Lord of the Flies


A running theme in Lord of the Flies is that man is savage at 
heart, always ultimately reverting back to an evil and primitive 
nature. The cycle of man's rise to power, or righteousness, and his 
inevitable fall from grace is an important point that book proves 
again and again, often comparing man with characters from the Bible to 
give a more vivid picture of his descent. Lord Of The Flies symbolizes 
this fall in different manners, ranging from the illustration of the 
mentality of actual primitive man to the reflections of a corrupt 
seaman in purgatory.

 The novel is the story of a group of boys of different 
backgrounds who are marooned on an unknown island when their plane 
crashes. As the boys try to organize and formulate a plan to get 
rescued, they begin to separate and as a result of the dissension a 
band of savage tribal hunters is formed. Eventually the "stranded 
boys in Lord of the Flies almost entirely shake off civilized 
behavior: (Riley 1: 119). When the confusion finally leads to a 
manhunt [for Ralph], the reader realizes that despite the strong sense 
of British character and civility that has been instilled in the youth 
throughout their lives, the boys have backpedaled and shown the 
underlying savage side existent in all humans. "Golding senses that 
institutions and order imposed from without are temporary, but man's 
irrationality and urge for destruction are enduring" (Riley 1: 119). 
The novel shows the reader how easy it is to revert back to the evil 
nature inherent in man. If a group of well-conditioned school boys 
can ultimately wind up committing various extreme travesties, one can 
imagine what adults, leaders of society, are capable of doing under 
the pressures of trying to maintain world relations.

 Lord of the Flies's apprehension of evil is such that it touches 
 the nerve of contemporary horror as no English novel of its time has 
 done; it takes us, through symbolism, into a world of active, 
 proliferating evil which is seen, one feels, as the natural condition 
 of man and which is bound to remind the reader of the vilest 
 manifestations of Nazi regression (Riley 1: 120).

 In the novel, Simon is a peaceful lad who tries to show the 
boys that there is no monster on the island except the fears that the 
boys have. "Simon tries to state the truth: there is a beast, but 
'it's only us'" (Baker 11). When he makes this revelation, he is 
ridiculed. This is an uncanny parallel to the misunderstanding that 
Christ had to deal with throughout his life. Later in the story, the 
savage hunters are chasing a pig. Once they kill the pig, they put 
its head on a stick and Simon experiences an epiphany in which he 
"sees the perennial fall which is the central reality of our history: 
the defeat of reason and the release of... madness in souls wounded by 
fear" (Baker 12). As Simon rushes to the campfire to tell the boys of 
his discovery, he is hit in the side with a spear, his prophecy 
rejected and the word he wished to spread ignored. Simon falls to the 
ground dead and is described as beautiful and pure. The description 
of his death, the manner in which he died, and the cause for which he 
died are remarkably similar to the circumstances of Christ's life and 
ultimate demise. The major difference is that Christ died on the 
cross, while Simon was speared. However, a reader familiar with the 
Bible recalls that Christ was stabbed in the side with a a spear 
before his crucifixion.

 William Golding discusses man's capacity for fear and 
cowardice. In the novel, the boys on the island first encounter a 
natural fear of being stranded on an uncharted island without the 
counsel of adults. Once the boys begin to organize and begin to feel 
more adult-like themselves, the fear of monsters takes over. It is 
understandable that boys ranging in ages from toddlers to young 
teenagers would have fears of monsters, especially when it is taken 
into consideration that the children are stranded on the island. The 
author wishes to show, however, that fear is an emotion that is 
instinctive and active in humans from the very beginnings of their 
lives. This revelation uncovers another weakness in man, supporting 
the idea or belief that man is pathetic and savage at the very core of 
his existence. Throughout the novel, there is a struggle for power 
between two groups. This struggle illustrates man's fear of losing 
control, which is another example of his selfishness and weakness. The 
fear of monsters is natural; the fear of losing power is inherited. 
The author uses these vices to prove the point that any type of 
uncontrolled fear contributes to man's instability and will ultimately 
lead to his [man's] demise spiritually and perhaps even physically.

 The author chooses to use an island as the setting for the 
majority of the story. "The island is an important symbol in all of 
Golding's works. It suggests the isolation of man in a frightening and 
mysterious cosmos, and the futility of his attempt to create an 
ordered preserve for himself in an otherwise patternless world" (Baker 
26). The island in the novel is the actual island; it is not simply an 
island, though. It is a microcosm of life itself, the adult world, and 
the human struggle with his own loneliness. 

 "Left alone on the island of the self, man discovers the reality of 
 his own dark heart, and what he discovers is too abominable for him 
 to endure. At the highest pitch of terror he makes the only gesture 
 he can make -- a raw, instinctive appeal for help, for rescue" 
 (Baker 67).

 Man grows more savage at heart as he evolves because of his 
cowardice and his quest for power. The novel proves this by throwing 
together opposing forces into a situation that dowses them with power 
struggles and frightening situations. By comparing mankind in general 
to Biblical characters in similar scenarios, the novel provides images 
of the darker side of man. This darker side of man's nature inevitably 
wins and man is proven to be a pathetic race that refuses to accept 
responsibility for its shortcomings.

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