The Use of Symbolism in Golding's Lord of the Flies Essay
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The Use of Symbolism in Golding's Lord of the Flies
"His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit like a pig after it has been killed" (217). This is what can happen to someone when all signs of civilization, order and power disappear and have no more meaning to members of a group or society. In the writing of William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954), the symbol of power and civilization is the conch. Once that is lost, all bets are off. When the novel begins, two boys are talking about what has happened and why they are on this island. While walking on the beach, the main character Ralph then proceeds to find a shell which the two boys call the conch. Blowing on this shell Ralph calls a…show more content…
In the very beginning the conch is used to bring all of the boys in the story together. Ralph blows it and they come. This is the first sign of its power. The boys have been lost and now there is this thing, much like a school bell, calling them to be brought together. It has brought order to this strange place in which they are stranded.
During these boys' escapade, when one wants to speak in front of the assembly, one must have the conch in his hand. "We'll have to have hands up like at school...Then I'll give him the conch"(35). They are setting up rules just as they had learned in their civilization. They are also making the conch the only way one can talk at meetings.
All throughout this novel the boys are called to meetings to discuss the rules, the fire, and many other assorted things. One of these things is a beast that comes in the night but does not leave foot prints or any trail at any time. All the boys are very afraid of this beast and what it may do to them if it gets hold of them. As it turns out the beast is in the boys: "'You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you?'"(172). This is the "lord of the flies," also known as the beast, talking to Simon the first boy murdered. The beast is their unwillingness to maintain a civilization; it is their transformation into savages. All the time at all these meetings the boys respect the conch and whoever held the conch was respected, even if he was not liked. Once this symbol of
Trace the development of the concept of the Beast throughout the novel. Show how its role changes over time and how different characters perceive the Beast as time goes on.
"I am the Beast"
In Lord of the Flies, William Golding's 1954 novel depicting a group of schoolboys' decent into mayhem and violence, the Beast takes on many different forms. The boys are stranded on a tropical island after their plane crashes. In the opening pages, Golding alludes to a Beast in the form of war. Piggy nonchalantly says, "Didn't you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb? They're all dead" (11). The littluns' fear of the Beast is at first vague and imaginary in nature. The Beast briefly manifests in physical form as the fire that rages across the island and as the dead parachutist that has fallen to the island. At the end of the novel, the boys emerge as the Beast as their violent nature takes hold.
The island is depicted as a paradise and the boys relish their newfound freedom from adult rules. Piggy sees the gravity of the situation and tries to tell the others that "Nobody knows where we are," but the other boys are having too much fun to care (30). The boys point out the presence of fresh water and food and believe their time on the island will be an adventure like in a book. Ralph says, "we can have a good time on this island" (30). This naïve view of their predicament coupled with the lack of concern for the adult pilot foreshadows the downfall of the boys' ties to society and sets the stage for the Beast to take hold of their imaginations. The littluns, with their dependency on and closer ties to grownups, are the first to imagine the Beast. A young boy takes the conch during an assembly and wants to know what the bigger boys will do about the Beastie (31). Ralph tries to convince the youngster that there isn't a snake-thing and there isn't a Beastie. Ralph snatches the conch and tells the boy that "if there was a snake we'd hunt it and kill it" (32). The boys build a fire that soon gets out of control and takes on the characteristics of a Beast as, "The heart of flame leapt nimbly across the gap in the trees and then went swinging and flaring along the whole row of them" (39). Ironically, the littlun who voiced his fears of the Beast is never seen again after the fire. More and more littluns are afraid of the Beast. They theorize that it could be a ghost or something that comes from the sea.
Instead of the sea, the Beast falls from the sky. A battle is being fought above the island and a plane is shot down. The pilot, already dead, falls to the island where his parachute lines tangle in the rocks. "When the breeze blew, the lines would strain taut and some accident of this pull lifted the head and chest upright," animating the dead figure and terrifying Sam and Eric (89). Sam and Eric describe the Beast saying, "It was furry. There was something moving behind its headïwings" (92). The older boys organize a hunting party and go after the Beast. When Piggy insists that someone look after the littluns during the hunt, Jack says "Sucks to the littluns!" indicating a break in the society they had formed. A division of the group threatens the fragile community. Jack and his hunters form one group with their own philosophy and Ralph is the core of the opposing group.
The group of hunters kills a pig in a frenzied and violent attack. Jack, who at the beginning of the novel could not bring himself to kill a pig, now does it with relish. The boys place the sow's head on a spear as an offering to the Beast. Jack's group dresses as savages "with faces of white and red and green rush[ing] out howling, so that the littluns fled screaming" (129). These disguises free Jack's group of convention and leave them feeling "safe from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of paint" (130). They are reenacting a hunt when Simon stumbles out of the forest and into the frenzy. The mob surrounds Simon, believing him to be the Beast and kills him. A storm envelops the island during the night, carrying the dead parachutist to sea. The tide carries away Simon's lifeless body. Jack tells the other boys that Simon had been the Beast and that "He cameïdisguised" (148). Jack formulates a plan for the return of the Beast saying, "if he comes we'll do our, our dance again" (149). Jack is not phased by Simon's murder and is willing to commit more violence. He may see Simon, Ralph, and Piggy as the Beast, but the Beast is the savage side of human nature that is capable of killing. It is not long until Ralph launches a boulder at Piggy and Ralph as they approach the rocky fortress. The boulder strikes and kills Piggy. Jack attacks, "Viciously, with full intention, he hurled his spear at Ralph. The point tore the skin and flesh over Ralph's ribs" (167). Sam and Eric warn Ralph of the intentions of the hunters: "They hare you , Ralph. [...] They're going to hunt you tomorrow" (174). The boys try to smoke Ralph out of hiding and set the island on fire in the process. The mob has him cornered when he makes a break for it and finds his rescue in the form of a British Naval Officer summoned by the smoke.
The Beast takes on many incarnations in Lord of the Flies, but it is at its core "the darkness of man's heart" (187). It is the Beast that led to the war that plucked the boys from their schools and into the surreal environment of the island. The Beast is the emptiness and fear in the littluns' hearts as they miss their homes. The Beast is the fire that consumes the littlun's life and the Beast is the pilot killed miles above the island. The Beast is most darkly seen in the savage nature of small boys when they become capable of killing. The degeneration of the tenets of civilization. The boys, physically weakened and mentally broken, are rescued from the island by a Navy cruiser intent on its own manhunt with sub-machine guns instead of sharpened sticks.
Great stuff here. I often start papers like this by writing it this way:
In William Goldings 1954 Lord of the Flies, and so on..
But I think I like your way better. I like the structure of that first sentence... so, in this case it was you giving me advice. Thanks!
I think your first paragraph seems too much like a synopsis. It seems that your thesis statement is that Beast is war at first but that the boys become the beast in the end. That is good, but state it as an assertion you are making: Although the concept of the "Beast" is associated with war at the start of the novel, it gradually becomes clear that...
So, the suggestion I am making is that you revise that intro paragraph just a little, but it is already very good.
This is excellent, great conclusion. The quote from page 187 is perfect there.