Discuss William Golding's use of symbolism in 'Lord of the Flies'

Categories: Allegory
About this essay

William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is a social comment upon man’s very nature and ability to interact. Golding places a group of boys on an island and slowly removes all of society’s constraints and rules while the boys destroy one another in the needs to survive. He uses the symbolism to comment upon the nature of the boys, their degeneration into savagery, and society’s role. Piggy’s spectacles, the boy’s clothes, the fire, the beast and even the pig become central to Golding’s message about ‘mankind’s essential illness.

Lord of the Flies was written in 1954, just nine years after the end of World War II. Europe (and the rest of the world) were still recovering from the damages it had received. And then William Golding wrote a book, a book that shows what people are really like if they are pushed, and he showed this by using children.

After World War II, the Cold War began.

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This was no war with armies or bombs, this was a war to try and gain nuclear power. People were worried that they might not wake up the next day, that their country would have been bombed. It was a terrible time, and that is why it is understandable to say the boys in Lord of the Flies were fleeing due to threat of nuclear war.

Is Jack like Hitler? Yes. Jack and Hitler started out as being second in command of the society. Jack was considered a good leader in Lord of the Flies, he killed animals so they could eat, he kept what was later known as a tribe in order, and at first he made sure that they could cook and eat.

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Hitler when he, and his party, where elected, he solved a lot of the countries problems, he solved the depression and unemployment of Germany after World War I. He also solved the problems with travelling around the country, and he helped make Germany unified again as a whole. But Hitler and Jack both fell, at first they were great leaders, then they both were great dictators, then they were great failures. They both fell, they both couldn’t make it at war, they could both make it at politics, but in the end, they both got away with what they had done.

Hitler claimed that the Jews were bad for the country, that they would one day try to take over, of cause that was a load of nonsense, but Hitler used it to his advantage, using other races and religions as well, saying that they where also bad for the country, and they had to get rid of them. Of cause he did this, but people never found out how, until all the facts about the Holocaust were discovered after the war. He sent the people to a camp where they were either killed, or worked, sometimes killing people.

Hitler had his own person army, they were called, for short, the SS. They dressed in black and they went around killing people. At the beginning of the book, Golding tries to represent this by making the choir look evil. They were also dressed in black, “Something dark was fumbling along…the darkness was not all shadow, but mostly clothing…black cloaks.” Jack was the head of the choir. He made the choir his, It was his choir, later known as “the hunters”.

Jack killed people that he thought were different, or he got people to kill them for him. Whether it was an accident or not, he was always to blame.

Golding went to a public boys school, he knew how boys acted, he knew how different types of people would react in the situation he was creating them in.

The only criticism of the book is that there are no girls in it, probably for the reason he doesn’t know how they would react with each other on an island, and how they would cope with that situation.

Golding was a teacher a school, a literacy teacher, which is obviously a good start for anyone planning on writing a book. As a literacy teacher he got to study books like “Coral Island”, which is what he compares Lord of the Flies to, as the main characters in both books go of the same names, Jack & Ralph.

Golding was in the Navy in the Second World War, and he saw war up close. He got the chance to see what war was really like, and how other people reacted to each other, and war itself when he was there.

The fire is man made, and destroys them. The children on the island think they can wield this fire, but they can’t, the fire has a will of its own, the island is the only one alone who can wield it. The island is willing to destroy everything, even itself, to destroy the children. “Life became a race with the fire” (p53) the fire is personificied, it has a life of its own, and it wants to harm the children.

The fire is also a sign of hope, they need the fire, as it is their only possible chance of being able to get home, “The fire-rescue” (p186) they can’t live with the fire as it destroys them, and they can’t live without it because they won’t be able to get home. They also need the fire to cook their food. They need it to survive. It is also a light within the dark places on the island.

The children on the island use the fire in their tribal dances, it is a symbol of their savagery, it is a symbol that says that they have reverted totally to becoming savages, they use the fire as if it was a brand new invention, as if it was the greatest resource that had.

Piggy’s spectacles are used by Piggy as a defence mechanism. Whenever he is personally attacked, he plays with his glasses, or puts them back on; he uses them to hide behind, as if they are a barrier, or even a mask, hiding his true face behind the glasses. As if he won’t talk to people face to face. This tells us that Piggy doesn’t like confrontation and that he is a coward, he needs to have some sort of protection, and his is the glasses. He hates it if he doesn’t have them, if they are taken away, not just because he can’t see properly, because he feels exposed to people’s abuse and interrogations. “He took out his glasses and held them out” (p14).

Piggy’s spectacles are also a sign of intelligence and society. Something that exists in society can still exist on the island, while a hint of society is still there. People associate glasses with intelligent people, and a sign of someone with authority on the island. But this is also a weakness, this makes Piggy different, he is different. He seems weak, and that is why Jack picks on him.

The glasses are also used to create fire “His specs – use them as burning glasses” (p52). A man made object is used to destroy man. Everything you do backfires on you on the island, you can’t win, everything will be destroyed. It will destroy you.

The conch is a sign of law and order. Blown at the beginning of the story as a signal for people to come to that place. It is the centrepiece of civilisation on the island from the very beginning, “he used to blow it and my mum would come. It’s ever so valuable—-” (p21), Piggy describe how the conch is a symbol of power, as people will come to it. It is a centrepiece that people will come to.

The conch took hundreds of thousands of years to make, and it is very delicate, and like society can be broken in seconds. It is funny, that Piggy should be destroyed at the same time as the conch, Piggy is connected with the conch, the conch and Piggy are both important pieces within society.

The conch brings power to them who hold the conch, giving them the power to speak. When people start ignoring these rules, which is when society starts to break down. People struggle to get this power who want it, people who abuse it, get if freely, the people who would like this power, and shadowed by the people who have it, are ignored.

The boys’ clothing is a sign of civilisation, in society we wear clothes because that is what we are consider to have to do. We use clothes to cover are selves, because that is what we do in society.

On the island they slowly strip themselves of the clothes, the discard them. Showing that they are in fact discarding society. By the end of the book they are ion fact naked without any clothes when they have turned into complete savages, ignoring all rules, and killing each other in savage ways.

The beast is one of two main fears on the island, but the most important. They hear of a beast from the very beginning of the book, and are scared of it from that point onwards. The beast is always there in their minds, they are always thinking about it, it is like something that constantly follows them, but the strange thing is, if is a figment of their imaginations, there is no beast, and Simon is the only person who realises it because he is “different”, he can see things clearly and he knows what is going on.

In some ways, the relations between the beast and children, and the children and the beast are very similar. They believe the beast is there, as are the children to the pigs, and the beast is always chasing them, as they are with the pig. This helps us to see how the children are in fact the beast themselves.

The real beast is themselves. The beast is “mankind’s essential illness”, it is their savagery, it is what people can do when they are pushed. It is the true instincts that humans have, and the sort of punishment we can give other people, and how we can become what we were thousands of years ago when we were living in caves. It is that instinct that is shown on the island.

Pathetic fallacy is what happens when the writer decides to use the weather to reflect the mood of the story at that point, or the events surrounding a character, or just to reflect the character generally. When Simon is about to get killed, Piggy noticed that the sky was going grey, “I don’t like them clouds. Remember how it rained just after we landed?”(p182) An event where bad things happen, reflects the weather, it is black (grey), a symbol of death. When the plane had to crash land, a serious event in the series of events within the book, the weather was as dreadful, it was raining, it was horrible. The events in the book, correspond with the weather.

Also another thing to be noted is the fact that the weather is never described has sunny/nice weather whenever Jack is there. Jack is the evil character within the book, and the weather reflects it.

In this book there are a lot, of imagery. One of the most important pieces of imagery is the fact that Simon is like a prophet. A servant/son of God. He has all of the signs of being religious and being special. He has a church, which is a glade in the middle of the forest, which isn’t found for a long time in the book. He was also killed, sacrificed, he was wrongly accused of being something he isn’t.

Another piece of imagery is the fact that this is always depicted as a war. The whole time you see the island as a giant war. Children are at war with each other, themselves and the island.

Animal imagery is also present in the book, the children turn into animals, attacking other animals for their survival, yet at the same time they are being hunted by the beast that is described as a bear creature, a snake and many more. It is the idea of the hunters being the hunted. The children think they are in charge on this island, but they are proven wrong, as the island has only one master, that is itself.

This book is an allegory. It has two meanings. It says two things in one book.

The first meaning is the fact that this is a simple adventure story. It has all the qualities if a children’s adventure story, they are on a island, there is a beast, they like being savages. As an adventure story it is very good, showing what boys can really do on an island.

The second meaning, the most important, is the social comment. That is that democracy doesn’t work, as you can’t keep the power you were given. But a dictatorship doesn’t work, as everyone isn’t equal. This book shows all of this.

This book is also a fable, it has a moral. I think there are many different morals, but the one that stand out most to me is; Appearances can be deceptive – the island looks beautiful and is like something out of dream, but it ensnares them and destroys them, making it a nightmare too.

In Lord of the Flies, Golding has used a lot of colloquial language for the boys “Wizard…wacco… wow”, this shows their friendly and playful nature that they have. This shows that they are just kids by making up words and using them in their excitement and discovery of new things.

As they change into savages there communication change “Jack gave a low grunt” this shows that as they are becoming savages they are struggling to communicate with each other, a basic instinct and function of modern society.

The tribal chanting in the book shows how much of savages they are, “Kill the beast, spill his blood, cut his throat.” how they have become so primitive in their communications resorting to absolute savages.

Jack’s voice is very commanding, he is always very informal and is quite rude, he always orders people around, “Shut up…Sit down!” This shows that even before he came to the island that he was used to ordering people around, and he was in a position of power over other people, which he like (being head-chorister in the choir).

Piggy on the other hand, is very polite, and sometimes is quite quiet, sometimes he is quite formal, but he is still a child so a lot of the time he is not, “…on account of my asthma.” (p13). He is never rude, and never orders people to do things, he just asks them.

Golding has written the book in the form of third person, you are looking upon the book, you are a watcher, watching what is happening. This is quite a good effect in a book like this because you see an unbiased approach to the people and characters in the book.

Being a watcher on the events that happen means you are viewing the entire island. You are viewing the island as a microcosm; this means you see a “whole” as a small thing. We are seeing the whole of human nature, all of its instincts and reaction in just one tiny island, which is isolated from all over things in the middle of the ocean.

In this book Golding uses symbolism to create the reality of what society and war are really like. He shows us the reality of the things we do in society and what is wrong with those things. He also shows us what a society can become and shows us how fragile and precious a society is. He does this with great effect to show what people are really like and what people can really – “mankind’s essential illness.”

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Discuss William Golding's use of symbolism in 'Lord of the Flies'. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/discuss-william-goldings-use-symbolism-lord-flies-new-essay

Discuss William Golding's use of symbolism in 'Lord of the Flies'
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