Symbolism In Lord Of The Flies Essay

, Research Paper

Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Ralph can all be seen as symbolic characters in William Golding’s

novel Lord of the Flies. Golding uses symbolism to display his belief of the nature of

mankind. He believes that the change from good to evil, from civilization to primitivism

is unavoidable if there is not any direct authority over people. Piggy, an overweight

asthmatic boy about 8 years in age, who cannot see without his glasses represents physical

weakness and mental strength. His poor vision and obesity immediately establish to the

reader his traits of physical infirmity and incompetence. The glasses, however, help

illustrate his intellectual strength, his ability to think situations over logically and

use reason, rather than emotions to decide upon important dilemmas. Piggy does not let his

emotions guide him. Through the course of the novel, we observe how the allegorical society

on this uninhabited tropical island in the pacific ocean makes the transition from

carefully organized democratic reasoning to feeling-driven anarchy. The climax of this

transition is marked by the death of Piggy and the destruction of the conch shell, which

has very similar symbolism to Piggy. The gradual shift is also measured by various

incidents that hinder Piggy’s mental reasoning, such as the breaking of his spectacles, and

the loss of the boys’ faith in him. Piggy’s character is used by William Golding to show

how even the best solution to a problem can easily be overlooked because of the lack of

respect, pre-established prejudices, and the lack of mature thinking processes. Jack’s role

in Lord of the Flies is to show the transition from the opposite perspective. Jack

Merridew first appears in the novel leading his choir in a strictly organized fashion. He

is the epitome of discipline. Then, for some reason, he becomes gradually obsessed with

the killing of pigs, stealing from the other boys, and fighting the ‘beast’. The most

substantial point in this transformation is the first time he kills a pig. Shortly after

the boys have accidentally landed on the island, Jack is reluctant to kill the pig. He is

frightened to draw blood from a living thing. A quotation from Jack himself describes this

perfectly: “I was going to [stick the pig]. I was choosing a place. Next time—!” Jack

was not only afraid of the enormity of his knife cutting into living flesh, but he was also

greatly concerned of what the other boys thought of him. Then, for some reason, Jack

overcomes his fear and is able to slaughter the pig fiercely and brutally. This is a

result of his changed identity due his painted face, and the fact that he has adapted to

the island. Jack further evolves into a relentless dictator who gains followers by

promising to fulfill the children’s desire for a reversion to primitivism. His character

unfolds even beyond this point into the killing of people, when his ‘gang’ kills Piggy and

when he gives orders to his followers to track down Ralph and to kill him. Jack transforms

from good to evil simultaneously as Piggy changes from power to death. Simon is the most

mature of the boys because he does not fear the imaginary beast and he realizes that it is

only in the boys’ minds. His symbol is that of a Christ-like figure who sees the truth,

but is killed because of ignorance. He has the solution for surviving on the island, but is

unable to pass it on to the boys when he is killed in a mob-like fashion. His role is

similar to Piggy’s in this manner. This just shows how again, the emotions of the boys

prevail in a life threatening situation, even if the ‘life threatener’ is only imagined.

Simon’s hallucinations symbolize messages from God, to be passed on to the people. Ralph is

the best leader of the boys, even though they cannot see it. He runs a democratic

government, is totally fair, has the right priorities. The change from good to evil is

shown in Lord of the Flies by the shift from Ralph to Jack as the boys’ choice of leaders.

The boys start off by choosing Ralph as the leader, but over time all the boys except Piggy

decide to follow Jack. Ralph is the evenhanded, honest, thoughtful leader, while Jack is

the exact opposite, an unjust, callous dictator. When Ralph is hunted for in the end, this

symbolizes a total revert to primitivism and evil. Therefore, it is easy to see that the

four main characters in Lord of the Flies are used by William Golding to symbolize

different aspects of the inevitable change from civilization and happiness to primitivism

and instinct that occurs when people are placed in an environment without direct authority.

Lord of the Flies Essay 1 Ron Friedman


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