chapter  8
25 Pages

Conformity and Social Influence

It is in William Golding’s classic 1954 novel Lord of the Flies that some of the more subtle aspects of conformity are illustrated. A group of British schoolboys are marooned on a tropical island during a fictional nuclear war. There are no adults present, and the book documents the rapid decay of ‘civilized’ standards of conduct, the attempts by some of the boys to ensure conformity to these standards, and the ultimate degeneration of the group into warring factions and savagery. One of the boys, Maurice, kicks sand in the eye of a younger child:

Percival began to whimper with an eyeful of sand and Maurice hurried away. In his other life Maurice had received chastisement for filling a younger eye with sand. Now, though there was no parent to let fall a heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrong-doing. At the back of his mind formed the uncertain outlines of an excuse. He muttered something about a swim and broke into a trot.