Throughout literature, certain things are considered to mean something beyond themselves; these symbols make themselves ever present in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. While some symbols appear in an obvious fashion (the glasses, the pig’s head) others like to hide from the reader (the fire, the conch shell). From Piggy’s introduction into the novel, they symbolize of his glasses seemed apparent. The glasses symbolize a voice of reason and logic within the boys, and once Jack took Piggy’s glasses from him and started the fire all the logic dissipated.
The shell symbolizes an organized civilization within the boys. As they search for someone a leader, they notice Ralph – one of the oldest in the bunch – holding the conch shell. Since they dubbed Ralph leader “They obeyed the summons of the conch, partly because Ralph blew it, and he was big enough to be a link with the adult world of authority” (Golding 50). The fire symbolizes both the hope of rescue and an innate destructive change and reentrance into a primitive state within the human mind.
The pig’s head symbolizes the aggression which Jack harbors toward everything as it becomes more and more dominant throughout the novel, but the pig’s head also becomes a symbol of the savagery and bloodlust of the boys near the end of the novel. Of Golding’s characters, the ones from Lord of the Flies are some of the most well known. Throughout the novel each of the lead characters acts as one of the key facets that make humans human. Arguably the characters representing the most visible aspects of the human mind are Ralph and Jack because of their intensive struggle.
Ralph and Jack represent the struggle between civilization and savagery – while on the psychological field they take the form of man’s ego and id (Ralph being the ego and Jack as the id). To spite Ralph more than any other reason, Jack says, “Who’ll join my tribe and have fun? ” (Golding 150). Jack just wants immediate satisfaction in his quest for power, not realizing that Ralph is the better leader, thus leading to the conclusion that the id overrides the ego with more primal and rresponsible desires. A character which portrays a more hidden psychological aspect is Piggy, though it holds true that he represents intelligence he also is symbolic of the superego, because of his suggestions to Ralph (e. g. to use the conch in order to call a meeting) and the way that he refuses to let Jack have his reckless way. Therefore, when Piggy stands up for the rules and order in which he believes, by challenging the id (Jack) he is showing how he represents the super ego.
More on the religious side of the allegory tree sits Simon, and while he takes no part in the Freudian psychological triangle he symbolizes the man who Christianity was build around. Simon symbolizes the Christ figure through his selflessness, sacrifice, and prophetic words. Simon tells Ralph, “I just think you’ll get back alright” (Golding 111), even though he believes that he has no chance getting off the island alive. Simon foresees his death; he foresees that he must die, just as Jesus did. Lord of the Flies is taught and read in high schools throughout the United States, but should it be?
Many people believe the book is too adult, with the violence and profanity used. I, however, disagree because teenagers have become desensitized to violence and cursing through media. From TV shows, to music, to video games, the American teenager seems to have lost touch with the reality of horrific violence. Though glorified violence and profanity on the silver screen does not justify their practical use outside of war and desperate situations, society allows it. The profanity in Lord of the Flies nowhere near reaches the level of violence which the novel possesses.
Unlike the glorified television violence, the violence within the novel includes the fact that consequences exist. If anything, Lord of the Flies should be put on a pedestal for its value as a reminder that every action has a reaction – as a chunk of Newton’s third law of motion states, but it applies to more than just motion – because now-a-days many adolescents do not realize that. At the very beginning of the novel, the Beast is only a small thought in the boys’ minds, but after Simon’s death the boys become more and more afraid of the Beast.
As the boys grow more savage, their belief in the Beast grows exponentially. It only becomes larger because the boys have made it up inside their minds. They require an enemy to fear as aboriginals may fear the lightning, so the Beast grows into a force that embodies the Beelzebub that is the Lord of the Flies. The imaginary Beast feeds off the boys’ fear like a psychic vampire, causing them to become more frenzied and terrified. It builds up and eventually drives the boys’ completely mad.
The Beast evolved from a small worry to a totemic god for whom the boys lest sacrifices; it only shows that the boys’ behavior brings the Beast into reality, ergo the more insane and savage that the boys’ act the more real the Beast becomes. Throughout the novel the Beast escalates from a simple curiosity to a demon which wreaks havoc on the boys. From the start the boys all fear the Beast, and only Simon realizes that they fear it because it exists within each of them, as he said: “Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us” (Golding 80).
Lord of the Flies has many themes, though the one that is most apparent from the start is the struggle of civilization vs. savagery. From the start in chapter one, Golding has clearly set two very distinct groups apart from each other; a group of things displayed by the characters that are orderly, or civilized (morality, law and culture) and the chaotic savage group of characteristic behaviors (anarchy, bloodlust, desire for power, amorality, selfishness, and violence).
Golding uses the conch shell, the pig hunts, and the personalities of Ralph and Piggy vs. Jack to represent the contrast between civilization and savagery. The conch appears as one of the most viewed allegorical symbols of civilization beginning from Piggy’s suggestion that he and Ralph “can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear” (Golding 16). The conch shell unites the boy, giving them a dominant leader, and therefore a chain of command through civilization.
On the opposite side of Ralph’s conch shell called meetings are Jack’s pig hunts. The pig hunts prove to be very animalistic in nature, using fear tactic and tireless chasing, as a lioness would hunt her prey. At first the hunts mainly provide food, but later the boys sacrifice innocents through their tribal rituals and animalistic tendencies. After Piggy’s death all that remained of civilization slipped away, sparking an even more apparent war between Ralph and Jack, thus the struggle of civilization vs. savagery deepens on the island.