In William Golding’s novel ‘Lord Of The Flies’ he tells the story of a group of boys who are being evacuated from the cities in a fictional nuclear war. Their plane crashes and they find themselves stranded on an island with no adults. Golding weaves many themes into his novel, but the main theme is that of good and evil and the way that evil takes over the boys. He tracks their gradual transformation from well-mannered schoolboys to vicious, ritualistic savages. Early on in the novel there is not much describing the evil of the island but more on the good side, as the boys are much more innocent at the beginning.
The island is seen as a paradise, a tropical island for fun and games. “The shore was fledged with palm trees”, this quote relates to society’s idea of paradise as does the following quote “Clouds of birds rose from the tree-tops”. The island is seen as a microcosm of the outside world as it shows the boys’ decline into evil as the outside world is in the middle of a war. The boys are on the island because the plane that was evacuating them from Britain during a fictional nuclear war was attacked. Piggy reminds Ralph: “Didn’t you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb?
They’re all dead. ” Ironically, the naval officer who comes to their rescue is himself involved in the war. The boys may have been saved from their own destruction on the island but is the life they are returning to much better? The island shows Golding’s fears of what will happen if civilisation is gone. The island is also similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve directly disobey God they are thrown out of Paradise as a punishment. This is like the island becoming a burnt wasteland as a punishment for all the violence and evil carried out by the boys.
Golding uses colour to represent good and evil throughout ‘Lord Of The Flies’. The boys are happy on the island at first, as it seems almost not real, like a dream. “Where the pink cliffs rose out of the ground”. Pink is a very dreamy colour and often relates to happiness and peace. “Inside was peacock water, rocks and weeds showing as in an aquarium; outside was the dark blue of the sea”. The blue of the sea relates to the serenity and calmness of the island but it later becomes stormy and wild as the boys begin to descend into savagery.
These stood or leaned or reclined against the light and their green feathers were a hundred feet up in the air. ” Green relates to the natural side of the island and the adventure that the boys imagine when they arrive. “The bushes were dark evergreen and aromatic and the many buds were waxen green … ” These are colours that we would relate to contentment and happiness, which is what the island is to the boys at the beginning. Towards the end of ‘Lord Of The Flies’ colour is used to give the island a much more sinister, wicked feel.
The creepers in the forest at first are seen as exciting, “… the looped fantasy of the forest creepers. ” Yet later on they are seen as snakelike and menacing, “mass of twisted stems” and “like the tendrils of a creeper” support this point. “Grey, feathery ashes scurried hither and thither at his breath… ” The colour grey relates to misery and gloom and the word ‘ashes’ links to death, which captures the island’s nature as the boys become increasingly de-civilised. “Nothing prospered but the flies who blackened their lord and made the spilt guts look like a heap of glistening coal.
The word ‘blackened’ here not only describes the way the flies cover the Lord of the Flies but black is characteristically an evil colour so Golding has chosen it very carefully to show that even the flies on the island are led by evil. Relationships on the island start off well but it is obvious Jack is jealous of Ralph being elected leader, and two different leaders appear, Ralph representing good and Jack representing evil. Jack says, “I ought to be chief … because I’m a chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp”. Jack’s arrogance is apparent but the boys choose Ralph.
He is humiliated, “… the freckles on Jack’s face disappeared under a blush of mortification. ” This rivalry for power and control is the start of violence. Ralph allows Jack control of the choir and gives them the task of hunting, which Jack happily agrees to. In the beginning Ralph tries to establish order in the camp but finds it hard to get tasks done such as the building of the shelters. He and Simon are left to build the third shelter by themselves, because everyone else is too busy having fun. The community spirit of the assemblies is hard to maintain.
Ralph’s main aim is rescue, “If as ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire. ” He constantly stresses the need for fire, “How can you expect to be rescued if you don’t put things first and act proper. ” In the end, it is the fire that gets them rescued just before Roger is about to murder Ralph. Ralph is the ‘good’ character on the island and is immediately given power by Piggy at the beginning. He is polite, calm, controlled, a born leader. Also a logical planner, “Ralph inspected the whole 30yards carefully, then plunged in. He discovers the conch. “… something creamy lay among the ferny weed” and after Piggy explains what it is, he adopts it as his symbol of power. All the boys respect it during Golding’s novel until the end when Roger pushes the rock into Piggy; the conch is destroyed as Piggy is murdered. This is when all law and order on the island disappear, and Jack’s savage rule takes over. When the conch is smashed it symbolises the complete breakdown of democracy and the vapour over the island could be symbolic of the mushroom cloud from the atom bomb, “The breaking of the conch lay over the island like a vapour”
Jack represents evil and is not seen as a nice boy in the beginning, “… not very nice looking” and “ugly without silliness”. His killer instinct is realised early on in ‘Lord of the Flies’ when they are hunting, “You cut a pig’s throat to let the blood out … otherwise you can’t eat the meat. ” Despite this, during the first hunt Jack is unable to slaughter the pig, as he is scared, not that he will admit to that. “They knew very well why he hadn’t; because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood. ” This fear quickly vanishes and Jack becomes a ‘real’ hunter.
After gaining the courage to kill the baby pig, Jack rectifies the situation by saying “I was just waiting for a moment to decide where to stab him” This event clearly illustrates that along with inherent evil, man is also capable of being good and kind, and has to choice and free will to choose which one he will become. Jack’s mercy is short-lived, however, and when they encounter another pig, Jack and his hunters are relentless. Jack constantly teases Piggy, who is a physically weak and vulnerable character, therefore an ideal subject for ridiculing, who later is murdered as an extreme result of bullying, “Shut up Fatty”.
Jack’s tribe becomes ruled by fear. He is a dictator and allegorical of Hitler. Most boys don’t want to be involved in his tribe, but have no option. He keeps control by intimidating them and bullying them, such as when he ties up and beats Wilfred. Roger is Jack’s right hand man and the most evil character on the island. He also rules by fear, and takes delight in teasing the little ones. When Samneric are captured, “Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority. ” Yet even Roger feels threatened by the thought of adults. We know that the civilisation from which they were trying to escape is being destroyed.
When Roger stops himself throwing stones at the littluns, we’re told, “Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilisation that knew nothing of him and was in ruins. ” Symbolism is evident throughout ‘Lord of the Flies’ for both good and evil. The conch is the only truly good symbol on the island, represented in this quote, “He could see a whiteness in the gloom near him… ” It shows the conch as a symbol of purity and hope amongst the evil on the island. It signifies democracy as in the assemblies Ralph sets the rule that you are only allowed to talk when you are holding the conch, “I got the conch! All the boys respect it during Golding’s novel until the end when Roger pushes the rock into Piggy; the conch is destroyed as Piggy is murdered. Roger destroys the two symbols of good on the island, Piggy and the conch, and Ralph is left to fend for himself. Piggy’s glasses are an important symbol of power and order on the island because when the glasses are destroyed, all order and rules on the island collapse. Piggy is organised and helps make the original rules. He is the most mature character on the island and wants to create a civilised environment on the island.
It is Piggy who says the most important words describing how the boys should act “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages. What are grownups going to think? ” It is ironic that at the beginning we see Piggy’s glasses as a weakness. He sees them as a strength, ‘… said the fat boy with a touch of pride. “And I’ve been wearing specs since I was three. ” ‘ Later we see that his glasses are symbolic of hope, literally. They are used to create the smoke signals that in the end eventually do get them rescued. Having to wear glasses is just one of Piggy’s impairments and it makes him different among the boys.
This is one of the reasons they bully him. So to the other boys, the glasses are a sign of weakness. Throughout ‘Lord Of The Flies’ as the boys de-civilise, their language degenerates. At the start of the novel the youngest boys are called small boys. They become ‘little’uns’ ‘littl’uns’, and finally ‘littluns’. Percival Wemys Madison gradually forgets his name and address. When the naval officer finds them, he has forgotten it completely. Jack starts off as Merridew – the name he would have been called at school – but soon becomes Jack, then Chief.
His followers – originally the school choir – become his tribe and are eventually seen as savages, having lost their individual identity. Sam and Eric become Sam’n Eric and then ‘Samneric’. The group splits into Jack’s tribe and the Conch group, which are Ralph, Piggy, Simon, Samneric and a few little ones. When Jack and his tribe kill a pig and invite Ralph and Piggy to join their feast, the two accept and cannot resist the temptation of the meat. Later on in the celebration, Jack and his tribe perform a ritualistic dance, in which Piggy and Ralph later join. Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society”.
This shows that there is an evil in all of us, which is what Golding is trying to say throughout the novel. After Ralph and Piggy realise that the dance fuelled the murder of Simon they deny any involvement in it. “We left early, said Piggy quickly, because we were tired”. Simon’s murder is particularly horrific as all the boys were involved, they get carried away in Jack’s ritual dance and as a result kill Simon, “The crowd … eapt onto the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. ” It is ironic that Simon dies at this point in the novel as he had just discovered the true identity of the beast and is killed before he can share his knowledge with the group. In ‘Lord of the Flies’ Ralph and Piggy represent order and government, they try to abstain from resorting to their primitive instincts and try and convince the other boys to do the same.
Piggy says, “Which is better- to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is? Many times throughout the book, Piggy is the voice of reason and helps to guide Ralph along that same road if he loses his confidence and optimism about being rescued. Simon and Ralph represent goodness, truth and reason on the island and both encounter the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Flies is the pig’s head on a stick given as a sacrifice by Jack to the beast. It is a terrifying symbol of how far the violence on the island has progressed. The title of Golding’s novel comes from word Baal-Zebub or Beelzebub, which is an Arabic expression of Devil.
It shows that we all have some devil in us and in some cases it can be summoned too easily. The story of being marooned on a desert island is not an original one, as there have been many well known novels before ‘Lord Of The Flies’. In 1719 Daniel Defoe wrote ‘Robinson Crusoe’ which tells the story of Robinson Crusoe, the sole survivor of a shipwreck who finds himself on a deserted island far away from civilisation. In1883 Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the epic ‘Treasure Island’ which tells the story of young Jim Hawkins who comes into possession of a treasure map and sets out to find the treasure with an adult crew.
Among the crew, however, is the treacherous Long John Silver who is determined to keep the treasure for himself. Robert Louis Stevenson also wrote ‘Kidnapped’ in 1886 about an orphan, David Balfour who sets out to find his last living relative, Uncle Ebenezer. But he is far from welcomed and after escaping murder, he is kidnapped and imprisoned on a ship bound for Carolina. When the ship is wrecked, David and the fiery Alan Breck make their way back across the treacherous Highland terrain on a quest to see that justice is done. The novel ‘The Coral Island’ written in 1857 by Robert Ballantyne is seen as a happier ‘Lord Of The Flies’.
Even today, the story of being shipwrecked is still in use, as the popular American show ‘Lost’ illustrates. It tells the story of a plane that crashes on a tropical island and the survivors having to find an inner strength in order to carry on. ‘Lost’ has been dubbed the grown-up ‘Lord Of The Flies’ and it does indeed seem that way. Both tell the story of a group of people, either children or adults, marooned on a deserted island, forced to survive, their relationships with each other tested to the limits as they uncover secrets about the island.
William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911 and was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford. Apart from writing, he was also a schoolmaster, a lecturer, an actor, a sailor and a musician. He was brought up to be a scientist but revolted and after two years at Oxford he read English Literature instead. He spent five years at Oxford but joined the Royal Navy in 1940, subsequently spent six years afloat. After the war Golding returned to teaching and writing. ‘Lord Of The Flies’ was his first novel published in 1954, and is still read and enjoyed by people today.
The layers of meaning in the novel have been discussed in depth and new meanings are being discovered all of the time. It truly is a timeless novel. ‘Lord of the Flies’ illustrates the possibility of evil in all things and that unless good is nurtured and encourage evil will take over. People have a choice between good and evil, as the boys on the island did. They struggle with their stiff British upbringing, their savage instincts and the constant rivalry for power on the island. The ongoing feud between Ralph and Jack doesn’t cease until the very end of the novel when the naval officer arrives on the island after seeing the fire.
He says jokingly, “What have you been doing? Having a war or something? ” It is said as a harmless comment but the officer doesn’t realise how close to the truth he is. He is deeply shocked when he discovers there have been deaths, “Two? Killed? ” It is not until the end when Jack finally resigns power to Ralph, “A little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waits, started forward, then changed his mind and stood still. Jack realises the horror that he had authorised on the island and feels guilty. The ending is abrupt and brings the reader back to reality with a jolt as we have almost forgotten they are only children, playing at being adults. I don’t actually like the ending to ‘Lord of the Flies’ as I feel it ends too abruptly and doesn’t fit with the pace Golding has set during the novel. It’s almost as bad as the awful ending to a book when it says, “And then I woke up. ” I think it almost lets the story down at they end although I do think it gives the desired effect.