it refers to the pure inner spirit of humans untouched by negative factors.
However, William Golding uses the concept of the noble savage only to enrich
his philosophical and psychological ideas about the nature of humans. He doesnt exploit the
concept by using indigenous characters. British little children are representative for the
presence and the absence of the myth.
William Golding has the tendency to associate "primitive" and "savage" to
negative characteristics, and "civilization" and "Britain" to positive characteristics. He is
quite subtle in expressing the belief that civilized Britains are superior. The boys, even they
were British, they changed from civilized to savages, they also used face paint, totems and
chants.
The author of Lord of the Flies is concerned about the beast within us that is
dormant, but under favourable conditions it could break free threatening the peace, the
harmony, the law and rules of civilized societies.
In order to understand the usage of the noble savage in the novel, the themes and
motifs should be linked to it. The major and relevant themes for our topic are Civilization vs.
Savagery, Individualism vs Community, The nature of evil, Man vs. Nature, The loss of
innocence, Dehumanization of relationships.
In the novel we can also discuss about the presence of a so-called noble savage,
and about the absence of the noble savages.
In my opinion, Simon is the only noble savage, he is the symbol of natural
human goodness, untouched by negative corrupting factors.
The other characters are the opposite of the noble savage : Jack is symbol of
order, leadership and civilization, Roger is symbol of brutality and blood-lust, Jack is symbol
of savagery and desire for power.
In a world with no restrictions, rules and laws, the children free their true inner-
self, are concerned about power and leadership, release their primar instincts, act like savage
animals conducted by primordial insticts of cruelty,
A representative scene is from Chapter 3, where Simon escapes into nature,
away from the boys, like a noble savage who is connected to nature, he considers it a special
place and isn afraid of it. He needs to be alone, to enjoy the environment, to become one
with nature and to cherish every little detail of it.
Then he turned his back on this and walked into the forest with an air of purpose. [] He
picked his way up the scar, passed the great rock where Ralph had climbed on the first
morning, then turned off to his right among the trees. He walked with an accustomed tread
through the acres of fruit trees, where the least energetic could find an easy if unsatisfying
meal. Flower and fruit grew together on the same tree and everywhere was the scent of
ripeness and the booming of a million bees at pasture. Here the littluns who had run after him
caught up with him. They talked, cried out unintelligibly, lugged him toward the trees. Then,
amid the roar of bees in the afternoon sunlight, Simon found for them the fruit they could not
reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless,
outstretched hands. When he had satisfied them he paused and looked round. The littluns
watched him inscrutably over double handfuls of ripe fruit. Simon turned away from them
and went where the just perceptible path led him. Soon high jungle closed in. Tall trunks bore
unexpected pale flowers all the way up to the dark canopy where life went on clamorously.
The air here was dark too, and the creepers dropped their ropes like the rigging of foundered
ships. His feet left prints in the soft soil and the creepers shivered throughout their lengths
when he bumped them. He came at last to a place where more sunshine fell. Since they had
not so far to go for light the creepers had woven a great mat that hung at the side of an open
space in the jungle; for here a patch of rock came close to the surface and would not allow
more than little plants and ferns to grow. The whole space was walled with dark aromatic
bushes, and was a bowl of heat and light. A great tree, fallen across one corner, leaned
against the trees that still stood and a rapid climber flaunted red and yellow sprays right to the
top.
Another relevant scene is when Simon is afraid of the boys behaviour ,
considers it unappropriate, savage and aggressive. Their lust for killing and hunting is
opposite from Simons goodness and peaceful spirit.
A procession had appeared, far down among the pink stones that lay near the waters edge.
Some of the boys wore black caps but otherwise they were almost naked. They lifted sticks in
the air together whenever they came to an easy patch. They were chanting, something to do
with the bundle that the errant twins carried so carefully. Ralph picked out Jack easily, even
at that distance, tall, red-haired, and inevitably leading the procession. Simon looked now,
from Ralph to Jack, as he had looked from Ralph to the horizon, and what he saw seemed to
make him afraid. Ralph said nothing more, but waited while the procession came nearer. The
chant was audible but at that distance still wordless. Behind Jack walked the twins, carrying a
great stake on their shoulders. The gutted carcass of a pig swung from the stake, swinging
heavily as the twins toiled over the uneven ground. The pigs head hung down with gaping
neck and seemed to search for something on the ground. At last the words of the chant floated
up to them, across the bowl of blackened wood and ashes. Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill
her blood.
The boys cruelty is also depicted in this scene: Even when the vessel broke in
Simons nose and the blood gushed out they left him alone, preferring the pigs high flavor.
The climactic and dramatic moment depicting both the noble savage Simon and
the absence of the noble savage in the other boys is the scene when Simon is brutally killed
by the unconscious and delirious boys.
There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.
It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain.
The beast stumbled into the horseshoe. Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! The
blue-white scar was constant, the noise unendurable. Simon was crying out something about
a dead man on a hill. Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in! The sticks
fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the
center, its arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something
about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep
edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the
rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no
movements but the tearing of teeth and claws. []The body lifted a fraction of an inch from
the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop. Then it turned gently in
the water. [] Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver
shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simons dead body moved out toward the open
sea.
In my opinion, the noble savage is best represented in these 3 scenes, where
Simon is pictured as a spiritual human being, with no anger, hate or aggressive instincts, he
loves nature and disapproves the customs, rituals and the concerns of the other children, he
remains untouched by the evil beast.
Bibliography
1. www.britannica.com
2. Golding William, Lord of the Flies, E-book
3. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, translated by Maurice
Cranston, Harmondsworth, U.K., 1985.
4. Ter Ellingson, The myth of the noble savage, University of California Press,2001

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