Home » Symbolism in The Lord of the Flies

Symbolism in The Lord of the Flies

The novel, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding uses numerous literary tools such as symbolism and foreshadowing to express the many clues and themes to the story. The story is about a group of boys who have been dropped on a remote tropical island in the vast Pacific Ocean. Their plane having been shot down. A nuclear war has taken place and civilization has been destroyed. Ralph wanders out of the jungle followed by a pudgy boy. His name is Piggy. Piggy is fat, asthmatic, and almost blind without his glasses. He trails behind as Ralph explores the island.

Although they were dropped by a plane that was under attack during an atomic war, Ralph thinks he is in paradise. There is a “long scar smashed into the jungle” where the plane dropped them the night before. The boys stand among “skull-like coconuts. ” This is a foreshadowing suggestion that the island is not quite what the boys had expected. Ralph is a strong and likable blond. He likes that there are no grownups around to supervise them. The boys have the entire island to themselves. But Ralph is a strange boy. He wears a belt with a snake-clasp that implies menace. Snakes are an important symbol that we will encounter again.

Ralph then takes off his clothes which implies goodness and naturalness. He accepts the island as his home. The fat boy who follows Ralph is worried. As I mentioned before Piggy is an asthmatic, nearly blind without glasses, he sees his life easily threatened because of his weaknesses. He doesn’t belong in a wild place. When Piggy asks Ralph his name, we realize that not all of the boys on the plane knew each other. Ralph is not polite enough to ask his name in return, but the fat boy tells everyone his nickname, Piggy. When he tries to tell Ralph his real name, he is interrupted by Ralph’s teasing and we never learn Ralph’s real name.

Ralph is not very sensitive or aware. Names are significant in The Lord of the Flies. The main characters names express or display their roles in the story. Certain boys’ names we never learn; the littluns and biguns are groups of boys known only by their size. Some boys lose their names. One even forgets his by the end of the story. Ralph spends hours in the warm waters of the lagoon. Day-dreaming. He believes that his father will rescue them. Thinking that your father will come to save you is like believing in a magical wizard or a god. This is part of Ralph’s innoncence. The symbolism of the conch is very important.

The sounding of the conch is like a reenactment of an ancient event. The boys are being called out of the jungle in much the same way primitive men were called together. The sound of the conch shell is also a means of communication, a way of gathering the boys. It brings them out of isolation so they can become a group. It makes them think together where they can be a civilization. It calls the boys away from primitiveness and toward awareness. After the conch shell has been blown, all the boys assemble. The boys elect Ralph as their chief. “There was a stillness about Ralph… and… there was the conch.

Being that he had blown that, had sat waiting for them… ” The boys assumed that there is some special quality to Ralph and the conch. The idea that people invest other people and objects with power is important in the story. Some characters, such as Piggy and Simon, who should be considered as significant, will never be given that respect by the other boys. This is an idea of how people allow themselves to believe and disbelieve in people and ideas without considering what is real. The beastie, the snakelike thing, is an important symbol. What the boy with the birthmark says hints at the changing nature and beliefs about the beast.

The boys’ thinking about the beast will change throughout the story. They are talking about an actual creature, a snakelike thing that may be present with them on the island. Being able to see and being blind have always been important themes in literature. In Piggy’s case, his glasses imply that he sees or knows more than most of the other boys. He is more concerned about maintaining a civilized and orderly life on the island. He sees what will happen if they aren’t able to do this. The glasses symbolize the link to civilization, but at the same time they show Piggy’s impaired ability.

While Piggy knows or sees more than Ralph, he does not see the total situation on the island. Piggy’s vision of what the jungle represents is impaired. Fire on a mountain is a complex symbol in literature. The mountain represents a place where man has gone to pray. By lighting a fire on the mountain, primitive men were telling their gods that they were scared and they need help on what to do. They boys are saying this when they light the fire. The boys cheer and become excited when the fire grows. “The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings.

The fire is described as a wild beast which is untamed and dangerous. “Tall swathes of creepers rose for a moment into view, agonized, and went down again. ” The little boys scream, “Snakes! Snakes! ” The boy with the mulberry birthmark has been killed by the fire, the beast that he feared had taken him. What the boys first thought of as paradise has somehow turned into hell. The snakes are in paradise and Ralph’s having a snake-clasp on his belt suggests that the boys have brought the snakes with them. The fear of the beast in the jungle is so great that no one mentions its name anymore.

The boys feel that if they can’t give a name to what they fear, it has gained power over them. Golding uses mirages as an imporant idea. A mirage is something that does not really exist yet has a power of suggestion that can impress a person and influence how he acts or thinks. Here mirage introduces the idea of the suggestive power of something which does not really exist. In daylight, the boys ignore mirages seen in nature, such as the plam trees which seem to float in the sky, but mirages of the night, like the beast in the jungle, cannot be so easily forgotten. Later on, Jack challenges Ralph’s leadership, then leaves.

Later he offers a pig’s head to the beast and Simon talks with the Lord of the Flies. The boys stalk and kill a pig. They cut up the pig and rub pig blood on each other like a baptism. They mount the head on the stick as a gift for the beast. Flies swarm around the pig’s guts and around Simon. Simon figures out that the flies on the pig’s head represent the forces of evil in nature, and the flies on Simon represent the forces of evil within. The Lord of the Flies says to Simon, “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 what they are? ” What Simon realizes is that evil does not exist outside man’s nature. There is no beast in the jungle; evil comes from within man’s heart We generate the evil in the world ourselves. We are what’s in the jungle. Simon battles mentally with the Lord of the Flies and refuses to be persuaded by his tatics. “Pig’s head on a stick,” says Simon. Because Simon refuses not to tell the truth, he will die a hero. “We are going to have fun on this island,” the head says, echoing Ralph’s words when they first landed which is ironic. Simon looks into the vast mouth of the pig.

There was blackness within, a blackness that spread. ” The Lord of the Flies’ final words echo Ralph’s words when he struck the boar and experimented with hunting. “We shall do you. See? Jack and Roger and Maurice and Robert and Bill and Piggy and Ralph. ” The Lord of the Flies names them all and foretells Simon’s inevitable end. Simon sees the beast that all the boys fear. Finally, he sees the dead parachutist covered with flies. The beast that everyone feared is nothing but a dead body covered with flies. Finally everyone on the island is rescued by a naval officer who is standing on the beach in a white uniform.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.