of the Flies EssaysLord of the Flies as Commentary on Our Times
Lord of the Flies is an excellent book filled with symbols, satire, meaningful themes, and is interesting to read as well.
In The Lord of the Flies, the protagonist is Ralph, a strong, likeable blond, with natural leadership. There are multiple conflicts in the plot. The main conflict is Ralph vs. Jack, the antagonist. Ralph fights to maintain order, while Jack seduces the boys into anarchy. Another conflict is the boys vs. nature. The boys must struggle to stay alive, and struggle against an imaginary beast, which is from fear imbedded in part of their nature. The plot parallels the metaphoric action of the story through the actions of Simon. Simon’s insistence on climbing the mountain to discover what the “beast” was, his insistence to understand, is a metaphor for what the book itself does. The book dares to name the beast, the evil in man’s heart, as the beast. The plot also metaphorically deals with the struggles between control and anarchy. When Ralph is in power, the forces of organization have control, while when the boys follow Jack, anarchy is in power.
Golding’s style was fast moving, and smoothly flowing, but was very deliberate. He used sentence length to often express the passing of time. He used long sentences when describing the rhythm of daily life the boys got into, and used short choppy sentences when Ralph was running, and only gave bits and pieces of thoughts and detail. He also used good words choice to portray a scene. In the first scene, even though the boys are talking about how wonderful of a paradise the island is, Golding used words like “thorns” and “creeper” to tell the readers that it wasn’t a friendly place. He also had great use of emotional material, or the lack of it, leaving us to feel, without the authors comments.
One place where this is seen is when the author describes Piggy’s death on the rocks. He also inserted good imagery, for example, when butterflies were flying around Simon as he gazed upon the Lord of the Flies as flies buzzed around it.
Golding’s point of view also added much to the story. The point of view was normally objective, but was sometimes limited omniscient, showing the thoughts of only one character at a time in a scene. This shifting was well executed and gave the story a sense of continuity. His objective point of view added much by showing us what was happening, but letting his tone show his meaning, instead of having the characters or himself say it right out.
Golding did an excellent job of characterization. First, the choice of names metaphorically mirror the novel. “Ralph” means “counsel,” and he was the character who held the organized meetings and tried to keep everyone together. “Jack” means “one who supplants” or, one who takes over by force, which is the method Jack uses throughout the book to gain power. “Simon” means “listener” and is also the name of the Jesus’s apostle. Simon is the one who listens to Ralph, and it also hints at the spiritual role the character plays in the novel, he is the only one who hears and understands the truth. Piggy’s name has an obvious meaning, connecting him with the pigs the other boys hunt and kill. “Roger” means “spear,” and he is Jack’s right hand man who uses his brute force at will. Ralph and Piggy were round developing characters. Both of them matured and developed throughout the novel. Jack was more of a flat static character, staying constant throughout the book, always in conflict with Ralph, an always hungry for power. Jack is portrayed as darkness, and Ralph as light. The point of view normally revolves around Ralph, but sometimes moves to other characters, but never Jack. This switching of point of view between Ralph and other minor characters, but not Jack, shows the authors attitude towards the two characters.
This work has many very valid themes. The first about the evil inherent in man’s soul, that the defects in our society can be traced back to the defects in human nature. Another major theme is the need for civilization. Contrary to the belief that man is inherently good, and that society is evil, the novel shows that society is needed to keep the evil of man in line. Another is the loss of identity. Civilization separates man from animals and makes them think, and when that civilization disintegrates, man’s identity slips away, and he resorts to a more primitive nature. This is shown in the novel by the use of masks by the boys to hide their identity, which allows them to kill, and later murder. This is also shown in the twins Sam and Eric, who’s name is later slurred together into “Samneric,” which shows their loss of identity. Fear of the unknown is central to the story, as the boys fear the beast. But, one of the novel’s deepest meanings is the realization that no real beast exists, only the power of fear, which was the realization Simon made before he was killed, by those who still held in fear.
The main irony in this novel is that in interrupting a man hunt on the island, the navel officer takes the boys aboard a cruiser, which will be hunting an enemy in the same sense that Jack and the boys were hunting Ralph. Irony also breaks out between different scenes of the novel. One example is the beginning and the end. Ralph starts out as being fine, clean, and enjoying the prospect of being on an island with no adults, which is a dream come true, whereas the story ends with Ralph being ragged, dirty, and sobbing, having looked forward to a clean game, and lived a horrible nightmare. It is also ironic that Golding used Ballantyne’s Coral Island as a setting, and the same names as the two main characters in that novel (Ralph and Jack). This is ironic, because the morality of the world of Coral Island contrasts drastically with what Golding shows us in Lord of the Flies. He regards Coral Island morality as being unrealistic, and therefore not truly moral, and he has used it ironically in his novel to show man’s true moral nature.
The symbols in the book all reinforce the theme of the novel. All of the characters themselves were very symbolic. Ralph is a symbol of civilization, he is always the one who attempts to organize and accomplish things in order to better the group, like the fire and the building of shelters. Piggy’s shattering spectacles show the continual decay of rational influence as the story progresses. The struggle between Ralph and Jack is symbolic of the struggle between the forces of civilization and anarchy, or the struggle between moral conscience and his heart of darkness. The central symbol itself is the “Lord of the Flies,” which translates into “Beelzebub” in Greek, a name for the devil, whose name implies destruction, decay, demoralization, hysteria, and panic, which were all seen throughout the book, and fits well with the novel’s themes.
The novel is an excellent piece of commentary on our times, and on the condition of man’s soul, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and analyzing, and which I learned a lot from.
of the Flies EssaysLord of the Flies as Commentary on Our Times