Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the books in question
Now for the purposes of this website, we will be comparing Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Now I know what you're thinking...
Animal Farm is a thinly veiled metaphor for the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, using farm animals. Lord of the Flies is a book about kids becoming murderous savages after crashing on a deserted island. How could these two books possibly compare? Well, you would be surprised.
Let's start with themes shall we?
The over-arching theme of Lord of the Flies is Civilization vs Savagery, and Animal Farm's main theme is the Corruption of Noble Ideals. On the surface, these two themes are pretty different, but how about we dig a little deeper.
Within each main theme is a subset of themes for each book. Lord of the Flies deals with civilization vs savagery, but also with the idea that absolute power corrupts, the nature of evil, and how an individual fits into a society.
Animal Farm is centered around the corruption of even the noblest of intentions, but also deals with a struggle for power, and social classification.
Let's begin with the theme of power. In each book, there is an obvious power struggle. Lord of the Flies pits Jack against Ralph, while Animal Farm pits the pigs Napoleon and Snowball against each other. In the end of each book, it's the character who took his power and twisted it that "wins". Jack has convinced all the inhabitants of the island to join his side, and he controls them with fear. Napoleon has taken control of the farm, and he too, controls the other animals with fear.
Beyond the themes listed above, the two books share another common theme, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".
In Lord of the Flies, the boys start out trying their darnedest to retain some level of civility. They maintain a fire, build shelters, and hunt food, all in an effort to keep this sense of civilization while they wait to be rescued. Unfortunately all of these plans go downhill fast. The fire goes out, the shelter building is interrupted by the boys' desire to relax and have fun, and their pig hunting endeavors turn in a more "Most Dangerous Game" direction. They had only the best intentions, but their lack of structure caused their plans to become derailed.
A very similar thing happens in Animal Farm. The animals want only to be treated as equals to their human counterparts. This leads to the development of a new animal society. The humans are driven off the farm, and the animals create "Animalism", the most important commandment of which being "All animals are equal". Throughout the book, the tenants are changed and manipulated, until the tenant which was once so important has been rewritten as "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". This proves once again, in conjuncture with Lord of the Flies, that the best laid plans, however noble the intentions, will often go awry.
How's about I throw some symbols your way.
Fire is a big symbol in Lord of the Flies. Early in the novel it represents safety and civilization. However, as the book progresses, the fire comes to symbolize the power the Hunters have over everybody else, as they use their brute force to take it.
Similarly, the whip which appears towards the end of Animal Farm represents Napoleon's control over the other animals.
In Animal Farm, the animals write their commandments on the side of the barn at their farm. These commandments are the counterpart to the conch shell in Lord of the Flies.
The conch represents order. When it is smashed at the end of the book, it is symbolic of the boys descending into a state of total chaos and anarchy. The commandments too are a symbol of order. When they are changed into their final versions at the end of the novel, they don't represent chaos however, but rather the opposite. They become symbolic of the oppressive nature of Napoleon's rule. The conch is freedom, even though it is freedom through chaos, and the commandments are control and oppression.
And now, allow me to throw all my cards on the table and discuss social relevance.
Animal Farm was published in 1945, just after WWII, and is very clearly meant to be an allegory to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Orwell wrote it to express how easy it was to spread communist propaganda and to expose Stalin's corruption of socialist ideals.
Lord of the Flies was published in 1954, nearly ten years after Animal Farm. It's purpose was to show what happens when you try to reconcile human impulses with social norms in a basic state of nature.
Both books created waves when they were published, but what social relevance do they have now? To find that answer, we need to revisit themes, specifically their themes on power.
Now, like I said before, both novels deal with the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and underneath Lord Acton's quote I mentioned Donald Trump. I was mostly kidding at the time, but then I got to thinking about it. Don't worry though, this isn't going to become a commentary on the current political climate in the United States.
By analyzing the types of leaders are present in these novels, and how they use and abuse their power we can better understand how easy it is for corrupt leaders to rise to power. Many leaders are like Jack and Napoleon, leaders who coast on the influence of the ones who came before and maintain their power through fear, intimidation, and violence. Then there are others like Snowball and Ralph, the ones who show actual leadership qualities, and yet are denied the power they clearly deserve.
The leaders like Ralph and Snowball stood no chance against their tougher and more intimidating counterparts. They simply aren't strong enough. The same is true in the real world. It's the little guy vs the big guy out there, and if we can't learn to use brains against brawn, we're going to end up living in an oppressive socialist government ruled by teenage boys and pigs with violent tendencies.