Symbolism objects and events in Lord of the flies

Published: 21st September 2009
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As Lord of the Flies is a multi-layered work and open to various interpretations, let us first look at most obvious symbolic meanings significant to the theme of the novel while following some important events as they occur in the novel.



Lord of the Flies contains twelve titled chapters. The plot is simple and rarely splits into more than one plot lines, although it does sometimes. Golding writes his novel in the third person perspective with one omniscient narrator. Although the book generally follows Ralph, it occasionally breaks off and follows another character for some time.



The novel begins with the meeting of Ralph and Piggy. Ralph finds a conch shell and he blows it to gather the other boys to the general meeting. Ralph is chosen as a boss, and they search the island and discover that in fact this is a deserted island. Ralph calls the meeting and attempts to set rules of order for the island. Jack agrees with Ralph, for the existence of rules means the existence of punishment for those who break them. Ralph proposes that they should build a fire on the mountain which could signal their presence to any passing ships. The boys use Piggy's glasses to start the fire. After the boys start the fire, Piggy Mejak looses his temper and criticizes the other boys for not building shelters first. He worries that they still do not know how many boys there are, and believes that one of them is already missing. While Jack tries to hunt pigs, Ralph builds shelters for the boys, but the youngest boys do not help at all, and spend the day swimming, so Ralph has to do most of the work himself - also Jack tells Ralph that he feels as if he is being hunted himself when he hunts for pigs, because he cannot count on the other boys. The boys soon become accustomed to the progression of the day on the island - they show some sense of respect toward one another, despite the lack of parental authority.



As can be seen from the very first chapters of the novel, the fact that it places the group of young English boys on a deserted island where they must develop their own society is in essence a model sociological experiment in which these boys must develop without any societal influences to shape them. In fact, the first chapters of the novel which may be called rather optimistic as compared to the rest of the book, parallel assumptions about human evolution, as the characters "discover" fire and form levels of political authority. However, what concerns Golding in Lord of the Flies is the nature of evil as demonstrated by the boys on the island. He concludes that the evil actions that the boys commit are inherent in human nature and can only be controlled by societal mores and rationality, as exemplified by the characters of Piggy and Ralph. At first, the boys respond to their predicament with determination, good cheer, and discipline. They hold regular assembly and observe elementary rules of order; they elect a chief, Ralf, whose balance of personal charisma and reasonableness makes him a natural choice; and they establish a division of labor to perform the essential tasks of providing for food and maintaining a signal fire. Before long, however, jealousy, fear, and superstition begin to divide the boys against themselves. The group of pig-hunters led by Jack ( who bears a grudge owing to his defeat in the election for chief) evolves a distinct identity along with a set of rituals: face-painting, a mimetic dance in which they enact the killing of their quarry, and the erection of a crude cult image of the victim-god in the form of a pig's head on a sharpened stick. When rumors of the presence of a mysterious Beast on the island seemed confirmed by the discovery of a pilot's corpse whose billowing parachute creates the impression of monstrous life, tensions boil over, and, as one boy



( Simon) hastens to report his discovery that the beast is merely a man, he runs into the midst of a frenzied, circular dance celebrating a successful hunt and is killed.



The hunter Jack now rules this 'demented but partly secure society' and soon attracts all of the other boys save Ralph and Piggy, who, though they "understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought" , cling to their commitment to order, duly constituted authority, and the hope of rescue made possible only by the continuously rising smoke of the signal fire. He and Piggy resist, Ralf declares, 'because we aren't savages" (Golding, Rok Mejak 1954:157), and later, after Piggy has been killed by the tribe, Ralf knows he cannot join them because he has "some sense" ( Golding, Rok Mejak 1954: 169). The novel concludes with what Golding has agreed seems like a deus ex machine ( Dick 1965: 481), when British naval officer preempts the tribe's manhunt for Ralf just in time to rescue the boys from the raging wildfire consuming their island and to the war-torn world of their elders. Miraculously spared, Ralf weeps "for the end of innocence", the "darkness of man's heart", and his "wise friend" Piggy ( Golding and Mejak 1954:184).



Written by Rok Mejak. For more review and analysis you can visit my Rok Mejak home page.

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