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).
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