A Look At William Golding’s Classic Novel ‘The Lord Of The Flies
It seems presumptuous that I may offer any additional meaningful insights into a book such as ‘Lord Of The Flies’. I feel humbled when reading this book. It seems to me a novel of such superlative qualities that it should be admired as a benchmark of creative fiction. No attempted analysis or critical opinions could offer anything that has not already been said. It is a novel which quiet simply should be revered. It is one of the greatest pieces of published fiction of all time.
As such I implore anyone who professes to be a literary connoisseur of any description to take the time to read this undeniable classic, if you haven’t already had the pleasure. The novel is, in essence the epitome of classic creative fiction.
In over fifty years since it’s publication in 1954 the story has lost none of its impact and ability to hold the readers attention with such unyielding focus. Set during wartime it tells the story of a group of boys seemingly marooned on a tropical island after their boat has capsizes in the water. The novel so unashamedly depicts the boys decent into anarchy that as the reader you are left with such a sense of personal disillusionment with the state of our own hierarchal society and are left sincerely contemplating just how far away our own primal instincts actually are.
The boys themselves are portrayed as symbols. They represent the different singular personalities that encompass our society. Indeed the novel itself is allegorical. The very title ‘Lord Of The Flies’ is a symbolic reference to a slaughtered pig whose head is erected on a stick to demonstrate the power struggle between authority and chaos in an ungoverned situation.
As expected at the heart of the story is the central relationships between the boys. Ralph is an older diplomatic boy. He quickly establishes himself as the leader of the group through election by the other boys. Ralph embodies logic, order and civilisation. He establishes a means of ordered communication, anyone can have their say providing they are holding a conch. He suggests lighting a fire to increase the chance of rescue, erects primitive shelters and allocates a meeting place for all the boys to gather and air their opinions and concerns.
Piggy is a short overweight boy who wears glasses. His true name is never divulged and he suffers from debilitating asthma. He is Ralph’s adviser and a loyal and true friend. He represents intelligence, reason and civilization. Golding uses symbolism to describe Piggy through his refusal to believe in superstitious nonsense such as ‘the beast’ and the fact that unlike the other boys his hair does not grow. The limited influence of civilization in the boys’ current situation is symbolised through Piggy’s the limited mobility compared to the other boys. The deterioration of the influence of civilization is further exemplified when his glasses are stolen leaving him almost helpless.
The character of Jack symbolises the worst aspects of human behaviour when not controlled by society’s boundaries. Jack appears to posses more primitive desires and is exuberated by identifying himself as a hunter, a position of great importance in the tribe. As the novel develops his egocentric nature develops as he dismisses the importance of maintaining the fire in order to hunt causing the boys a chance to be rescued. This causes great tension between himself and Ralph resulting in a division in the tribe. In many ways Jack represents irrational logic, whereas Ralph represents rational thought. With Ralph’s authority undermined Jack’s true nature is revealed. He leads the majority of the boys away from Ralph and forms a separate tribe where the rules and regulations of democracy are abandoned and violence and torture govern the behaviour of the boys. The conflict between Jack and Ralph is central at the climax of the novel.
Simon is a quiet character whom symbolises peace and tranquillity. He is very in tune with the sights and sounds of the island and often is depicted having extraordinary sensations in his experience on the island. He has an extreme aversion to the pig’s head, which derides and taunts him in a hallucination. He is referenced in a comparable way to Jesus Christ and is taunted by the other boys because of his unusual nature.
‘The Lord Of The Flies’ is a character in itself in the novel. It is literally a pig’s head that has been decapitated by Jack and erected on a large stick as an offering to ‘the beast’. A symbol of fear and anarchy ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ was once a sow, clean, loving and innocent, now has become a manically smiling, bleeding image of evil. This is a clear symbolization of the transformation Jack and the boys have undergone during their time on the island. The literal translation of ‘Lord Of The Flies’ is Beelzebub, a demonic figure often considered to be Satan’s right hand man. ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ is a physical manifestation of the evil that dwells within the boys and that Golding believed existed in all of us.
In ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ William Golding has created one of the most profound, challenging and accomplished works of fiction of all time. It is a timeless novel that is bold enough to address the fundamental frailties of human nature. I cannot recommend it highly enough.