Symbolism In Lord Of The Flies


Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Ralph can all be seen as symbolic
characters in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.
Golding uses symbolism to display his belief of the nature
of mankind. He believes that the change from good to evil,
from civilization to primitivism is unavoidable if there is
not any direct authority over people. 

Piggy, an overweight asthmatic boy about 8 years in age,
who cannot see without his glasses represents physical
weakness and mental strength. His poor vision and obesity
immediately establish to the reader his traits of physical
infirmity and incompetence. The glasses, however, help
illustrate his intellectual strength, his ability to think
situations over logically and use reason, rather than
emotions to decide upon important dilemmas. Piggy does not
let his emotions guide him. Through the course of the
novel, we observe how the allegorical society on this
uninhabited tropical island in the Pacific Ocean makes the
transition from carefully organized democratic reasoning to
feeling-driven anarchy. 

The climax of this transition is marked by the death of
Piggy and the destruction of the conch shell, which has
very similar symbolism to Piggy. The gradual shift is also
measured by various incidents that hinder Piggy's mental
reasoning, such as the breaking of his spectacles, and the
loss of the boys' faith in him. Piggy's character is used
by William Golding to show how even the best solution to a
problem can easily be overlooked because of the lack of
respect, pre-established prejudices, and the lack of mature
thinking processes. 

 Jack's role in " Lord of the Flies" is to show the
transition from the opposite perspective. Jack Merridew
first appears in the novel leading his choir in a strictly
organized fashion. He is the epitome of discipline. Then,
for some reason, he becomes gradually obsessed with the
killing of pigs, stealing from the other boys, and fighting
the 'beast'. The most substantial point in this
transformation is the first time he kills a pig. Shortly
after the boys have accidentally landed on the island, Jack
is reluctant to kill the pig. He is frightened to draw
blood from a living thing. A quotation from Jack himself
describes this perfectly: "I was going to [stick the pig].
I was choosing a place. Next time---!" Jack was not only
afraid of the enormity of his knife cutting into living
flesh, but he was also greatly concerned of what the other
boys thought of him. Then, for some reason, Jack overcomes
his fear and is able to slaughter the pig fiercely and
brutally. This is a result of his changed identity due his
painted face, and the fact that he has adapted to the
island. Jack further evolves into a relentless dictator who
gains followers by promising to fulfill the children's
desire for a reversion to primitivism. His character
unfolds even beyond this point into the killing of people,
when his 'gang' kills Piggy and when he gives orders to his
followers to track down Ralph and to kill him. Jack
transforms from good to evil simultaneously as Piggy
changes from power to death. 

Simon is the most mature of the boys because he does not
fear the imaginary beast and he realizes that it is only in
the boys' minds. His symbol is that of a Christ-like figure
who sees the truth, but is killed because of ignorance. He
has the solution for surviving on the island, but is unable
to pass it on to the boys when he is killed in a mob-like
fashion. His role is similar to Piggy's in this manner.
This just shows how again, the emotions of the boys prevail
in a life threatening situation, even if the 'life
threatener' is only imagined. Simon's hallucinations
symbolize messages from God, to be passed on to the people.

Ralph is the best leader of the boys, even though they
cannot see it. He runs a democratic government, is totally
fair, has the right priorities. The change from good to
evil is shown in Lord of the Flies by the shift from Ralph
to Jack as the boys' choice of leaders. The boys start off
by choosing Ralph as the leader, but over time all the boys
except Piggy decide to follow Jack. Ralph is the
evenhanded, honest, thoughtful leader, while Jack is the
exact opposite, an unjust, callous dictator. When Ralph is
being hunted, it symbolizes a total revert to primitivism
and evil. 

In " Lord of the Flies", William Golding uses the four main
characters to symbolize different aspects of the inevitable
change from civilization and happiness to primitivism and
instinct that occurs when people are placed in an
environment without direct authority. 


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