Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Poor Piggy

Proof, if any were needed, that the obesity crisis is a grave health issue.

Here we see the consequences of being overweight. Not only are you vulnerable to psychopaths levering massive rocks down at you, but you don't even get a decent death scene.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch
exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy,
saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air
sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded
twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his
back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff
came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a
pig’s after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow
sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went,
sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.

"twitched a bit"?
"stuff came out"?
"like a pig's after it has been killed"?
"no time for even a grunt"?

Where is the dignity? The sense of a life lost? The utter senseless waste? The deep tragedy of the death of civilisation?

No - "stuff came out".

Piggy's death is made comical by the shape and bearing of his bloated body. Had Piggy been slim, like Simon, there'd have been real emotion in his death.

My students yesterday laughed at the death of Piggy.


Kids - don't eat that pie. It's not worth it -

Do you want a comical death?


Matt M said...

"Where is the dignity? The sense of a life lost? The utter senseless waste? The deep tragedy of the death of civilisation?"

It's been a long time since I last read Lord of the Flies, but isn't the whole point of that bit that it's a child's view of death?

It's the knowledge of how much is lost that gives death its weight, and that knowledge can only come from painful experience.

For the children it's comic, because they have no real means of comprehending exactly what it is they're watching. They know it's something not quite right, but it's still an alien spectacle - something beyond their frame of reference.

I first read the book as part of my English GCSE, and I think my reaction to that passage would have been the same as your students - how else do you react to something so challenging at that age?

The Tin Drummer said...

Good point.

I think I was sort of contrasting it wordlessly with the death of Simon - much more sensitively portrayed. I think the death of Piggy kind of mirrors the life of the poor kid.

Re-read the book, I'd be interested to know your deeper thoughts on it!

Matt M said...

The following thoughts are based on reading Wikipedia and skimming through parts of the book last night, and should be treated accordingly...

I think you're being a bit harsh on the book's treatment of Piggy's death - the section you've quoted is slightly comical, but also quite a raw view of death, and consequently, for me, quite chilling. I imagine that the banality of it ("stuff came out") is what viewing death might well be like - thankfully, I've been spared any such experience and so can only speculate.

It's only later, when we're distanced from the immediate horror that we can truly grasp the enormity of what's happened.

Which seems to be what happens in the book itself - the next paragraph explains that "the silence was complete" and that Ralph cannot even bring himself to speak. They have no means of understanding what they've just witnessed - hence the terms in which it's described.

It's probably also worth pointing out that book ends with Ralph painfully beginning to comprehend what has happened...

"Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."

The language is just as ineloquent ("the fall through the air"), but the sense of loss and tragedy is clearly beginning to emerge.

Simon, on the other hand, is given a more dignified treatment by the writer, but perhaps that's just because, ultimately, his death feels much less weighty than Piggy's, much less consequential...

The Tin Drummer said...

I think that's a fair comment. The death of Piggy is described pretty much as how a child might see it. I don't get the chilling side of it myself, seeing more the brutal way in which Piggy is tossed away by the narrator as by the rock.

Ralph's reaction is important. Ralph has throughout the book been the symbol of reason (with Piggy) and reasonable authority, but has been losing his "voice" - he wanted to admit all their parts in the death of Simon but was kind of unable to go through with it. Now he is left with what he is: a child, mourning a friend. In doing so he becomes wiser than he's affected to be throughout the story.

I like your theory on the death of Simon. There's something in that, I think. Also though Simon represents the total absence of "beast" - a kind of moral opting out of what every other boy on the island does. His death is that the beast will always seek to destroy the "other" - ie Simon.

Simon's death is more symbolically significant than Piggy's.

Anonymous said...

poor piggy , he was the only one who had sense of humanity, i saw the movie and for me it was the most shocking scene, because he was so innocent and he only wanted to help, i know it's only a movie but it's a reflection of society nowadays. That scene really made me feel a strange awful feeling in my chest. I dont know how to explain it but it really toched me.