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The Lord of the Flies

In his classic novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding utilizes many elements of symbolism to help accomplish his motif, which is "man is basically evil." Symbolism can be anything, a person, place or thing, used to portray something beyond itself. It is used to represent or foreshadow the conclusion of the story. As one reads this novel, he or she will begin to recognize the way basic civilization is slowly stripped away from the boys. Let us know look closer at the ways Golding uses this form of symbolism. From the very beginning of the story the boys inwardly strip themselves of the remnants of the basic civilized world. This is shown when the boys shed their clothes; their school sweaters, then the rest of their clothes are torn off. Their hair becomes increasingly disheveled, long, and entangled with small twigs. Since the boys are left without any adult supervision they have to turn to their collective unconscious. The collective unconscious was discovered by the renown psychologist Carl Jung. Let us now look further into each individual character in the novel, and discover how they each contribute to portray the ending of the story. Ralph is one of the older boys on the island and remains the leader throughout most of the novel. He is described as a pure, English lad. Such details as his fair hair and the fact that he is wearing his school sweater symbolizes many things. First of all the fact that he has fair hair represents that he will be the positive force throughout the novel, as opposed to Jack who is described as having red hair. The fact that he keeps his school sweater symbolizes his desire to keep the island somewhat civilized. He does everything he can to keep the boys under some kind of society. He makes laws including the freedom of speech. Ralph becomes very popular in the beginning, however as the novel proceeds and the society deteriorates, the popular leader is abandoned for a strong-armed dictator; Jack Merridew. The impression that we have of Jack is that he is a tall thin boy with a shock of red hair at the summit of a black cloak. Jacks appearance seems to suggest evil. Unlike Ralph who stands for common sense and a desire for normal civilized life, all Jack cares about is hunting. Because of this opposition between Jack and Ralph, Jack is Ralph's main antagonist. Symbolically Jack breaks away from good when he baptizes himself with the blood of the slaughtered pig. Jack eventually breaks away from Ralph and the others and forms his own group which will basically strive for blood. This leads to multiple murders. With the exception of Ralph, Piggy, and a few others, Jack lures the other boys to join him. According to the laws of Freudian Psychology Jacks Id has taken over. Another character portrayed in Lord of the Flies is Piggy. Piggy is the object of much mockery and is obviously a fat boy. Piggy foresees both the need for a closely watched signal fire and for secure shelters on the beach. Piggys spectacles are used to start the fire. Piggy could represent knowledge or intelligence, a figure which is often depicted as a fire-bringer. A familiar expression that can represent this is the fire of inspiration. Even though Piggy represented all good he was often jeered at. Simon is a Christ figure. He is quiet, almost unnoticed, yet he speaks wiser than the others. His wander deep into the heart of the woods in chapter three, is representative of Jesus' journey's to isolate himself to pray to his Father. As we can clearly see, William Golding has used much symbolism to help portray the ending of the novel, 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. In his first novel, William Golding used a group of boys stranded on a tropical island to illustrate the malicious nature of mankind. Lord of the Flies dealt with changes that the boys underwent as they gradually adapted to the isolated freedom from society. Three main characters depicted different effects on certain individuals under those circumstances. Jack Merridew began as the arrogant and self-righteous leader of a choir. The freedom of the island allowed him to further develop the darker side of his personality as the Chief of a savage tribe. Ralph started as a self-assured boy whose confidence in himself came from the acceptance of his peers. He had a fair nature as he was willing to listen to Piggy. He became increasingly dependent on Piggy's wisdom and became lost in the confusion around him. Towards the end of the story his rejection from their society of savage boys forced him to fend for himself. Piggy was an educated boy who had grown up as an outcast. Due to his academic childhood, he was more mature than the others and retained his civilized behaviour. But his experiences on the island gave him a more realistic understanding of the cruelty possessed by some people. The ordeals of the three boys on the island made them more aware of the evil inside themselves and in some cases, made the false politeness that had clothed them dissipate. However, the changes experienced by one boy differed from those endured by another. This is attributable to the physical and mental dissimilarities between them. Jack was first described with an ugly sense of cruelty that made him naturally unlikeable. As leader of the choir and one of the tallest boys on the island, Jack's physical height and authority matched his arrogant personality. His desire to be Chief was clearly evident in his first appearance. When the idea of having a Chief was mentioned Jack spoke out immediately. "I ought to be chief," said Jack with simple arrogance, "because I'm chapter chorister and head boy." _ He led his choir by administering much discipline resulting in forced obedience from the cloaked boys. His ill-nature was well expressed through his impoliteness of saying, "Shut up, Fatty." at Piggy. (p. 23) However, despite his unpleasant personality, his lack of courage and his conscience prevented him from killing the first pig they encountered. "They knew very well why he hadn't: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood." (p. 34) Even at the meetings, Jack was able to contain himself under the leadership of Ralph. He had even suggested the implementation of rules to regulate themselves. This was a Jack who was proud to be British, and who was shaped and still bound by the laws of a civilized society. The freedom offered to him by the island allowed Jack to express the darker sides of his personality that he hid from the ideals of his past environment. Without adults as a superior and responsible authority, he began to lose his fear of being punished for improper actions and behaviours. This freedom coupled with his malicious and arrogant personality made it possible for him to quickly degenerate into a savage. He put on paint, first to camouflage himself from the pigs. But he discovered that the paint allowed him to hide the forbidden thoughts in his mind that his facial expressions would otherwise betray. "The mask was a thing on its own behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness." (p. 69) Through hunting, Jack lost his fear of blood and of killing living animals. He reached a point where he actually enjoyed the sensation of hunting a prey afraid of his spear and knife. His natural desire for blood and violence was brought out by his hunting of pigs. As Ralph became lost in his own confusion, Jack began to assert himself as chief. The boys realizing that Jack was a stronger and more self-assured leader gave in easily to the freedom of Jack's savagery. Placed in a position of power and with his followers sharing his crazed hunger for violence, Jack gained encouragement to commit the vile acts of thievery and murder. Freed from the conditions of a regulated society, Jack gradually became more violent and the rules and proper behaviour by which he was brought up were forgotten. The freedom given to him unveiled his true self under the clothing worn by civilized people to hide his darker characteristics. Ralph was introduced as a fair and likeable boy whose self-assured mad him feel secure even on the island without any adults. His interaction with Piggy demonstrated his pleasant nature as he did not call him names with hateful intent as Jack had. His good physique allowed him to be well accepted among his peers, and this gave him enough confidence to speak out readily in public. His handsome features and the conch as a symbol of power and order pointed him out from the crowd of boys and proclaimed him Chief. "There was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerful, there was the conch." (p. 24) From the quick decisions he made as Chief near the beginning of the novel, it could be seen that Ralph was well-organized. But even so, Ralph began repeatedly to long and daydream of his civilized and regular past. Gradually, Ralph became confused and began to lose clarity in his thoughts and speeches. "Ralph was puzzled by the shutter that flickered in his brain. There was something he wanted to say; then the shutter had come down." (p. 156) He started to feel lost in their new environment as the boys, with the exception of Piggy began to change and adapt to their freedom. As he did not lose his sense of responsibility, his viewpoints and priorities began to differ from the savages'. He was more influenced by Piggy than by Jack, who in a way could be viewed as a source of evil. Even though the significance of the fire as a rescue signal was slowly dismissed, Ralph continued to stress the importance of the fire at the mountaintop. He also tried to reestablish the organization that had helped to keep the island clean and free of potential fire hazards. This difference made most of the boys less convinced of the integrity of Ralph. As his supporters became fewer and Jack's insistence on being chief grew, his strength as a leader diminished. But even though Ralph had retained much of his past social conditioning, he too was not spared from the evil released by the freedom from rules and adults. During the play-fight after their unsuccessful hunt in the course of their search for the beast, Ralph for the first time, had an opportunity to join the hunters and share their desire for violence. "Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering." (p. 126) Without rules to limit them, they were free to make their game as real as they wanted. Ralph did not understand the hatred Jack had for him, nor did he fully comprehend why their small and simple society deteriorated. This confusion removed his self-confidence and made him more dependent on Piggy's judgement, until Piggy began prompting him on what needed to be said and done. Towards the end of the novel, Ralph was forced into independence when he lost all his followers to Jack's savagery, and when Piggy and the conch were smashed by Roger's boulder. He was forced to determine how to avoid Jack's savage hunters alone. Ralph's more responsible behaviour set him apart from the other savage boys and made it difficult for him to accept and realize the changes they were undergoing. Becoming lost in his exposure to their inherent evil, Ralph's confusion brought about the deterioration of his initial self-assurance and ordered temperament, allowing him to experience brief outbursts of his beastly self. Piggy was an educated boy rejected by the kids of his age group on account of his being overweight. It was his academic background and his isolation from the savage boys that had allowed him to remain mostly unchanged from his primitive experiences on the island. His unattractive attributes segregated him from the other boys on the island. He was not welcomed on their first exploratory trip of the island. "We don't want you," Jack had said to Piggy. (p. 26) Piggy was like an observer learning from the actions of others. His status in their society allowed him to look at the boys from an outsider's perspective. He could learn of the hatred being brought out of the boys without having to experience the thirst for blood that Ralph was exposed to. Although he was easily intimidated by the other boys, especially by Jack, he did not lack the self-confidence to protest or speak out against the indignities from the boys as the shy former choirboy Simon did. This self-confidence differed from that of Ralph's as it did not come from his acceptance by their peers nor did it come from the authority and power Jack had grown accustomed to. It came from the pride in having accumulated the wisdom that was obviously greater than that of most of the other kids at his age. Piggy not only knew what the rules were, as all the other boys did, but he also had the patience to at least wonder why the rules existed. This intuition made Piggy not only more aware of why the rules were imposed, thereby ensuring that he would abide by them even when they were not enforced. When the boys flocked to the mountaintop to build their fire, Piggy shouted after them, "Acting like a crowd of kids!" (p. 42) Piggy was a very liable person who could look ahead and plan carefully of the future. He shouted at the boys' immature recklessness, "The first thing we ought to have made was shelters down there by the beach... Then when you get here you build a bonfire that isn't no use. Now you been and set the whole island on fire." (p. 50) Like Ralph, his sense of responsibility set him apart from the other boys. The author used the image of long hair to illustrate Piggy's sustenance of his civilized behaviour. "He was the only boy on the island whose hair never seemed to grow." (p. 70) The author's description of his baldness also presented an image of old age and made Piggy seem to lack the strength of youth. The increasing injustice Piggy endured towards the end of the novel was far greater than any that he had encountered previously. In his fit of anger, Piggy cried out, "I don't ask for my glasses back, not as a favour. I don't ask you to be a sport, I'll say, not because you're strong, but because what's right's right." (p. 189) This new standard of harshness brought tears out of him as the suffering became intolerable. For a brief moment, Piggy's anger at the unfairness and his helplessness robbed him of his usual logical reasoning, which returned when he was confronted with his fear of the savages. Piggy was an intelligent boy with a good understanding of their situation on the island. He was able to think clearly and plan ahead with caution so that even in the freedom of their unregulated world, his wisdom and his isolation from the savage boys kept him from giving into the evil that had so easily consumed Jack and his followers. The resulting cruelty Jack inflicted upon him taught Piggy how much more pain there was in the world. Lord of the flies used changes experienced by boys on an uninhabited island to show the evil nature of man. By using different characters the author was able to portray various types of people found in our society. Their true selves were revealed in the freedom from the laws and punishment of a world with adults. Under the power and regulations of their former society, Jack's inner evil was suppressed. But when the rules no longer existed, he was free to do what malice he desired. Ralph had grown so used to the regularity of a civilized world, that the changes they underwent were difficult for him to comprehend. He became confused and less capable of thinking clearly and independently. Although he too had experienced the urge for violence that had driven Jack and the hunters to momentary peaks of madness, his more sensitive personality and his sense of obligation saved him from complete savagery. These two traits also helped to keep Piggy from becoming primitive in behaviour. He was made an outcast by his undesirable physique and his superior intelligence. This isolation and wisdom also helped Piggy to retain his civilized behaviour. As well, he was made painfully more aware of the great amount of injustice in the world. From these three characters, it could be seen that under the same circumstances, different individuals can develop in different ways depending on the factors within themselves and how they interacted with each other. Their personalities and what they knew can determine how they would interpret and adapt to a new environment such as the tropical island. Not everyone has so much malevolence hidden inside themselves as to become complete savages when released from the boundaries of our society. Some people will, because of the ways they were conditioned, remember and abide by the rules they had depended on for social organization and security.

Word Count: 3970

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