Gentlemanly and proper are the British schoolboys of William Golding's novel, The Lord of the Flies. Throughout the novel, the children slowly lose their proper, gentlemanly ways and take on a current of evil, a dark side. The boys themselves show this throughout the book in a myriad of ways including their personal appearance, the lack of mental maturity, and symbolism.
As the storyline begins, each boy emerges from the plane wreck wearing his full school uniform, or at least most of it. "Some were naked and carrying their clothes: others half naked, or more or less dressed, in school uniforms; gray, blue, fawn, jacketed or jerseyed. There were badges, mottoes even, stripes of colour in stockings and pullovers." While the novel continues, and time passes, the boys get dirty; have very long hair, and very little clothing remains. "Some of the boys wore black caps but otherwise they were almost naked." Jack, obsessed and consumed with the need to kill a pig, decides that he isn't camouflaged enough to sneak up on the pig and kill it, so he puts coloured clay on his face and body to blend with the shadows. The clay becomes his mask to hide his vile deeds behind. Eventually, even pigs blood is worn as a cover-up and badge of honor. The loss of clothing coincides with the savage physical action of painting their faces and uncleanliness. Rarely do any of the boys show a wish to be clean, save Ralph and Piggy near the end of the novel. The boys revel and delight in their savagery as it corrupts them further and further from their previous life. When the naval officer finds the boys on the island, his first impression of even the fastidious Ralph is that "The kid needed a bath, a hair-cut, a nose-wipe and a good deal of ointment." The reader tends to forget the age of the boys as they descend into savagery, their age increased in the mind as they lose their innocence, so vividly portrayed with their lack of clothing and cleanliness, the boys seen from the eyes of the naval officer quickly and harshly return the reader to reality.