Originally published in 1954, William Golding’s _Lord of the Flies_ has become one of the classics of contemporary literature. The novel is about a group of young boys stranded alone on an island and left to fend for themselves. In an attempt to model their previous world without the influence of adults, the order that had once existed soon decays and is replaced by the chaos that destroys their ordered and civilised cultures. Though fictional, _Lord of the Flies_ deals with deep moral questions of how humans are essentially barbaric in their most primitive state. Golding conveys his idea of the ‘darkness of a man’s heart’ successfully through effective use of allegory, symbolism, and his perception of a dystopian society.
_Lord of the Flies_ can be viewed as a political allegory of the Cold War. Golding served in the Royal Navy and recalling later his war experiences, he remarked that “man produces evil, as a bee produces honey.” The Cold War was a struggle between two super power ideologies – Democracy and Communism, signified by Ralph and Jack respectively. Near the close of the novel, the boys are rescued by a naval commander who came ashore in his boat whilst the boys were playing savages. The irony is that after he brings the boys home, the naval commander will return to sea and engage in a far larger game of violence called war.
Thus, Golding makes a point that the island is a microcosmic representation of the conflict between democracy and communism in the war. When the boys are first deserted on the island, they behave like children, alternating between enjoying their freedom and expressing profound homesickness and fear. By the end of the novel, however, they mirror the warlike behaviour of the Home Counties, attacking, torturing and murdering one another without hesitation or regret due to the lack of government and order. Ralph weeps “for the end of innocence” and the “darkness of a man’s heart” (p 248) upon reunification with the real world and realisation that evil lurks within all human beings.
Symbolism plays a major role in _Lord of the Flies_. Through the rich use of symbolism, Golding reveals that humans detached from society’s rules allow themselves to be dominated by the evil within them. The Lord of the Flies and the Beast are two major symbols that enforce the Golding’s idea of ‘the darkness in a man’s heart’. They are not really physical characters, but rather the evil in every human being.Simon is the first one on the island to realise and thus makes a proposal. “”What I mean is…maybe it’s only us.”” (p 111)Simon speaks these words in Chapter 5, during the meeting in which the boys discuss the existence of the beast. Although the other boys laugh off Simon’s suggestion that the beast may be “only us”, Simon’s words are central to Golding’s point that innate human evil exists.
Simon’s idea of the darkness of a man’s heart is reinforced in Chapter 8, when he confronts the Lord of the Flies. “”There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m he Beast.”” (p 177) These words spoken by the Lord of the Flies confirm Simon’s speculation that perhaps the beast is only the boys themselves and acknowledges that it exists in all human beings. This is backed up further with The Lord of the Flies’ adoption of the boys’ rather colloquial language, “I’m the reason why it’s no go?” (p 177) As the story progresses, the boys begin to worship the beast and make offerings to it. The appreciation for the beast is paralleled by the amount of savagery in the group. Through the use of symbolism, Golding successfully illustrates his theme of natural savagery within humans.
The concept of a dystopian society can be seen clearly through _Lord of the Flies._ Golding sees moral behaviour as something that civilisation forces upon the individual rather than being a natural element. The novel implies that the instinct of savagery is far more primal and fundamental to human beings than the instinct of civilisation.The impression of a dystopian society within _Lord of the Flies_ is enhanced by Golding’s rich and dark writing style.
During the early chapters of the novel, the setting was depicted as almost a utopia, “Ralph stood, one hand against a grey trunk, and screwed up his eyes against the shimmering water” (p 14), yet however is juxtaposed with dystopian qualities, “Behind this was the darkness of the forest proper and the open space of the scar.” This creates a sense of foreshadowing which eventually leads on to the corruption and deterioration of the boys’ civilisation. With the absence of civilisation, the boys are left to fend on their own with minimal resources andtherefore naturally reverting cruelty, savagery, and barbarism.
_Lord of the Flies_ still holds relevance to readers in this day as it addresses issues regarding the human condition and society. These issues will be as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago and will still be relevant in the future. As for allegory, the novel represents the differences in political systems, systems that are still part of our lives today. If we scrape off the cover of civilisation, we are all beasts within.Through use of allegory, symbolism and a concept of dystopia, Golding conveys that the absence of a civilisation is able to reduce humanity to a natural state of barbarism.In conclusion, _Lord of the Flies_ thoroughly explores ‘the darkness of a man’s heart’.