Lord of the Flies by William Golding follows the experience of a young
Lord of the Flies by William Golding follows the experience of a young, twelve-year-old boy named Ralph. He is left to survive on an island along with other school-aged boys after a horrific plane crash. The society that is inevitably created becomes tainted with the inherent evil within in the boys, displaying Golding’s message to the readers. Throughout the novel, Golding intentionally utilizes many literary devices to express his belief regarding civilization: the downfall of society is directly correlated to the defects of human nature.
To begin with, similes are used to develop the theme in the way that Golding compares the boys to animals, exposing their savagery. In the chapter, “Huts on the Beach,” Jack, one of the older boys, goes out to hunt for food in the ominous jungle. The author notes, “Jack himself shrank at this cry with a hiss of indrawn breath, and for a minute became less a hunter than a furtive thing, ape-like among a tangle of trees.” (Golding 58) William Golding uses zoomorphism and a simile in his description to show that Jack is becoming animalistic at an early stage in the book. By utilizing the phrase “ape-like,” Golding emphasizes how Jack is regressing into uncivilization by applying more-so his primitive instincts and less his moral sense into his actions. This develops the theme in the way that it is the boys’ inhumanity that ultimately causes the problems on the island. Because Jack cannot contain his lust for killing or his need for power, people follow in his footsteps and develop mob mentality. For that reason, chaos is unleashed and civilization breaks. The greedy desires of man prevail no matter what system is in place to establish order. In addition, the fact that Ralph is compared to a horse also portrays the theme as the text states that he, “shied like a horse among the creepers and ran once more till he was panting.” (Golding 228) This description makes Ralph seem like prey, weak and victimized. He is the target of the predators, the boys. Their vicious wantings overcome all sense of right and wrong, undoubtedly shown by how they run the island. This relates back to the overall idea of the story, for the illogical mindset of the boys is the backbone of the society that permits violence, murder, and tyranny.
Furthermore, Golding also uses multiple allusions to the Bible to convey his message. In fact, Golding creates many similarities between an insightful character named Simon and Jesus Christ. For example, the story states that Simon, “…bashed into a tree… Simon reeled and a white spot on his head turned red and trickled.” (118) Throughout the novel, Simon tries to relay to the rest of the boys that the beast they fear of is not an outside force. Rather, it is inside them. When Simon crashes into a tree, the boys laugh, showing that they only see Simon as odd and peculiar. Sadly, the boys understand Simon’s warning only after they murder him. This excerpt draws a connection to when a crown of thorns is placed on Jesus’s head, mocking his claim that he was the son of God. He is later crucified, sacrificing himself for humanity’s sins. Similar to Simon, people did not believe Jesus’s declaration to authority until he executed. This allusion ties back to the development of the theme, for both are killed because of the cruelty and wrongdoings of man. Both Jesus and Simon have benevolent souls with the good of society in mind, yet they were the ones to die. The boys in Lord of the Flies become unruly and uncivilized, allowing them to disregard their consciences and kill Simon. This ultimately happened not because of the system they put in place but because the beast inside was unleashed. Additionally, all the boys on the island can be compared to Adam and Eve when Ralph states, “‘Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then–‘ He moved the conch gently, looking beyond them at nothing, remembering the beastie, the snake, the fire the talk of fear.” (Golding 92) In the story of Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, even though they are told not to. In result, they lose their innocence because they realize they are both naked. Afterward, God sends them out the Garden of Eden, exposing them to sickness, pain, and death. The boys on the island are similar to Adam and Eve because despite Simon, a symbol of goodness, attempting to tell them what the true identity of the beast is, they do not listen. Instead, they give in to the temptation of their inner beast. The boys become reckless, violent, and uncontrollable. Like Adam and Eve, they lose their innocence when they feel the remorse and guilt behind their actions at the end of the novel. This allusion teaches the theme in the way that it showcases how easy it is for a good society to crumble. Once the boys gave into their evil sides, no rule or law could keep them sane.
Finally, symbolism is the last literary device that the author uses to portray the main theme. To start, the conch is a recurring symbol that represents order, civilization, and rules. The author explains, “‘I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.'” (Golding 24) The boys create a democracy based around the conch. The civilization they create is successful until the boys become savage. As time passes, the conch loses its color as quickly as the boys turn into animals. The moment when the conch shatters is the moment where chaos breaks free. All the boys turn to their savage ways. This goes back to the development of the theme, for the conch could not save the boys from inhumanity. The hidden inherent evil of the boys is ultimately reflected in the way they ran things on the island. To continue, the fire is another symbol that contributes to how the defects of an individual correlate back to the defects of society. To clarify, the text states, “‘There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!'” (Golding 79) The fire symbolizes hope for the boys, as it is their main chance of rescue. Nonetheless, the fire can also symbolize destruction, despair, and danger when the boys do not watch or tend it. The confrontation between Ralph and Jack is important because it shows the consequences of society when man becomes selfish and evil. Instead of keeping the fire going, Jack fulfilled his lust for killing and want to assert his power by killing a pig. Going back to the theme, the fire establishes Golding’s message by showing that even when there is a system in place, its success derives from if the members follow it and if they use it for greedy intentions. Moreover, the final symbol that is pivotal in the development of Golding’s theme is the Lord of the Flies. It represents the wicked, inner evil the boys possess. In the chapter, “Gift for the Darkness,” Simon hallucinates, thinking that the Lord of the Flies tells him, “‘Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!… You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?” (Golding 166) Simon’s hallucination directly tells the readers that all of the problems the group is facing derives from the conflicting ethical natures of the boys. Their savage methods are what is preventing them from peace and harmony on the island. The fact that Jack and his hunters killed the sow by graphically lodging a speak up her anus, shows that the boys are not thinking clearly and have lost their minds. The sow was supposed to be a gift to the imaginary beast; however, it was instead a gift to themselves, further fueling their savagery. It aids in developing the theme, for their human nature is being displayed in how they run the island. Because their inherent evil has taken control, their society is no longer orderly.