Irony In Lord Of The Flies Essay

, Research Paper

The novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding is about a group of boys who are stranded on a remote island. The novel charts the decline of civilization on the island, and how the boys go from civilized boys to wild savages. Throughout the novel there are many instances of ironic behavior and situations. Much of the irony used in the novel ties into the symbolism used by Golding. The symbolism of some objects and characters is directly related to the irony that ties into the theme of the novel. ?Golding relies heavily on the use of irony to underscore the symbolic action? (Dick 26).

In the beginning of the story Ralph finds a conch and blows into it so that the noise made attracts survivors. The sound is loud and reverberates across the whole island. All of the boys hear the conch and start to come out of the jungle to find the source of the sound and to join the meeting. Many children arrive at the meeting, and Ralph concludes that none are older than 12. How could so many young children have survived and all the adults on the plane die in the horrible crash onto the island? It seems odd that not one physically matured adult not be able to survive, and hoards of fragile children be able to live through such an awful crash. It is also ironic that these immature and innocent young boys can turn into such violent and evil savages by the end of the novel. Golding believes that every man is born evil and it is part of man?s nature to act this way. Also, it does not matter whether it is a young boy or and old man, all are ?inherently prone to evil?(Hynes 9). According to Samuel Hynes: ?Golding sets about to show us that the devil rises not out of pirates and cannibals and such alien creature, but out of the darkness of man?s heart? (Hynes 8).

Jack is a very controlling and power hungry individual. Throughout the novel he picks on Piggy, wants all things done his way, and does not respect authority. For example, Jack shows his disrespect when Ralph gives him the assignment of tending the rescue fire. Jack ignores his orders because his only concern is hunting and he feels that it is more important than tending the fire. This is ironic because the smoke from the fire in the end of the story that Jack orders to be set is what ultimately saves the boys from the island.

At the first meeting Jack points how they are English and the best and how they need rules and structure. This is very ironic because Jack is the one individual who is insubordinate and leads the group to anarchy. He wants to do everything his way and does not listen to any rules; he just follows his own. He is being very hypocritical by saying this to the other boys because he is the one who should ?practice what he preaches.?

At one point in the story Jack storms away asking anyone if they will join his own group to go against Ralph, but no one answers his call for secession. When Jack is first introduced in the story he is portrayed as having total control over his choir. He kept them in two parallel lines and forced them to walk through the hot jungle in black clothes. If Jack has so much control over the boys, and if he receives their loyalty, how come no member of the choir agrees to secede with him at that point in the novel?

Simon is the only ?good? and civil character on the island throughout the book. He does not take a side in the power struggle between Jack and Ralph and he is always kind to the littluns. Simon is the first one of the boys to ?talk? with the Lord of the Flies. During his conversation with the ?beast? he realizes that the ?beast? is within each and every boy on the island. Simon also finds that there is no ?beast? on top of the mountain but it is instead a dead pilot wearing a parachute. After learning that the ?beast? is a mental illusion rather than a physical being, Simon immediately wants to find the other boys and tell them. While Simon is searching for the boys, they are having a feast at Jack?s new camp. The boys are dancing wildly around the fire while waving their weapons in the air. They begin to chant and the dance becomes wilder and more uncontrollable. Suddenly they spot a black shape crawling from the jungle into their camp. The boys fear that it might be the beast but in reality it is Simon with the truth about the beast. The crazed boys attack Simon beating him to death despite his cries of pain. This is a very powerful and ironic scene. It is ironic because Simon is the only civilized person in the group; he is the only one who knows the truth about the beast and he is killed before he can tell them what he knows. This is when all forms of civilization slip away from the society created by the boys. The ?beast? is best summarized by Samuel Hynes:

?We may say, first of all, that the beast symbolizes the source of evil in human life. Either it is something terrifying and external, which cannot be understood but must simply be lived with (this is Jack?s version), or it is a part of man?s nature, ?only us,? in which case it may be understood, and perhaps controlled by reason and rule. Simon understands that man must seek out the meaning of evil (?what else is there to do??). By seeking, he comes to know it, ?harmless and horrible.? Thus far the moral point seem orthodox enough. But when he tries to tell his understanding to others, they take him for the beast, and destroy him in terror? (Hynes 13).

Throughout the entire novel, Ralph is obsessed with keeping the rescue fire ablaze. But, in the end of the story the fire that rescues them is what almost kills him. This ?supplies the ironical denouement? (Dick 26) of the story.

After being chased by Jack?s tribe, Ralph is lying exhausted on the beach when an adult approaches him, and the adult also gives his perspective of Ralph and the boys. This is ironic for two reasons:

?First we see with sudden clarity that these murderous savages were civilized children; the point is not, I take it, that children are more horrid than we thought (though they are), but rather that the human propensity for evil knows no limits, not even limits of age, and that there is no Age of Innocence. (Ralph weeps for the end of innocence, but when did it exist, except as an illusion made of his own ignorance?). Second, there is the adult, large, efficient, confident-the ?grown-up? that the children have wished for all along. But his words who at once that he is a large, stupid Coral Island mentality in a peaked cap, save Ralph?s life, but he will not understand? (Hynes 15).

Jack?s tribe can be best described as savage, disorderly, and uncivilized with no system of hierarchy. They are chasing Ralph, whom they consider their enemy, because they want to kill him for going against their ideals. The navy can be described as a nonviolent, orderly and civilized with a system of hierarchy. It is ironic that both the navy and Jack?s tribes are so different, but both are trying to get rid of an enemy that does not share the same ideals as them. Samuel Hynes states: ?And once he (the naval officer) has gathered up the castaways, he will return to his ship, and the grown-up business of hunting men (just as the boys have been hunting Ralph). ?And who,? asks Golding ?will rescue the adult and his cruiser??(Hynes15-16). The officer saves Ralph and the boys, but who will save the officer and his crew?

In conclusion, Golding believed that if he used irony then he would be able to clearly convey the meaning of the novel. Without symbolism in the novel, there would be no ironic instances. This shows how Golding used many literary devices to tell the story and convey his overall meaning of the story. His theme and belief are clearly conveyed throughout the entire novel. Samuel Hynes supports this best when he states: ?The pack of British boys are in fact cruel and murderous savages who reduce the island to a burning wreckage and destroy the dream of innocence.?



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