Lord of the Flies
The boys are rescued! After weeks (months?) on the unnamed island Jack, Ralph and the rest of the gang are unceremoniously plucked from hell by a nondescript British naval officer who, for all intents and purposes, completely ignores the traumas the boys have endured. The question hovers over the boys after their rescue: how will they heal? How are these boys to heal into healthy, normal men after devolving into savages?
Golding’s novel remains quiet on this subject.
This is not to say that the novel doesn’t answer that question. Instead, the book makes a statement by, in fact, remaining silent—dumb—as Golding puts it, when it comes to the healing of these children; when it comes to ushering these traumatized children into the fraternity of men (and Man).
After Ralph eagerly identifies himself as the “boss” of the island, the naval officer interrogates him. The man asks:
“Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?”
“Only two. And they’ve gone.”
The officer leaned down and looked closely at Ralph.
Ralph nodded again. Behind him, the whole island was shuddering with flame. The officer knew, as a rule, when people were telling the truth. He whistled softly.
The officer’s whistle is a restrained, non-linguistic, emotive, comment at the news of two childrens’ deaths. It’s not a response wherein the officer actually engages with Ralph. Instead, the whistle creates emotional distance between the officer and Ralph through judgement, shame, and silence.
Images of silence continue on through the end of the book. Percival Wemys Madison comes up short when trying to remember his name. Ralph nods often, but speaks sparsely. And, finally when “great, shuddering spasms of grief [seem] to wrench [Ralph’s] whole body” and the other boys begin “to shake and sob, too” the officer turns away to “give them time to pull themselves together.” At the precise moment the boys need a male mentor to navigate (the Latin root of that word being navis or “ship”) their sorrow and grief they are, again, left alone.
The journey into manhood is a lonely and silent one. Without a guide most boys are lost; to violence; to grief; to the widening gyres of oppressive institutions and ideologies. And worse yet, it seems those men who have survived the gauntlet have come out the other end none the wiser. In the end, this silence seems to say: every man is an island unto himself.
Note: This one uses a student designed thesis as it's core.
The greatest power made available through language is the power of definition. Defining does not only denote what a thing is, but also what it is not. Thus, the act of defining something is the act, also, of limitation.
Anthem by Ayn Rand tells the story of a society so held in the thrall of communism that they only define themselves in the collective sense, going so far as to have purged themselves of every remnant of individuality, expunging even the word “I”. The reason the society within Anthem does not allow their citizens to say “I/me” is because it strips their citizens of the power of self-definition.
When Equality 7-2521, who has discovered electricity within the depths of the earth, approaches The World Council of Scholars with an exhibition of the newfound power the scholars react with indignation: “… we have much to say to a wretch who have broken all the laws and who boast of their infamy!” Equality is taken aback as he had thought his announcement would be greeted with cheers.
In the moments after Equality 7-2521 addresses the council Collective 0-0009 leads the attack. He does so not by claiming the invention is a fraud—that would be impossible to do so since it was just shown by Equality to work—but, he attacks it by redefining what the invention is. According to Collective 0-0009’s redefinition Equality did not discover “the power of the sky” as Equality earlier proclaimed; he did not, “give [the council] the key to the earth” as Equality previously trumpeted; instead, Equality 7-2521 engaged in the breaking of laws and the boasting of infamy. Due to this redefinition, Collective 0-0009 does not need to negate any scientific discovery since, through the defining power of language, no scientific discovery has been made. Equality has not acted “scientifically.” He has acted “illegally.” In this way, the collective society, yet again, strips its citizens of power by defining away the very power they wield: the power to define anything, including themselves.
Of Mice and Men
In Of Mice and Men the farmhands live communally. They share bunks, share their work space, they even, at the local cat house, share women. Community amongst the men is synonymous with sharing communal space(s). This is compounded by the fact that the men own nothing in the environments in which they exist save the trinkets on the shelves above their beds. This collective exists, in part, from a managerial vantage, to quell the workers’ self-interest—in short, to inscribe in the farmhands’ thoughts that they are in this together; that they are equals. However, Crooks’ position, as the only black man on the farm, complicates and threatens the very notion of sharing [space(s)].
When Crooks is around, he inverts the notion of shared space by creating a struggle for ownership between the farmhands and himself. This is highlighted when Carlson enters the bunk frustrated and complains:
“Jesus, how that nigger can pitch shoes.”“He’s plenty good,” said Slim.
“Damn right he is,” said Carlson. “He don’t give nobody else a chance to win—“ He stopped and sniffed the air… “God awmighty, that dog stinks. Get him outta here, Candy!” (44)
Spurred on by the racial inequality that is his daily existence, Crooks challenges the status quo by disallowing a sharing of the horseshoe pit. So ingrained is the notion of shared space within Carlson that he is upset that Crooks doesn’t let “nobody else” win. However, Crooks, infuriated by the “separate but equal” space he is allowed, is not interested in community—he is interested in carving out a space on the farm for himself not one that has been doled out to him by the management.
Crooks acts as a destabilizing force amongst the white workers, as well. While the white farmhands are content sharing everything that sustains them (food, shelter, work, women etc.) Crooks not only steals from the community and keeps what he takes for himself—even the name “Crooks” alludes to this notion—but he intimates the notion of challenging ownership within his white counterparts highlighted by the fact that immediately after Crooks challenges the ownership of the horseshoe pit Carlson challenges the notion of Candy’s ownership of his dog.