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Essay: Lord of the Flies: time, theme, crucial characters

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Golding, William. Lord of The Flies. New York, New York. Penguin Group, 1954.

Passing of time

Lord of The Flies is set right before the next World War on an uncharted island after a plane crashes, stranding British schoolboys with no adult supervision to fend for themselves against the unknown dangers of the wilderness and corrupted humanity. The island is quite large, consisting of jungles, beaches, and mountains that stretch around the island’s barrier (“The shore was fledged with palm trees. These stood or leaned or reclined against the light and their green feathers were a hundred feet up in the air. 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.” pages 9-10) The island setting is significant because not only does it lead into the theme of the novel with show of survival, but it also represents how the rules of human adaptation apply out in the wild. From a sense of freedom and childhood innocence, to a reign of terror and savagery, William Golding’s theme expertly executes how in a given situation where one must fend for their self, the only rules that truly apply are the knowing of human morals.
As far as the amount of time that passes between chapters in Lord of The Flies, the significant time changes vary everyday to every other day. That can be told by not only the progress of adaptation shown by the stranded boys, but also by how dirty they become.

Crucial characters

In Lord of The Flies, there are crucial characters that help develop both the storyline and the decisions that are made. The first crucial character is Ralph, a fair boy with an intelligent mind for decision-making and thinking quick on his feet. He is the main protagonist of the novel, as well as the elected leader of the boys as there is no other to keep them in order. As leader, Ralph tries to keep his focus on domestic orders and human morals for both civilization and survival. Put simply, Ralph endorses both teamwork and survival skills as the main focus among the boys. Unfortunately, Ralph loses both his charge of order and nearly his life to Jack’s newfound (and mentionably uncivilized) power and army.
The second crucial character is Piggy, a short and plump boy with asthma. Piggy provides both his logical way of thinking (though only Ralph ever takes his ideas into consideration), and his spectacles used to start fires. He plays the role of Ralph’s loyal sidekick, as he’s always helping Ralph with group decisions and logical planning. Piggy and his spectacles are actually quite significant to the plot, as his spectacles represent the transitional adaptation of all the characters. His specs are quite symbolic as they represent that the shape of society is not based on any apparent logical political system, but rather withheld in the eyes of an individual.
The third crucial character is Jack, a natural leader for his choir and soon-to-be hunters. Jack consistently picks fights with Ralph, as they both aspire to be the dominant individual(s) of the group. Although they share their trait of dominance, both their personal insights and future plans for the group of stranded boys are contradictory. Jack chooses to focus the group on hunting and the reward of meat over Ralph’s intention of civilized domestic order and hope of rescue. Upon these insights, Jack builds an army of hunters who become thirsty for blood. Jack and his army soon become obsessed with the idea of killing, and are consistently concentrated on finding food rather than building fires and shelters. Jack is significant to the novel as he is the one to change the boys into complete savages, thus producing the theme of the novel.
The fourth crucial character is Simon, a quiet and shy boy who keeps to himself. Simon is known for his random fainting spells, and spending time alone away from the others in the jungle. The other boys consider Simon odd, but only he understands the truth about “the Beast”. Simon is also the only one to muster up enough courage to investigate the creature it is that they all fear sighted on the mountain, but before he can tell the others the truth he is killed in a tribal ritual that had been taken too far. Simon is significant as he is the only one who knew the true nature of the Beast, through the visions that occurred to him. He is the one character who truly stands out because he’s quiet, but motivated and willing to always lend a hand.


Like every novel, Lord of The Flies has a purpose, or a message that can be perceived from the author’s storyline and words. The author wrote this book to show the defects of human nature and society. In the end of the novel (Notes on Lord of The Flies), there is a paragraph from a questionnaire with William Golding about the theme of Lord of The Flies:

“The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island. The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?” (page 204, Lord of The Flies)

Therefore, the theme is about human impulses, and how being stuck in difficult situations can cause individuals to react upon them. For example, Jack’s impulse of savagery is what kills Piggy and Simon, while Ralph’s impulse of civilization tries to focus on the motivation and teamwork it’ll take to be rescued from the island; a classic case of good versus evil. Along with the idea of human impulse, Golding seems to stress the point that the evil has always existed within; it is only when one chooses to allow that evil to overtake them that we become what we fear, “the Beast”. William Golding uses symbolic characters and items when writing to hint clues at the plot and express his ideas more fluently to the reader, so Piggy’s specs play a significant role in Lord of The Flies. Piggy’s broken specs represent the turning point of the novel in which the evil of humanity overcomes the heart of childhood innocence.


In conclusion, Lord of The Flies was an expertly written novel with choice words and a magnificent web of a storyline. William Golding’s Lord of The Flies was although in my personal opinion at times a bit boring, the intricate web of meaning behind the novel was intriguing and left the reader wondering. Much to my surprise, I actually ended up enjoying this novel. I will admit that during reading I didn’t understand some things and had to reread them, but upon rereading them I began to understand why Golding became an author in the first place: to express ideas and teach morals to younger generations for years to come, and doing it quite brilliantly I must add. Overall, I enjoyed the book but wish there was more explanation for the ending of the novel. The author made the end simple, but left the reader craving more (“For a moment he had a fleeting picture of the strange glamour that had once invested the beaches. But the island was scorched up like dead wood—Simon was dead—and Jack had… The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy. The officer, surrounded by these noises, was moved and a little embarrassed. He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together, and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance”).
If you were to ask me if this novel was worth the read, I would tell you that it indeed is. Not only was it excellently executed, but once you reached the point in which you realized the underlying theme, it was like your brain flipped a switch. You began to realize why the author wrote things in the fashion he did, and how all the characters and the plot pulled the story together. It wasn’t just any story about boys deserted on an island; it was more complex and had a greater point and life lesson than just any story. Although I liked the book, I would never buy it for my personal collection. I did enjoy it, but I would probably never read it again just because the way it was worded at some points became a bit of a bore. I feel as though it was only because the book was older, so it’s not written in a fashion I’m used to reading.
Lord of The Flies actually reminded me a lot of a book I had to read for eighth grade advanced English called The Wave by author Todd Strasser. The Wave was about a teacher who did a social experiment for his class to educate them on the Nazis of Germany. You could either choose to be a part of The Wave, or you would be shunned by everyone. The Wave reminded me of Lord of The Flies because both novels dealt with corrupt political systems that although appear logical, are rather uncivilized. Ralph was similar to Todd Strasser’s character Laurie Sanders. Laurie knew The Wave was wrong, and Laurie wanted to focus on the positive and civilized side of things rather than creating an epidemic of copycat Nazis. Ralph also tried to remain on the optimistic side of things, and tried to focus on the civilized and domestic way. Just like The Wave though, Jack’s army favored power over domestic and civilized order. They felt like they were a part of something huge, something unstoppable; but like all power, their reign eventually came to an end, taking lives and innocence away with it.
Overall, William Golding wrote an amazing novel filled with twists and turns. Not only did he always leave me wondering what would happen next, even after the book ended he left on a mysterious note. If the trim cruiser was in the distance, who would rescue the officer? All these
things to think about that leave the reader wanting more. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes books with mysterious endings that leave you wondering what could happen next. If you’re into books with adventure and morals, then Lord of The Flies is for you.

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