We were innocent before we started to begin feeling guilty and deep inside the nook of our minds and hearts we have found a hidden treasure that we once had and now seek. One of the most precious gifts one can obtain in life is the gift of innocence and once it has been taken away it can no longer be returned. The term innocence is interpreted as “the freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil”. Once a child is exposed to blind ideas such as believing the world is a perfect place and then realizes the cruelty which inhabits within it, innocence is lost. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies outlines how civilization allows man to remain innocent and once the needs for survival become crucial, the primitive instincts of man must come to parity with the necessities one needs to survive. While loss of innocence is a predominant theme in the novel, the symbols of the beast, the painted faces, and the forest glade help to illustrate the importance of savagery created within the boys over their time on the island.
Man will always try to convince themselves that there is no evil inside of them by making something or someone else seem to be the cause of evil; this is mainly evident in the idea that the boys instill fear in themselves due to the existence of the beast. Realistically, the beast symbolizes the “inner beast” inside all of the boys on the island and eventually leads each of them to lose their innocence and increase their savage like instincts based on their fear and expansion of belief in the beasts existing. A significant part in the novel in which the beast is introduced is in Chapter 2, page 34 where one of the little boys claims that he had seen the “beastie” somewhere inside of the woods. At this early point in the novel we are able to see the imagination in which all the boys have put into effect on what exactly the “beastie” looks like and it is quite evident that Golding has used this idea in the earlier chapters to later portray the scene of chaos and terror of the beast.
The discovery that something other than the boys is on the island creates fear in all of them in which their animalistic instincts will begin to surface because now they fear their safety and the need for survival must be placed into effect. The beast in itself can be symbolized as incarnation of the Christian notion of Satan, which motivates the boys to become more cruel and violent in behavior. The characters of Ralph and Jack are also affected by the beast’s existence for it creates a rupture between them and their followers, where the follow up to the end of the book shows how all the boys will turn on Ralph, who throughout most of the novel was the most civilized. Simon, being the “Christ-like” figure in Lord of the Flies, is the only character who communicates with the beast and is one of the most ethical characters that realize the inner beast amongst the other boys on the island, especially when the boys believe in solely having fun instead of finding ways to get off the island and getting back home.
“This has gone quite far enough. My poor misguided child do you think you know better than I do?” There was a pause. “I’m warning you. I’m going to get angry. D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island.” (Golding, 144)
Simon is also the only character who discovers that the dead parachutist that had landed on the island is the imaginary beast that everyone has become terrified of and is also the cause of the diminishing human morality within the boys. When he attempts to tell the rest of the boys that he had witnessed the dead parachutist, the boys are under impression that Simon is the beast because they are sightless and in a panic they brutally murder him.
An equally important symbol as in comparison to the beast would be the fact that the boys paint their faces. When Jack had appeared before his group of boys with his face smeared in clay like war paint he decides in taking the boys on a pig hunt. The mask then internally transforms Jack in which his primal instincts come to surface. “He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling” (Golding, 64). It appears evident that the boys are becoming savage like because of their painted faces, the paint masks are used to infiltrate all the boys’ souls because now they feel more powerful. The masks not only instigate the evil inside all of the boys but are symbols representing the chaos currently going on in the world which is war. “For hunting. Like in the war. You know – dazzle paint. Like things trying to look like something else” (Golding, 63). With this idea in mind the anonymity of the masks create chaos and violence in which it furthers the boys’ advantage in killing the beast.
Now that the boys are corrupted by the beast and have strengthened their egos by painting their faces, innocence that a child should withhold is lost because now their innate instincts are to act war-like which the doings of an adult are. Just as in war, death to an opposing team causes blood-lust for the victorious person, in this case it would be Jack who succumbs himself to the thrill of violence, creates his own sub-society, and engages in rituals of violence and slaughter. Furthermore, the clash between Jack and Ralph grows deeper because of Jacks tyrannical rule and Ralph’s democratic perspective, and the fact that Jack is more concerned on becoming a better hunter where as Ralph is concerned in getting everyone off of the island creates huge tension between them and foreshadows the breakdown in which the boys will create for themselves in their invented society. It is easy for one to hide behind a mask to hide fear but in the novel’s context the masks do not work as something that shelters the boys but rather liberates and frees them into believing they can do anything they want while wearing it and not worrying about important matters.
Another symbol throughout the novel Lord of the Flies would be the forest glade which is the open space in the jungle that Simon finds. Although it seems that the forest glade seems minor in its symbolism it actually has greater meaning than depicted. Simon is the only character who sees the jungle as a tranquil and beautiful place as compared to Jacks character that only sees the jungle as a dangerous place. Later on throughout the novel when Simon returns to the forest glade he is met with the pigs head in which a peaceful place has now been disrupted by this bloody offering, which later symbolizes the innate human evil that affects and harms childhood innocence.
A child, being symbolized as a peaceful jungle with nothing to harm it, has become corrupt by something such as the pig’s head being brought into the child’s environment. The pig’s head now instigates the child’s innate and natural evil to come out so that it can find the needs to survive and because of this, innocence has been lost. Living in the 21st century means that throughout peoples entire lives they become sheltered from evils depicted in things such as the media, but once we are exposed to the “outside world” and engage in immoral acts and grow out of being a child, we automatically lose that innocence we once obtained because everything becomes a game of survival of the fittest.
Due to all the dominant symbols in the novel Lord of the Flies, it is extremely evident how all of them work together to structure the central theme of loss of innocence. All the boys on the island had been exposed to ideas that have been kept blind to them before that had reached the island, but still they were able to survive nature by bringing forth their innate human instincts. The boys being quite educated and reserved in their lives before coming to island shows that loss of innocence can occur to anyone no matter what lifestyle they lived prior. The fear the boys had throughout the novel brings forth the loss of innocence because it represents the potential evil instilled within all humans especially when they are placed in certain environmental conditions in which for the boys was the island they had landed on.
The island itself being seen as a paradise comes to an end when the boys’ instinct take control of their rationality. Society today is still faced with the “inner beast” inside many people this is quite evident in the fact that our world today is still filled with criminals, gangs and tyrannical people. If humans weren’t so instantly triggered by their innate evil desires then their wouldn’t be treacherous acts of rape and there wouldn’t be secret organizations such as the vigilantes of Ku Klux Klan that advocate one races supremacy over another.
The things the boys of the island in Lord of the Flies do are just a miniscule example of real life-size issues that can occur anywhere at anytime in ones life that brings out the “inner-beast” in everyone. The experience of losing ones innocence is often part of growing up but can be painful and tragic. Tragedy in this experience unlike any other faced in a person’s lifetime is that innocence is the gift that once it’s damaged it cannot be retained again and all senses of life’s marvels are lost simply because of humans innate evils.