In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the boys who are stranded on the island come incontact with many unique elements that symbolize ideas or concepts. Through the use ofsymbols such as the beast, the pig’s head, and even Piggy’s specs, Golding demonstratesthat humans, when liberated from society’s rules and taboos, allow their natural capacityfor evil to dominate their existence.
One of the most important and most obvious symbols in Lord of the Flies is the object thatgives the novel its name, the pig’s head. Golding’s description of the slaughtered animal’shead on a spear is very graphic and even frightening. The pig’s head is depicted as”dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackening between the teeth,” and the “obscene thing”is covered with a “black blob of flies” that “tickled under his nostrils” (William Golding,Lord of the Flies, New York, Putnam Publishing Group, 1954, p. 137, 138). As a result ofthis detailed, striking image, the reader becomes aware of the great evil and darknessrepresented by the Lord of the Flies, and when Simon begins to converse with theseemingly inanimate, devil-like object, the source of that wickedness is revealed. Eventhough the conversation may be entirely a hallucination, Simon learns that the beast, whichhas long since frightened the other boys on the island, is not an external force.
In fact, thehead of the slain pig tells him, “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could huntand kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?” (p. 143). That is to say, the evil,epitomized by the pig’s head, that is causing the boys’ island society to decline is thatwhich is inherently present within man. At the end of this scene, the immense evilrepresented by this powerful symbol can once again be seen as Simon faints after lookinginto the wide mouth of the pig and seeing “blackness within, a blackness that spread” (p.
144). Another of the most important symbols used to present the theme of the novel is the beast. In the imaginations of many of the boys, the beast is a tangible source of evil on the island. However, in reality, it represents the evil naturally present within everyone, which iscausing life on the island to deteriorate. Simon begins to realize this even before hisencounter with the Lord of the Flies, and during one argument over the existence of abeast, he attempts to share his insight with the others. Timidly, Simon tells them, “Maybe,maybe there is a beast What I mean is maybe it’s only us” (p.
89). In response toSimon’s statement, the other boys, who had once conducted their meetings with somesense of order, immediately begin to argue more fiercely. The crowd gives a “wildwhoop” when Jack rebukes Ralph, saying “Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong we hunt!If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat!” (p. 91).
Clearly, the boys’ fear of the beast and their ironic desire to kill it shows that the holdwhich society’s rules once had over them has been loosened during the time they havespent without supervision on the island. The evil within the boys has more effect on their existence as they spend more time on theisland, isolated from the rest of society, and this decline is portrayed by Piggy’s specs. Throughout the novel, Piggy represents the civilization and the rules from which the boyshave been separated, and interestingly, as Piggy loses his ability to see, so do the otherboys lose their vision of that civilization. When the story begins, Piggy can see clearlywith both lenses of his spectacles intact, and the boys are still fairly civilized.
For example,at one of their first meetings, the boys decide that they “can’t have everybody talking atonce” and that they “have to have Hands up’ like at school” (p. 33). However, after sometime passes, the hunters become more concerned with slaughtering a pig than with beingrescued and returning to civilization. When they return from a successful hunt in the junglechanting “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood,” Ralph and Piggy attempt to explainto the hunters that having meat for their meals is not as important as keeping the signal fireburning (p.
69). In an ensuing scuffle, Jack knocks Piggy specs from his face, smashingone of the lenses against the mountain rocks and greatly impairing his vision. Finally, afterJack forms his own tribe of savages, he and two of his followers ambush Ralph, Piggy,and Samneric, and in the midst of “a vicious snarling in the mouth of the shelter and theplunge and thump of living things,” Piggy’s specs are stolen, leaving him virtually blind (p. 167).
Meanwhile, Jack returns to Castle Rock, “trotting steadily, exulting in hisachievement,” as he has practically abandoned all ties to civilized life (p. 168). The story’s setting presents two more symbols that assist in showing the decline of civilityon the island. A majority of the island is taken up by the jungle, which is used by manyauthors as an archetype to represent death and decay. In fact, since the jungle is the lair ofthe beast, it, too, symbolizes the darkness naturally present within humans that is capableof ruling their lives.
This evil eventually spreads to almost every boy on the island, just asin the jungle, “darkness poured out, submerging the ways between the trees till they weredim and strange as the bottom of the sea” (p. 57). At one end of the island, where the planecarrying the boys most likely crashed, there is a “long scar smashed into the jungle” (p. 1). While Golding does not include a large amount of description about the scar, the image of”broken trunks” with “jagged edges” is sufficient to give the reader an idea of thedestruction caused to the island (p.
1, 2). Symbolically, this scar represents the destructionthat man is naturally capable of causing and can be related to the harm the boys ultimatelycause to one another, including the deaths of three boys, before they are rescued. The degeneration of the boys’ way of life is also very evident through the symbolic masks. When concealed by masks of clay paint, the hunters, especially Ralph, seem to have newpersonalities as they forget the taboos of society that once restrained them from giving into their natural urges. For example, when Jack first paints his face to his satisfaction, hesuddenly becomes a new, savage person. “He began to dance and his laughter became abloodthirsty snarling.
He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing of its own, behindwhich Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (p. 64). Certainly, Jackwould not have acted in such a way if he had been in his home society, but behind themask of paint, Jack feels free to act like a savage. It is also noteworthy, that the first maskthat Jack creates is red, white, and black.
These colors archetypically symbolize violence,terror, and evil, respectively, and in this novel, Golding uses these colors to illustrate thosecharacteristics that are inherently present in humans. The feeling of liberation that results from wearing the masks allows many of the boys toparticipate in the barbaric, inhumane pig hunts. Those hunts can be interpreted assymbolizing the boys’ primal urges or even anarchy. In fact, many of the boys become soengulfed in their quest for the blood of a pig that they seem to forget about their hopes ofreturning to civilization and neglect to keep the signal fire burning.
When Ralph tries toexplain how important the signal fire is, Jack and the other hunters are still occupied withthoughts of the successful, gruesome hunt in which they just participated. “There waslashings of blood,’ said Jack, laughing and shuddering, you should have seen it!'” (p. 69). Also, during a later celebration over another successful hunt, the boys become carriedaway while reenacting the slaughter.
However, the boys have become so much likesavages that they are unable to control themselves, and for a moment, they mistake Simonfor the beast. “The sticks fell and the mouth of the circle crunched and screamed. Thebeast was on its knees in the center, its arm folded over its face” (p. 152).
As a result oftheir uncontrolled urges, the boys soon kill one of their own. Finally, one of the most memorable symbols that is used to show the violence anddarkness which comes to rule life on the island is the rock, which Roger releases to killPiggy. As an archetype in literature, a rock can symbolize strength and power, and sincethis rock is red, it also represents violence. It is Roger who feels strong and powerful as hestands on the ledge above Piggy. “High overhead, Roger, with a sense of deliriumabandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever” (p. 180).
When the rock lands below, itnot only strikes Piggy, but it also shatters the conch shell. Up to that point, Piggy and theconch had been two of the few representations of civilization and common sense on theisland. However, when the rock causes both of these to cease to exist, all order on theisland is brought to an end, and the boys, who express no regrets over the death of Piggy,have fully become savages. In conclusion, Lord of the Flies is a story that portrays the dark, deteriorating life thatresults from mankind’s inherent capacity for evil, which is allowed to control humans whenthey are freed from the rules of society.
Throughout the novel, Golding uses manydifferent objects as symbols to illustrate this theme. Some of those objects would beinsignificant in real life and would most likely be taken for granted. However, in Lord ofthe Flies, each of the previously mentioned symbols is vital to the story’s theme. Words/ Pages : 1,590 / 24