Title: Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding
Publication date: September 1954
Pages: 182 pages
Rating: 5 stars out 5
According to Goodreads
William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first, it seems as though it’s all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious & life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic & death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket & homework & adventure stories—& another world is revealed beneath, primitive & terrible.
I’ve read this book years ago and as a reader who suffers from book amnesia, the plot of the book is not as clear. All I can recall, is the conch, the character name Piggy, and the savagery that the children displayed to their own fellow friend. However, what stuck with me the most about this book William Golding’s portrayal of the evil nature of human beings through his characters and symbolism….and a lot of it.
Golding’s illustration of human nature through his characters
Golding asserts that human nature, when free from the constraints of society, can cause a civilized person to become self-destructive. He conveys this message throughout the book, by showing us that humans by nature are moved by urges toward brutality and dominance over others. Overall, his message is that all humans are inherently evil.
Golding uses the characters to represent human nature. Simon represents the “good” in society. He is portrayed as a Christ-like figure, always helping others especially those who were considered “weak” like Piggy. Simon overall is good and pure and has the most positive outlook. Ralph is the civilized and properly socialized person. It was his idea to create the meeting place, the fire, and the huts. With his charisma and intelligence, Ralph is a natural born leader. Piggy is the overweight boy, with poor eyesight, who is ridiculed by all the boys including Ralph. He believes in order and authority and is a good advisor to Ralph. He is very intelligent and has strong beliefs in scientific explanations and rational solutions to problems. Yet, Piggy is still naïve, making him the most vulnerable. He believes you don’t fear the dark once you’re an adult. Jack on the other hand represents the dark side of humanity and is the “evil” in society. His interest is hunting which Golding portrays as savagery. Jack is a bully, often attacking Piggy, making fun of his asthma calling it “assmar”. He is eager to make rules and has no qualms punishing those who break them. Golding portrays him is as blood thirsty and will kill anything in sight.
Although the main protagonist and antagonist of the novel can be seen as “Ralph and Jack”, the other boys play a significant role in the novel as well. Other than the main four characters I described above, there were the other boys in the island. There is Sam and Eric (known as Samneric), identical twins that never leave each other. There are Jack’s choirboys who remain loyal to him, as well as Jack’s hunters, Maurice, Stanley, and Robert. And of course there is Roger, Jack’s right-hand man, who is important, for he is the one responsible for pushing the boulder down the mountain, which then hits and kills Piggy.
Symbolism in Lord of the Flies
Other than his characters William Golding also uses different objects in the novel Lord Of the Flies to symbolize the difference of civilization and savagery. In the beginning the boys still had a sense of humanity and civilization. Nevertheless, as the novel progresses the boys become more savage and their sense of civilization begins to dissipate.
The conch shell which was found by Ralph and Piggy is a powerful symbol of civilization and order. Whoever holds the conch has the right to speak, which showed civility among the boys. However, as the boys became more savaged, the conch loses its power and influence, especially when the boulder crushed it, signifying the end of order and authority on the island. Piggy’s glasses symbolized the ability to see and understand things clearly. It can also be seen as the science and logical reasoning in society. Piggy is one of the characters who really sees how things should be done. The cracking of the first lens show that the boys have lost sight of what they needed to do. The signal fire is a symbol of the boys’ connection to civilization and hope. As they become more uncivilized, the fire becomes less important to them which can be seen when Jack and the hunters let the fire go out in order to hunt. Ralph’s effort to keep the fire going are consistent but unsuccessful, in the same way his efforts to restore order are unsuccessful.
Another symbol that Golding uses is “the beast”. It shows that evil lays dormant within us. It is chaos and the animalistic part of us that can take over easily. The boys are afraid of the beast, but Simon was the only one to realize that they fear the beast because it exists within each of them. As the boys become more savage, their belief in the beast grows stronger. The boys starts making sacrifices for it and treating it as their leader. Their behavior is what brings the beast into reality, therefore, the more savage the boys become, the more real the beast seems to be. Finally the last symbol in this book is probably the most important of them all which is the lord of the flies. The Lord of the Flies is the severed sow’s head that Jack places on a stake as an offering to the beast. This symbol becomes the most significant in the novel when Simon seems to speak to it, telling him about how evil lies within every human heart. When it comes to the death of Simon, the Lord of the Flies becomes both a physical sign of the beast and a symbol of Satan himself. This symbolizes how the boys have transformed from civilized to savage.
Other than George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies is definitely one of the best allegorical novel that I have read. I loved Golding’s simplistic writing. The best aspects of his book for me is his use of symbols throughout the novel to represent good and evil in human beings.
The central theme of the book is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: The instinct to abide by rules and act peacefully and the instinct to fulfill one’s desires, acting violently and by enforcing your will to gain supremacy over others. The conflict is depicted between the characters of Jack and Ralph: Jack the savage and the desire for power while Ralph represents leadership and order. He also shows how different people feel towards the instincts of civilization and savagery. For example Piggy, has no savage feelings, while Roger on the other hand is practically incapable of comprehending the rules of civilization.
Lord of the Flies exhibits both, the good in humans, along with man’s evil flaws. He tells us that all our instincts to govern and control and civilize have dire, horrible and pitiable consequences, no matter where we sit politically or philosophically. However, I don’t necessarily agree that man is inherently evil. I believe that everyone is inherently good until put in a situation or circumstance that makes them evil—i.e temptation to have power, money, etc….
This book is very well-written and thought provoking, thus giving it a five stars. It is disconcerting, devastating, yet so brilliant and powerful. Not everyone may enjoy it since the characters are little boys who becomes savage killers. Overall, I would recommend this book. On another note, I am curious of what the story would be like if the characters were girls instead of boys. Would they be more civilized? But then again, I honestly don’t think it matters. If anything, girls can be as scary as boys are.