Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by the British author William Golding. The novel traces the adventures of a group of boys after their plane crashes on an uninhabited island. The events of the novel take place against a backdrop of warfare and violence, which recreates the bloodshed that occurred during the Second World War. Written in the aftermath of that world catastrophe, Lord of the Flies explores the themes of loss and disillusionment that were experienced by many who felt they lived in a world on the brink of destruction and chaos. To convey these themes, the novel relies on an intricate structure of symbols that, while pointing indirectly to the despair that permeated the post-war period, it manages to paint a powerful picture of what it was like to live during those difficult years.
This project will focus on the most recurring symbols used by Golding in his novel, and point to their symbolic associations. Chapter one will be devoted to mapping out the various symbols that operate in the story and explain how they manage to indirectly point to the main themes of the novel. Chapter two will focus on the function of symbolism in literature in general and in Lord of the Flies in particular. It will be argued that far from being a digression from the main thematic concerns of the novels, the symbols operate rather to enhance our perception of the particularly difficult situation that was experienced by Europeans following the traumatizing and shattering events of the war.
William Golding was born on September 19, 1911, in Saint Columb Minor, Cornwall, England. He was raised in a 14th-century house next door to a graveyard. His mother, Mildred, was an active suffragette who fought for women’s right to vote. His father, Alex, worked as a schoolmaster. William received his early education at the school his father ran, Marlborough Grammar School. When William was just 12 years old, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to write a novel. A frustrated child, he found an outlet in bullying his peers. Later in life, William would describe his childhood self as a brat, even going so far as to say, ‘I enjoyed hurting people.’
After primary school, William went on to attend Brasenose College at Oxford University. His father hoped he would become a scientist, but William opted to study English literature instead. In 1934, a year before he graduated, William published his first work, a book of poetry aptly entitled Poems. The collection was largely overlooked by critics. After college, Golding worked in settlement houses and the theater for a time. Eventually, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. In 1935 Golding took a position teaching English and philosophy at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. Golding’s experience teaching unruly young boys would later serve as inspiration for his novel Lord of the Flies.Although passionate about teaching from day one, in 1940 Golding temporarily abandoned the profession to join the Royal Navy and fight in World War II.
Golding spent the better part of the next six years on a boat, except for a seven-month stint in New York, where he assisted Lord Cherwell at the Naval Research Establishment. While in the Royal Navy, Golding developed a lifelong romance with sailing and the sea.
During World War II, he fought battleships at the sinking of the Bismarck, and also fended off submarines and planes. Lieutenant Golding was even placed in command of a rocket-launching craft. Of his World War II experiences, Golding has said, ‘I began to see what people were capable of doing. Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.’ Like his teaching experience, Golding’s participation in the war would prove to be fruitful material for his fiction.In 1945, after World War II had ended, Golding went back to teaching and writing.
Lord of the Flies
In 1954, after 21 rejections, Golding published his first and most acclaimed novel, Lord of the Flies. The novel told the gripping story of a group of adolescent boys stranded on a deserted island after a plane wreck. Lord of the Flies explored the savage side of human nature as the boys, let loose from the constraints of society, brutally turned against one another in the face of an imagined enemy. Riddled with symbolism, the book set the tone for Golding’s future work, in which he continued to examine man’s internal struggle between good and evil. Since its publication, the novel has been widely regarded as a classic, worthy of in-depth analysis and discussion in classrooms around the world.
In 1963, the year after Golding retired from teaching, Peter Brook made a film adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel. Two decades later, at the age of 73, Golding was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1988 he was knighted by England’s Queen Elizabeth II. In 1990 a new film version of the Lord of the Flies was released, bringing the book to the attention of a new generation of readers.
Golding spent the last few years of his life quietly living with his wife, Ann Brookfield, at their house near Falmouth, Cornwall, where he continued to toil at his writing. The couple had married in 1939 and had two children, David (b. 1940) and Judith (b. 1945(. On June 19, 1993, Golding died of a heart attack in Perranarworthal, Cornwall. After Golding died, his completed manuscript for The Double Tongue was published posthumously.
Lord of the Flies is the most popular and best-selling of William Golding’s many novels, and has met with world-wide acclaim, but its success was by no means immediate. Before Faber and Faber accepted it, the novel had been rejected by twenty or more publishers, and although it appeared in 1954, its sales were initially modest. When it did finally achieve success, it did so on a spectacular scale, becoming a ‘cult’ book during the 1960s, with an immense readership in schools, colleges and universities throughout the English-speaking world. Penguin Books gave it a place in their list of Modern Classics, numerous Examining Boards prescribed it for study, and Peter Brook turned it into an award-winning film in 1963.
Although several of the early reviews of Lord of the Flies accorded generous recognition to Golding’s talent, the book received a mixed reception. To this day, widely differing views are held as to its merits, some critics objecting that the book is too facile and fashionable in its pessimism. The fact is that Lord of the Flies is unmistakably about human nature and the human condition; it is a kind of fable, but it is a fable so completely realised that it permits a wide range of possible interpretations, corresponding more or less to the different convictions and expectations of its readers.
Some critics have been severe on Lord of the Flies because it seems to them that the book does not, like most good novels, grow convinc- ingly out of the characters and situation. They charge Golding with being too intent on proving a thesis by shaping his materials towards a preconceived outcome, and the implication is that the story fails to have the organic structure of a novel, and substitutes for it the mech- anical structure of a fable. In this reading, Simon is criticised for being unrealistic and a mere device for enabling the author to state his own point of view. Other critics strongly deny this, arguing that the story and fable are not simply compatible, but so perfectly integrated as to be inseparable. Situation and characters and narrative are held to be entirely convincing at a naturalistic level, while simultaneously embodying the deeper truths of the fable. But critics have disagreed in their views of what the novel’s deeper truths are.
It is easy enough to read into the struggle between Ralph and Jack a political clash between democracy and Fascism. However, liberal critics have denounced the novel for what they consider to be its commitment to the Christian doctrine of ‘original sin’. This is a charge that is difficult to sustain, even if it is fair to allow that the novel is profoundly pessimistic. The pig’s spiked head has been taken by some readers for Beelzebub, the Devil, but this again is disputable, and most critics are surely correct in suggesting that it, like the Beast itself, is no more than an object onto which the boys project the fear and hatred and evil that are not supernatural, but rather a part of themselves and of human nature generally.
Just as critics with a religious inclination saw Lord of the Flies as a religious fable concerned with the fallen condition of man and the loss of Eden, so critics who were psychologically inclined interpreted the novel in Freudian terms. Instead of a theological struggle between good and bad, Freudians analysed the struggle as taking place between the dark and violent forces of the unconscious (the Id), the rational prin- ciple (the Ego), and the moral conscience (the Super-Ego). Jack, Piggy and Ralph, and Simon were seen as representatives of these three aspects of the mind, and it was argued that the tragic events of the story resulted from the incomplete and unbalanced nature of the boys’ characters, since none of them is sufficiently mature to achieve harmonious control of the mind’s three constituents. Meanwhile, critics with sociological interests were less concerned about the divisive personalities of the boys, than about the disintegration of the group. Civilisation, they pointed out, provides whatever humane standards the group has, and as the group regresses, these standards are disastrously abandoned. This view upholds the necessity for authority, whether of parents, or the State, or the Church. But to critics with a taste for anthropology, what was most fascinating about the novel was the portrayal of the boys’ regression. This was seen as reversing and abbreviating mankind’s evolution, so affording insights into primitive society and the way in which the savage mind creates taboos and rituals, demonologies and myths.
It ought to be said that all these critical approaches to the novel have at least some validity, and this, properly appreciated, is a high tribute to its merits. All great art is characterized by its rich suggestiveness, by its potential to be variously interpreted, and by its capacity to challenge and upset readers who deceive themselves by supposing that artistic statement can be reduced to merely theoretical or ideological statement.
Chapter 1 : Symbolism In Lord Of The Flies
Fire is a complicated symbol in Lord of the Flies. Like the glasses that create it, fire represents technology and civilization. Providing the boys with light in the dark nights of the deserted island, fire symbolizes the importance of knowledge and science for the survival of the boys in this hostile environment. It is therefore not surprising that one of the first things that the boys think of immediately after they found themselves on the island is to start a fire. Moreover, when the idea of starting a fire is first brought up, the boys’ reaction is indicative of how unanimous they were in their awareness of the importance of fire: ‘We must make a fire.” “A fire! Make a fire!” At once half the boys were on their feet. Jack clamored among them, the conch forgotten’. (29)
The theme of fire as a symbol of knowledge and civilization is not new. The title of the second chapter of the novel is entitled ‘Fire on the Mountain’. The words ‘fire’ and ‘mountain’, together with the theme of the tension between primitivity and civilization also refer us to the story of the Greek mythological figure Prometheus, who stole the fire and gave it to humanity ‘ an act that incurred Zeus’s rage and fury. Prometheus was accordingly punished by being chained to a rock where an eagle ate his liver daily. The importance of fire as a symbol of progress and civilization is testified to by the harsh nature of the punishment, as well as by Prometheus’s transgression of Zeus’s rules and his realization that only by restoring fire to mortals will humanity be brought back on the path of advancement and progress.
The boys, too, seem to have reached the same realization about the importance of fire. Success in starting a fire would mean a symbolic leap from savagery and primitivity to knowledge and civilization because it represented the first challenge that the boys are going to face in this unfamiliar setting. ‘”Will you light the fire?”
Now the absurd situation was open, Jack blushed too. He began to mutter vaguely.
“You rub two sticks. You rub–”
He glanced at Ralph, who blurted out the last confession of incompetence.
“Has anyone got any matches?”
“You make a bow and spin the arrow,” said Roger. He rubbed his hands in mime. “Psss. Psss.” (31)
Interestingly, it is Piggy’s glasses, the emblem of technology and intelligence, which will solve the problem of fire and thus ensure the boys’ survival on the island.
If Fire generally symbolizes the boys’ connection to human civilization, the signal fire, in particular, represents for them the hope of rescue. The boys decide to make a fire in order to make their presence on the island known to anyone who happens to be around, and eventually be rescued from their imposed exile: ‘There’s another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire’ (29). They also make arrangements to make sure the fire is maintained, as it represents their only hope of being rescued. Accordingly they split up into two groups ‘ one taking care of hunting and the other ‘responsible for keeping the fire going” (59).
At this point, it has become obvious to everyone that without fire there was no possibility of survival on the island. And despite the numerous problems encountered by the boys on a daily basis, the activity of keeping the fire gave them a great deal of solace and relief. Psychologically, too, the fire was a constant reminder that rescue is never too far, that the boys had every right to continue to dream about leaving the deserted island. This is shown in this passage in which fire acts a positive force bringing the divided boys together around the same purpose:
The boys were dancing. The pile was so rotten, and now so tinder-dry, that whole limbs yielded passionately to the yellow flames that poured upwards and shook a great beard of flame twenty feet in the air. For yards round the fire the heat was like a blow, and the breeze was a river of sparks. Trunks crumbled to white dust. Ralph shouted. “More wood! All of you get more wood!’ (32).
Another passage in the book reflects the diligence care and with which the boys maneuvered to to keep the fire going at any cost:
Life became a race with the fire and the boys scattered through the upper forest. To keep a clean flag of flame flying on the mountain was the immediate end and no one looked further. Even the smallest boys, unless fruit claimed them, brought little pieces of wood and threw them in. The air moved a little faster and became a light wind, so that leeward and windward side were clearly differentiated. On one side the air was cool, but on the other the fire thrust out a savage arm of heat that crinkled hair on the instant. Boys who felt the evening wind on their damp faces paused to enjoy the freshness of it and then found they were exhausted. They flung themselves down in the shadows that lay among the shattered rocks. The beard of flame diminished quickly; then the pile fell inwards with a soft, cindery sound, and sent a great tree of sparks upwards that leaned away and drifted downwind. The boys lay, panting like dogs. (32)
As mentioned earlier, fire is a complex symbol in the novel. We have seen how it represents both a means of survival and the promise of rescue ‘ all of which could be seen as positive associations. Lord of the Flies, however, is not exactly a message of hope, written as it was in the aftermath of a devastating world conflict. Here, too, the symbolism of fire is relevant. Thus, like the atomic bombs destroying the world around the boys’ island, we are reminded that fire is a technology that threatens destruction if it gets out of control. There is a passage that describes how fire got out of control and is literally eating up everything that comes in its way, in an obvious reminder of the casualties which resulted from the brutal events of the recent World War:
Beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw. Acres of black and yellow smoke rolled steadily toward the sea. At the sight of the flames and the irresistible course of the fire, the boys broke into shrill, excited cheering. The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged an outcrop of the pink rock. They flapped at the first of the trees, and the branches grew a brief foliage of fire. The heart of flame leapt nimbly across the gap between the trees and then went swinging and flaring along the whole row of them. Beneath the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame. The separate noises of the fire merged into a drum-roll that seemed to shake the mountain (34).
What is interesting in this passage is the focus on the ruthless and unrelenting nature of the fire as it devours everything that comes its way, but also the fact that what the fire leaves in its wake was destruction and savagery ‘ elements that dominated people’s thinking in that crucial post-war period.
The conch occupies a central position in the story. When Ralph and Piggy find it, it is at the bottom on the lagoon. Piggy talks about how someone he knew had one. ‘S’right. It’s a shell! I seen one like that before. On someone’s back wall. A conch he called it. He used to blow it and then his mum would come. It’s ever so valuable-,’ (15). Piggy tells Ralph that he can’t blow it on account of his asthma. So he asks Ralph to blow it to call a meeting. ‘We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us-,’ (16). This is the first use of the conch; which is to call meetings and to get everyone to come to one spot. At the first meeting Jack sees the conch for the first time. Jack thinks nothing of it. He completely dismisses both Ralph and the conch that is on his knees: ‘The boy came close and peered down at Ralph, screwing up his face as he did so. What he saw of the fair-haired boy with the creamy shell on his knees did not seem to satisfy him. He turned quickly, his black cloak circling,’ (20). This is because Jack believes that the conch is a yonic or a female symbol.
The description of the conch is quite telling: ‘in color, the shell was deep cream, touched here and there by fading pink…eighteen inches of shell with a slight spiral twist and covered with a delicate, embossed pattern,”(16). The coloring of the conch symbolizes that it is a light object, meaning that it is interpreted as good. Light objects can symbolize that an object is pure and free of evil. Piggy is ecstatic and constantly talks about the conch’s beauty and how expensive it is. The conch is referred to as a yonic, or feminine symbol. Most females are more caring and nurturing towards young children. The conch, for example, is used to call together all of the littluns and the biguns together for a meeting. When the conch is blown, it symbolizes the unity within the tribe, similar to the way a mother would summon, or communicate with her family.
The arrival of the boys brought civilization to the island. When Ralph blows the conch, it brings all the kids together and they form a community. The conch becomes a powerful symbol of civilization in the group as it separates the boys from the animals on the island. In a way, the powerful sound of the conch is a constant reminder that it is the boys (human civilization) who is in control of things on the island from now on:
His ordinary voice sounded like a whisper after the harsh note of the conch. He laid the conch against his lips, took a deep breath and blew once more. The note boomed again: and then at his firmer pressure, the note, fluking up an octave, became a strident blare more penetrating than before. Piggy was shouting something, his face pleased, his glasses flashing. The birds cried, small animals scuttered. Ralph’s breath failed; the note dropped the octave, became a low wubber, was a rush of air. (12)
The conch is also a symbol of democracy, because each time the boys are summoned, we are reminded of the ancient Athenian democratic practice of the fifth Century BC which consisted in calling people to meet and debate public issues. ‘By the time Ralph finished blowing the conch the platform was crowded’ (24). The boys are ecstatic about their new-found democratic symbol and their cannot wait to start having a vote on every single aspect of their life on the island:
“Let’s have a vote.”
“Yes!” “Vote for chief!”
This toy of voting was almost as pleasing as the conch (16).
Moreover, during those important meetings that basically determined the boys’ decisions and actions, the conch is used as a means of making sure that everyone has an opportunity to express their opinion: ‘I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking’ (25), ralph often tells his companions. The conch therefore brings democracy and suffrage to the kids and becomes their unwritten constitution.
The importance of the conch is also reflected when it becomes involved in the power struggle that takes place between Ralph and Jack. During that early moment in the story when the boys deliberate who will be their chief, it was decided that whoever wielded the conch ‘ in this case Ralph ‘ should be chief:
Jack started to protest but the clamor changed from the general wish for a chief to an election by acclaim of Ralph himself. None of the boys could have found good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack. But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch. The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart. “Him with the shell.” “Ralph! Ralph!” “Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing. (16).
The choice is obviously symbolic since, in holding the conch, Ralph is given a moral authority to summon the boys when he sees it is necessary and also to try to impose some order into the group’s new life on the island.
Given the symbolic importance of the conch, it is not surprising that the moment the boys begin to disregard the authority of the conch chaos erupts in their community. The following exchange between Jack and Piggy describes the beginning of a dislocation in the group:
“I got the conch,” said Piggy indignantly. ‘You let me speak!”
“The conch doesn’t count on top of the mountain,” said Jack, “so you shut up.”
“I got the conch in my hand.”
“Put on green branches,” said Maurice. “That’s the best way to make smoke.”
“I got the conch–”
Jack turned fiercely. “You shut up!” (32)
It is interesting that Piggy’s famous cry ‘I got the conch’ will be repeated several times in the story, a constant reminder that the boys need to observe some kind of order if they are to survive. At this point, however, the conch is no longer viewed as a source of power and authority, but rather as a mere tool in the hands of people fighting for control of the boys society. It is also interesting that that declining authority of the conch is reflected by a physical deterioration, as is shown in this passage from chapter five:
The sun in his eyes reminded him how time was passing, so he took the conch down from the tree and examined the surface. Exposure to the air had bleached the yellow and pink to near-white, and transparency. Ralph felt a kind of affectionate reverence for the conch (59).
The power struggle between the kids and Ralph is shown by the fighting over the conch. Many people want the chance to talk against Ralph’s points and turn the kids away from Ralph’s ideas. Ralph is having a hard time holding on to his title of chief and the power that comes with the conch. When the hunters and many other boys break off from the original group to form a tribe, they raid the original group’s camp to steal fire and Piggy says ‘I thought they wanted the conch’ (168). Even though most of the kids have turned their backs to civil ways of life and dismissed the power of the conch, Piggy and Ralph still abide by the rules and believe in the power of the conch. Ralph, Piggy, and Sam and Eric go to Jack’s tribe to try and have a meeting with them. Things do not go to well, and Piggy is killed. When in the end ‘the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist’ (181), the last thread of civilization is destroyed. Democracy and freedom of speech no longer exist in Jack’s tribe. Jack orders people around and if they go against him, they are physically punished. Jack’s tribe is a monarchy. Civilization and order are lost after the destruction of the conch.
After Sam, Eric, Ralph and Piggy are attacked, they are terrified to learn the fate of the conch. This shows that the conch is presumably a part of the good tribe. The conch remains with the boys that have not made the transformation to bloodthirsty savages. This proves that the conch is a symbol of purity and has no evil. The conch symbolizes the good that each of the boys possess, though some have abandoned that good. The conch will forever remain with the good tribe. It remains with Piggy, who is still a civilized boy, until it is destroyed.
Following the destruction of the conch, violence erupts among the boys: Roger pushes the boulder off the top of Castle Rock and strikes Piggy, which kills him. Symbolically, this shows the theory of good vs. evil. The conch has always been a part of Ralph’s tribe. Ralph’s tribe was the first tribe that the boys ever formed; the tribe was formed after they landed, when they were still civilized British boys. Jack’s tribe is made up of savages, who were once civilized boys. After the conch is destroyed, a war breaks out, proving that the conch was the only pure good within the entire group of boys. The conch can be referred to as the unity between the group of boys. It kept them from becoming animals. Though in the end, the boys become animals because the conch no longer exists. When the conch did exist, it kept the boys together and kept them safe from harm. The conch was the noise that all of the boys respected regardless of their beliefs. Even Jack listened to the sound of the conch for a time. The conch seperated the good from the evil in the end, proving that it symbolized the good within the group of boys. After its destruction, only Ralph holds on to his civilized image. He does not go to Jack’s tribe and remains in the good tribe. Though Ralph has shown the little evil within him before, the conch has never been used for evil.
The tropical island is another complex symbol in the story. With its bountiful food and untouched beauty, it could be seen as symbolizing paradise. It is like a Garden of Eden in which the boys can try to create a perfect society from scratch. On the other hand, the insularity of the island also operates as a symbol of confinement and entrapment.
The boys’ initial reaction after they crash is to try to find out whether or not they were on an island. This is important for them as it will determine to a large extent their chances of rescue, as shown in Ralph’s early comments: ‘”Listen, everybody. I’ve got to have time to think things out. I can’t decide what to do straight off. If this isn’t an island we might be rescued straight away. So we’ve got to decide if this is an island’ (17). It will not be long, however, before they realize that they are actually on an island, and the discovery is a little disconcerting to them because it implies that the rescue operation will be a complicated one: ‘We’re on an island. We’ve been on the mountain top and seen water all round. We saw no houses, no smoke, no footprints, no boats, no people. We’re on an uninhabited island with no other people on it’ (24).
Despite the boys’ initial negative reaction when they find out that they were on an island, the idea of an idyllic place in which they are safe from the dangers of ‘real’ world, and in which life is easy and plentiful become gradually attractive. They realize that survival is no longer an issue given the abundant resources of the island:
But this is a good island. We–Jack, Simon and me– we climbed the mountain. It’s wizard. There’s food and drink, and–”
Piggy, partly recovered, pointed to the conch in Ralph’s hands, and Jack and Simon fell silent. Ralph went on. ”
While we’re waiting we can have a good time on this island.”
He gesticulated widely.
“It’s like in a book.” At once there was a clamor. “Treasure Island–” (26).
The boys even become possessive with regard to the island ‘this is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we’ll have
fun’ (26). In this case the insularity of the island becomes a symbol of the separation between the small world of the boys’ innocence and the larger world of the adults with its violence and wars. Seen in this light, the island acquires a utopian dimension ‘ the idea that the catastrophes the world was experiencing at the time meant the necessity of finding alternatives places where people could live in peace and concord.
The ocean represents several facets of the themes of the unknown, the subconscious, and isolation. The sea is what separates the boys from their homes, and is the main reason for their situation. The sea is also suggested to be where the beast comes from, and Maurice announces that his father claims that ”they haven’t found all the animals in the sea yet”, making it a source of danger and mystery. Finally, on viewing and contemplating the harsh nature of the ocean on the other side of the island, Ralph reflects that its brutality has an emotional impact; ‘one was clamped down, one was helpless, one was condemned. In contemplating the ocean, Ralph is struck by its immensity and might:
Wave after wave, Ralph followed the rise and fall until something of the remoteness of the sea numbed his brain. Then gradually the almost infinite size of this water forced itself on his attention. This was the divider, the barrier. On the other side of the island, swathed at midday with mirage, defended by the shield of the quiet lagoon, one might dream of rescue; but here, faced by the brute obtuseness of the ocean, the miles of division, one was clamped down, one was helpless, one was condemned, one was ( page 158 ).
Ralph is engaged with the view of waves falling and rising, and is overwhelmed with the great size of the ocean which creates a great barrier between him and the dream of rescue making him utterly helpless. When difficulties are so great and dull, people get helpless:
‘He rubbed his cheek along his forearm, smelling the acrid scent of salt and sweat and the staleness of dirt. Over to the left, the waves of ocean were breathing, sucking down, then boiling back over the rock. (267). Ralph experiences the bad smells of salt, sweat and dirt, while the waves of ocean give him maybe a hope of their movement over the rocks. This symbolically aggravates the boys’ plight, by making it almost impossible for them to digest the twist of fate that has brought there.
There is a moment in the book where Ralph almost drowns in the ocean water and one gets the feeling that the ocean is an antagonist working against the struggling Ralph:
Ralph edged forward, feeling his way over the uneven surface as though he were blind. There were miles of vague water at his right and the restless ocean lay under his left hand, as awful as the shaft of a pit. Every minute the water breathed round the death rock and flowered into a field of whiteness. Ralph crawled until he found the ledge of the entry in his grasp. The lookouts were immediately above him and he could see the end of a spear projecting over the rock (268 ).
Ralph struggled to find his way through hard surface, water was surrounding him. Water, ordinarily a symbol of life and regeneration, becomes an agent of death threatening to end the boy’s adventure. The ending of this hazardous escapade, however, was rather fortunate, which suggests the theme of the hope of rescue in the middle of distress.
Despite this dangerous encounter with the ocean, Ralph still finds in the latter solace and consolation. This is shown in that episode where Ralph tries to clear his thoughts by heading toward the ocean:
A single cry quickened his heart-beat and, leaping up, he dashed away toward the ocean side and the thick jungle till he was hung up among creepers; he stayed there for a moment with his calves quivering. If only one could have quiet, a long pause, a time to think! (page 281 ).
He heard a cry that made him more excited, and he rushed towards the ocean side and the jungle, he was shivering, he wished he had a time to rest, to think, to take decision. When one is in a difficult situation, or is facing hard time and circumstances, one finds oneself thinks of the only two options, either one can be saved and survived or one could not find help or rescue and then he faces the danger of death. Some people think well and quietly during these hard circumstances and this is good as they can think of good ways to be saved, while others act nervously and got embarrassed, but this is not good, they may lose the opportunity of being saved and rescued, opportunity for living.
The glasses symbolized the ability to see and understand things clearly. Piggy is the only boy, besides Jack, who really sees how things should be done. The cracking of the first lens symbolizes the boys losing sight of what they need to do. The glasses are also important in so much as they are needed to start the fire. They can’t figure out how to start a fire until Jack grabs the glasses off Piggy’s face. Ralph uses the glasses to focus the sun’s rays on the wood.
Piggy’s glasses are mentioned more than forty times in the story, making them a very powerful symbol. Interestingly, they are mostly described either as flashing or as being cleaned. The flashing glasses could be interpreted as symbolizing the spark of human intelligence, especially since the glasses are associated with Piggy the most intelligent boy in the group:
Jack snatched from behind him a sizable sheath-knife and clouted it into a trunk. The buzz rose and died away. Piggy stirred.
Ralph turned to him. “You’re no good on a job like this.” “All the same–”
“We don’t want you,” said Jack, flatly. “Three’s enough.”
Piggy’s glasses flashed (18)
In this exchange, Piggy’s flashing glasses indicate his rational rejection of a decision that he thinks is not based on reason. When, in contrast, he sees that the boys are doing the right thing, the flashing glasses become are indicative of the triumph of reason: ‘Piggy was shouting something, his face pleased, his glasses flashing’ (12).
On another level, Piggy’s recurrent habit cleaning his glasses are the result of a difficulty in seeing and could therefore be seen as a symbol therefore the boys encounter when they cease to see through things and start to revert to savagery and barbarity. Again, the fact that this habit is associated with Piggy in particular indicates that he is the representative of reason and rationality in an increasingly frenzied and disordered society. Also the fact that Piggy is asthmatic is an indication of the fragility of his position as defender of reason compared to the growing power of jack and his violent tribe:
That’s right. Can’t catch my breath. I was the only boy in our school what had asthma,” said the fat boy with a touch of pride. “And I’ve been wearing specs since I was three.”
He took off his glasses and held them out to Ralph, blinking and smiling, and then started to wipe them against his grubby wind-breaker. An expression of pain and inward concentration altered the pale contours of his face (6).
Piggy’s glasses are a symbol of technology and innovation. They are used to light the fire, and help Piggy, who is highly intellectual, interact with the world around him. As the glasses are damaged and eventually stolen, the technological status of the boys on the island becomes less and less advanced. An example of this is when they cease working on the huts and fire, and move to Castle Rock. They also symbolize vision, which is why Golding made Piggy short sighted with glasses, because they give him vision. When the lenses of the glasses are smashed, it symbolizes the vision of being rescued fading away. They are also used as a tool because they didn’t have anything else with which to start a fire.
The beast represents the inner savagery of the boys and all mankind. The boys personify it by calling it a giant snake and mistaking a dead parachutist for it. Simon is the only boy who understands that they are all beasts inside. But a sign came down from the world of grownups, though at the time there was no child awake to read it. There was a sudden bright explosion and corkscrew trail across the sky; then darkness again and stars. This comes immediately after Piggy expresses his hope for a sign from the adult world to straighten things up. This is the sign: a plane is shot down and a parachutist, dead, falls from the sky, is dragged up the mountain, gets stuck in a tree, and becomes the beast. In short, the adults, who are at war, are no less savage than the boy:
Hair much too long, tangled here and there, knotted round a dead leaf or twig; clothes, worn away, stiff like his own with sweat, put on, not for decorum or comfort but out of custom; the skin of the body scurfy with bring (110).
The boys’ appearance has become less and less civilized like the beast as the novel progresses. Their outward appearance is a reflection of their inward state. ‘The head is for the beast. It’s a gift (137): The boys are sacrificing pig heads to a beast. In reality, they are sacrificing pigs to satisfy their own lust for blood:
The forest near them burst into uproar. Demoniac figures with faces of white and red and green rushed out howling…stark naked save for the paint and a belt was Jack (140).
Jack and the hunters have become the embodiment of evil beast. They attack Ralph and Piggy in an effort to usurp power:.
In a conversation with a pig’s head on a stick Simon says: ‘I’m warning you. I’m going to get angry. D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island! So, don’t try it on, my poor misguided boy, or else’ (43). The importance of this conversation, however, goes beyond that of a boy losing his mind. Simon represents everything that is good. The ‘Lord of the Flies’ (the pig’s head) represents all that is evil. After a successful hunt Jack finally makes his move to usurp Ralph’s leadership. Jack uses the threat of the beast as a means to manipulate others into giving him power. Minutes later a storm comes upon them. Ralph thinks he can wrestle power back from Jack by reminding the hunters that they have no shelter. Jack sways the crowd by having them engage in a tribal dance. Even Ralph and Piggy join in
‘Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood” ( 152). Simon rushes towards the group determined to tell them the beast is nothing but a dead body. However, the boys are incensed with the tribal dance and the thrill of reenacting the hunt and turn on Simon. This repeated chant echoes the chant from chapter four during the pig hunt:
The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws (153).
Simon represents goodness. In this episode, evil has taken over the boys and is threatening to eliminate goodness from the island. Simon is the one with the insight concerning where the true evil lies. His message will now never be delivered. This interaction between good and evil is the conclusion to Simon’s conversation with the pig’s head in chapter 8.
‘You’re a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief (177).
As Ralph confronts Jack in a fight for authority, he exclaims that Jack is a beast, confirming what Simon learned earlier, the beast is inside us. He also keeps accusing Jack of theft, although this accusation is meaningless in the absence of civilization:
“By him stood Piggy still holding out the talisman, the fragile, shining beauty of the shell. The storm of sound beat at them, an incantation of hatred. High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever (180).
In this climactic passage, Piggy makes one last attempt to restore order. The conch, once full of power, is now nothing but an object. Roger, the least understanding of civility, prepares to release a large rock upon the enemies of the tribe. Piggy stands directly in the rock’s path and is killed.
The beast’s first appearance symbolizes the evil in human nature. Jack, the symbol of savagery, says the beast doesn’t exist but also that his hunters will kill it. He uses the beast to make himself more powerful. Ralph, the symbol of civilization, just denies that the beast exists.
The beast is easy enough: it represents evil and darkness. But does it represent internal darkness, the evil in all of our hearts, even golden boys like Ralph? Or does it represent an external savagery that civilization can save us from?
At first, the beast is nothing more than a product of the boys’ imaginations. The smaller boys are afraid of things they see at night; rather than be blindly afraid of The Great Unknown, they give their fear a name and a shape in their minds. You can’t defeat a “nothing,” but you can hunt and kill a ‘something’. And then an actual ‘something’ does show up: the dead parachuting man, who seems to come in response to Ralph’s request for a “sign” from the adult world. It’s ironic that the best the adults can come up with is a man dead of their own violence: maybe the beast isn’t just confined to the island. And now we start getting some real insight into the beast. Piggy basically says the beast is just fear of the unknown: ‘I know there isn’t no beast’not with claws and all that, I mean’but I know there isn’t no fear, either’ (99). Simon, on the other hand, insists that the beast is “only us” (5.195). Well, it is: it’s a person that fell from the sky. When the twins list off the horrible attributes of the creature they saw, they reveal that it has both “teeth” and “eyes”; Ralph and Jack see it as a giant ape. So, the “beast” is a man-who-isn’t, the animal side in all of us. But even that isn’t quite what Simon means. He’s talking about the beast being the darkness that is inside each and every one of us. If this is true, then, as the Lord of the Flies later suggests, it is absurd to think that the beast is something ‘you could hunt or kill’ (337). If it’s inside all of us, not only can’t we hunt it, but we can never see it.
The scar is actually the place where the plane ripped across the island as it was crashing. Symbolically, it represents the injuries suffered by the island as a result of human habitation. When the boys arrive, the island is an idyllic tropical paradise. The wreak havoc on the environment by eating all the fruit, using the land as a public toilet, and mercilessly killing pigs and other small animals they want to use in their games. By the time, they are ready to leave; the island is on fire and destroyed. The rather small scar of the airplane has turned into a giant, gaping wound that the boys have inflicted what was a paradise. This reinforces Golding’s theme that man has an evil nature that must be controlled or man will destroy both himself and his environment. The scar symbolizes that man, and his savage nature, destroys paradise merely by entering it. In Golding’s words,
‘The ground beneath them was a bank covered with coarse grass, torn everywhere by the upheavals of fallen trees, scattered with decaying coconuts and palm saplings. Behind this was the darkness of the forest proper and the open space of the scar’ (10).
Here, the scar is described as being in a dark area, thus symbolizing a haunting memory for the boys. It being named a scar was no mistake by author, William Golding, as he uses it to foreshadow the evil that will eventually be brought upon them. A scar, forever with you, never disappears. The island will always be with the boys, never to be forgotten as a scarring memory. Another mention the scar in the novel of the scar we see is “Beyond falls and cliffs there was a gash visible in the trees; there were the splintered trunks and then the drag, leaving only a fringe of palm between the scar and the sea. There, too, jutting into the lagoon, was the platform, with insect-like figures moving near it. There, too, jutting into the lagoon was the platform, with insect-like figures moving near it. Ralph sketched a twining line from the bald spot on which they stood down a slope, a gully, through flowers, round and down to the rock where the scar started (39).
Here, it’s clear that the last thing the boys have left to remind them of civilization is lost at sea. They have nothing left to fall back on for an orderly civilization and as a result, their society crumbles. This brings evil to the island because there is no order. The scar is a direct representation of this because it is a reminder they have nothing of society to hold on to. Another mention of the scar in Golding novel “Ralph pointed fearfully at Eric’s face, which was striped with scars where the bushes had torn him.( Golding143)” This would be more of the literal meaning to the word scar. The reason it is significant is because the bushes and trees that were knocked down and destroyed by the scar is the reason Eric got his. In this passage, the scar represents how the island or nature is destroying the boys. In the novel Golding wrote ‘The dark sky was shattered by a blue-white scar. An instant later the noise was on them like the blow of a gigantic whip. The chant rose a tone in agony’ (218). Here what Golding is referring to is a thunder storm that was coming in and the lightning that bolted across the sky followed by a heavy gust of wind. The scene following this depicts Simon’s death. This shows how the boys have been corrupted since their arrival. The scar in this scene is the bolt of lightning across the sky: ‘Ralph lay in a covert, wondering about his wounds. The bruised flesh was inches in diameter over his right ribs, with a swollen and bloody scar where the spear had hit him’ (263). Here it’s clear that The scar that Ralph received in the jungle was from Jack trying to seek revenge on him. Jack wanted to kill Ralph to eliminate him as competition which resulted in Ralph getting struck with a spear and causing damage to himself. The scar changed the way he looked before it happened. This shows how the boys have physically changed. However, they have also become more barbaric. If they were still in private school, Jack wouldn’t have been able to try to stab someone with a spear. In this scene, the scar represents how people are destroying other people.
It is interesting to see how ‘Hair’ Connects with other symbols/themes as the novel progresses. The boys’ hair grows longer and longer and the longer their hair is, the less the boys are able to see and think clearly, and the more savage they become. The boys’ hair seems like it will never stop growing, mirroring the increasingly growing violence and savagery of the boys. Just like there is no way to stop growing hair, there is no way to stop the boys succumbing to the beast within them. Throughout Lord of the Flies, I noticed a recurring mention of the boys’ hair growing. There are numerous quotes explaining how everybody’s hair grows to become tangled and matted. The hair was mentioned several times in the novel as in this quote:
‘The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead’ (6).
Here we see Ralph fixing his clothing and, the phrase ‘with an automatic gesture’ makes us conclude that this is a regular thing for Ralph and that throughout the novel this will be a constant thing. All in all Ralph’s preoccupation with his hair and clothing is symbolic to the female-ness on the island. Another mention of the hair is seen here: ‘He undid the snake-clasp of his belt, lugged off his shorts and pants, and stood there naked, looking at the dazzling beach and the water’ (11). This is significant because the “snake-clasp belt” hints that something is not right. Later in the novel, when the boys go to visit Jacks tribe after more and more evil things have occurred, Ralph is the only one focusing on his appearance. As a result, to all of these evil acts Ralph becomes more and more preoccupied with his hair and clothing. Another mention of the hair is when he said, “Ralph climbed out of the bathing pool and trotted up the beach and sat in the shade beneath the palms. His fair hair was plastered over his eyebrows and he pushed it back. (90)” Here Golding added this detail for a reason; he wanted the readers to know that Ralph is preoccupied with the way that he looks. Golding never mentions these details about the other boys washing up and fixing their hair, so the readers know that this is a special thing associated only with Ralph. In addition, hair was mentioned when Piggy said, “I’m trying to think. Supposing we go, looking like we used to, washed and hair brushed’after all we aren’t savages really and being rescued isn’t a game”(245)” here we can conclude that Ralph is the only one that cares about how they look before they go to see Jack and his tribe.
Chapter 2: the Function of Symbolism in Lord of the Flies
Definition of Symbolism
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines a symbol as follows:
In the simplest sense, [the symbol is] anything that stands for or represents something else beyond it’usually an idea conventionally associated with it. Objects like flags and crosses can function symbolically; and words are also symbols. In the *SEMIOTICS of C. S. Peirce, the term denotes a kind of *SIGN that has no natural or resembling connection with its referent, only a conventional one: this is the case with words. In literary usage, however, a symbol is a specially evocative kind of image (see imagery); that is, a word or phrase referring to a concrete object (251).
Symbolism, accordingly, is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meaning. Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another, to give an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. Sometimes, however, an action, an event or a word spoken by someone may have a symbolic value. For instance, ‘smile’ is a symbol of friendship. Similarly, the action of someone smiling at you may stand as a symbol of the feeling of affection which that person has for you.
Symbols shift their meanings depending on the context they are used in. ‘A chain,’ for example, may stand for ‘union’ as well as ‘imprisonment’. Thus, symbolic meaning of an object or an action is understood by when, where, and how it is used. It also depends on who reads the work.
There are several examples of Symbolism in Literature. To develop symbolism in his work, a writer utilizes other figures of speech, like metaphors, similes, and allegory, as tools. Famous examples works of literature that rely heavily on symbols include William Shakespeare’s comedy As you Like It . there is symbolic dimension in the famous monologue which states that ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances And one man in his time plays many parts,’ (32).These lines are symbolic of the fact that men and women, in the course of their lives, perform different roles. ‘A stage’ here symbolizes the world, and ‘players’ is a symbol for human beings.
Another example is the poem ‘Ah Sunflower’ By William Blake. The speaker in the poem says:
‘Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who contest the steps of the sun
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveler’s journey is done;’
Blake uses a sunflower as a symbol for human beings, and ‘the sun’ as a symbol of life. Therefore, these lines symbolically refer to their life cycle and their yearning for a never-ending life.
The third example is Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte. Bronte presents almost every character, house, surroundings, and events in a symbolic perspective. The word ‘Wuthering,’ which means ‘stormy,’ represents the wild nature of inhabitants. The following lines allow us to look into the symbolic nature of two characters:
My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it; I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath a source of little visible delight, but necessary. (120)
The phrase ‘foliage of leaves’ is a symbol for Linton’s fertile and civilized nature. On the contrary, Heathcliff is likened to an ‘eternal rock,’ which symbolizes his crude and unbendable nature.
Sara Teasdale in her poem Wild Asters develops a number of striking symbols:
‘In the spring, I asked the daisies If his words were true, And the clever, clear-eyed daisies Always knew Now the fields are brown and barren,
Bitter autumn blows ,And of all the stupid asters Not one knows.’ (20)
In the above lines, ‘spring’ and ‘daisies’ are symbols of youth. ‘Brown and barren’ are symbols of transition from youth to old age. Moreover, ‘Bitter autumn’ symbolizes death.
Similarly, in The Rain By William H. Davies, the writer uses the symbol of rain to show the different classes of society. He does this by describing the way the upper leaves benefit from the rain first, and then hand down the rest to the lower leaves. The same way, rich people pass on the leftover benefits to the poor people:
‘I hear leaves drinking rain I hear rich leaves on top Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near’ (52).
In this beautiful poem, William Davies who has used the symbol of rain to show the different classes of society. He does this by describing the way the upper leaves benefit from the rain first, and then hand down the rest to the lower leaves. The same way, rich people pass on the leftover benefits to the poor people.
The Function of Symbolism
Symbolism gives a writer the freedom to add double levels of meanings to his work: a literal one that is self-evident, and the symbolic one whose meaning is far more profound than the literal. Symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature. Symbolism in literature evokes interest in readers as they find an opportunity to get an insight into the writer’s mind ‘ how he views the world, and how he thinks of common objects and actions, having broader implications.
What is the purpose of symbolism in literature?
It’s a vital tool that allows the author to convey meaning and imagery. It adds power and the impact is greater, when it’s done well. The following quote is from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar . It shows how effective symbolism can be:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet (7)
The Life of Pi used symbolism heavily. In fact the whole tale is an allegory. It was an allegory about faith and the joy and light it brings to life. It is tale is of how Pi, the main character, was trapped on a life-raft with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger; he also tells another tale which, instead of animals, uses humans; the latter seems the more realistic story, however the one with the animals is full of wonder. Pi asks the interviewer at the end, which tale he prefers, he chooses the animal tale, then Pi tells him, ‘And so it goes with God’. The meaning of this extended metaphor is that a life of faith holds more colour, vibrancy and interest than the life without. The point is that symbolism has the same relationship to literature. It adds vibrancy and colour. It also requires the reader to engage their own imagination in order to discover the hidden meaning of the story.
How to Understand Symbolic Meanings
Well, one can understand the symbolic meaning of something through action such as where, when and how it has been used. In short, it all depends on the reader. In literary use, Symbolism means permeate objects with a specific meaning that is dissimilar from the real meaning. There are many other literary devices like metaphor, alliteration, allusion and allegory that support in the production of symbolism. The other use of symbolism is to tie particular things that probably seem useless to universal themes. Let’s have an example: A writer can use various color to show something, like Red Color can be the symbol of Danger, Love and Blood. One color is symbolizing different things having different meanings.
Importance of Symbolism in Literature
Symbolism has great importance in the field of literature. A large number of authors have been used different symbols for different cultures, for different traditional stories, fables, legends and religious context. However, symbolism rejects realism and offered a new approach that truth can be revealed in an indirect way. The most noteworthy symbolists in the world of Literature were “Paul Verlaine” “Ezra Pound” “Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud”.
The most important example of symbolism in literature is the Play of ‘Garden of Eden’. In this story, Satan persuades Eve to eat an apple that was even forbidden to touch. However, the Satan symbolizes the apple tree with the tree of knowledge and persuades Eve to eat that fruit. In literature, symbolism is not only important in plays, but it also has great significance in poetry, short stories, fiction and prose. In simple words, one who wants to understand the literary meaning must be aware of symbolism and its use. Another example in the literature is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In this gothic fiction, the character of Frankenstein was the symbol of death, revenge and danger. Moreover, seasons are also used in literature to represent different emotions and things, such as the season of spring represent joy and youth. On the other hand, the season of autumn is the best representation of loneliness and sadness.
The Function of symbolism in Lord of the Flies
Generally speaking, symbolism fulfills several functions such as allowing writers to add multiple layers of meaning to their work, making characters and themes more universal, and engaging readers’ interest. In lord of the Flies, a novel packed with symbols, all of these functions seem to be applicable. As far as creating layers of meaning is concerned, we have seen how many objects in the story are always attached to a symbolic meaning which creates a situation in which the object stands both for itself and for something that is commonly associated with it. The conch shell is a good example here. Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach at the start of the novel and use it to summon the boys together after the crash separates them. Used in this capacity, the conch shell becomes a powerful symbol of civilization and order in the novel. The shell effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak. In this regard, the shell is more than a symbol’it is an actual vessel of political legitimacy and democratic power. As the island civilization erodes and the boys descend into savagery, the conch shell loses its power and influence among them. Ralph clutches the shell desperately when he talks about his role in murdering Simon. Later, the other boys ignore Ralph and throw stones at him when he attempts to blow the conch in Jack’s camp. The boulder that Roger rolls onto Piggy also crushes the conch shell, signifying the demise of the civilized instinct among almost all the boys on the island.
The other function of symbolism in the story is to make the characters and themes more universal. A good example here would be the character of Piggy and his glasses. Through Piggy, Golding clearly wants to convey the portrait of the intelligent person or intellectual who tends to wears glasses and whose voice is often not sufficiently heard, which ultimately creates problems for society. Piggy is the most intelligent, rational boy in the group, and his glasses represent the power of science and intellectual endeavor in society. This symbolic significance is clear from the start of the novel, when the boys use the lenses from Piggy’s glasses to focus the sunlight and start a fire. When Jack’s hunters raid Ralph’s camp and steal the glasses, the savages effectively take the power to make fire, leaving Ralph’s group helpless. By using the glasses as a symbol for science and knowledge, Golding is appealing to a shared set of assumptions regarding this device. And this in turn gives a universal dimension to the story by divorcing it from any particular context or situation, and attaching it instead to a universal perspective.
The signal fire, too, is another example of a universal symbol. It is all more universal for being related to rescue and survival. The signal fire burns on the mountain, and later on the beach, to attract the notice of passing ships that might be able to rescue the boys. As a result, the signal fire becomes a barometer of the boys’ connection to civilization. In the early parts of the novel, the fact that the boys maintain the fire is a sign that they want to be rescued and return to society. When the fire burns low or goes out, we realize that the boys have lost sight of their desire to be rescued and have accepted their savage lives on the island. The signal fire thus functions as a kind of measurement of the strength of the civilized instinct remaining on the island. Ironically, at the end of the novel, a fire finally summons a ship to the island, but not the signal fire. Instead, it is the fire of savagery’the forest fire Jack’s gang starts as part of his quest to hunt and kill Ralph.
Another use for symbols is to engage readers’ interest. It is generally believed that saying something indirectly is far more interesting and appealing than stating it in a direct, straightforward way. By using symbols authors often seek to keep readers attention riveted to the story, as well as involving them in the process of meaning-making. The best example of this technique in Lord of the Flies is the symbol of the Beast. Alternately referred to as ‘beast’ or beastie’, this symbol is the source of much tension in the story. Readers are not exactly sure what this ‘beast’ is, nor whether it actually exists until fairly late in the story. The beast is an imaginary ‘thing’ that frightens all the boys stands for the primal instinct of savagery that exists within all human beings. The boys are afraid of the beast, but only Simon reaches the realization that they fear the beast because it exists within each of them. As the boys grow more savage, their belief in the beast grows stronger. By the end of the novel, the boys are leaving it sacrifices and treating it as a totemic god. The boys’ behavior is what brings the beast into existence, so the more savagely the boys act, the more real the beast seems to become.
The same could be said about the dead parachutist. The appearance of this ‘character’/symbol is rather unexpected and causes a major twist in the story. It, too, creates tension because it acts as a reminder that the boys’ world is not entirely immune to the chaos of the adults world. Together with the motif of the plane crash, this symbol is a reference to the adult world and its inability to maintain peace. Piggy’s desire to learn civilized behavior from adults goes unfulfilled. The dead man also becomes the beast.
Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, And Roger Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel, and many of its characters signify important ideas or themes. Ralph represents order, leadership, and civilization. Piggy represents the scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization. Jack represents unbridled savagery and the desire for power. Simon represents natural human goodness. Roger represents brutality and bloodlust at their most extreme. To the extent that the boys’ society resembles a political state, the littluns might be seen as the common people, while the older boys represent the ruling classes and political leaders. The relationships that develop between the older boys and the younger ones emphasize the older boys’ connection to either the civilized or the savage instinct: civilized boys like Ralph and Simon use their power to protect the younger boys and advance the good of the group; savage boys like Jack and Roger use their power to gratify their own desires, treating the littler boys as objects for their own amusement.
In conclusion, Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of English schoolboys marooned on a tropical island after their plane is shot down during a war. Though the novel is fictional, its exploration of the idea of human evil is at least partly based on Golding’s experience with the real-life violence and brutality of World War II. Free from the rules and structures of civilization and society, the boys on the island in Lord of the Flies descend into savagery. As the boys splinter into factions, some behave peacefully and work together to maintain order and achieve common goals, while others rebel and seek only anarchy and violence. In his portrayal of the small world of the island, Golding paints a broader portrait of the fundamental human struggle between the civilizing instinct’the impulse to obey rules, behave morally, and act lawfully’and the savage instinct’the impulse to seek brute power over others, act selfishly, scorn moral rules, and indulge in violence.
Golding employs a relatively straightforward writing style in Lord of the Flies, one that avoids highly poetic language, lengthy description, and philosophical interludes. Much of the novel is allegorical, meaning that the characters and objects in the novel are infused with symbolic significance that conveys the novel’s central themes and ideas. In portraying the various ways in which the boys on the island adapt to their new surroundings and react to their new freedom, Golding explores the broad spectrum of ways in which humans respond to stress, change, and tension.
Lord of the Flies is a story that portrays the dark, deteriorating life that results from mankind’s inherent capacity for evil, which is allowed to control humans when they are freed from the rules of society. Throughout the novel, Golding uses many different objects as symbols to illustrate this theme. Some of those objects would be insignificant in real life and would most likely be taken for granted. However, in Lord of the Flies, each of the previously mentioned symbols is vital to the story’s theme.
William Golding . Lord of the flies London : 1954
Books and Articles
 Gregor, Ian, and Kinkead-weeks, Mark, (1967): William Golding: a Critical Stud: Novels, London, Faber and Faber.
 Brady, A. Philip, (2007): “Golding’s Prepubescent Main Characters- Ralph, P of the Roger, and Simon- As Allegories Juxtaposed with Hierarchy of Needs”, Diss.igCgYalifjoarncicia, State University Dominguez Hills.
 Golding . William . Lord of the flies . Library of Congress Catalogue : The Putnam Publishing Group . 1954.
Websites and Internet Resources
William Golding: the official website of the author of Lord of the Flies. http://www.william-golding.co.uk/life.aspx. (5 June, 2013).
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