A literary breakdown of the novel, “The Lord of the Flies” including the elements of irony, realism and surprise
“Lord of the Flies”
1. IRONY – a saying, happening, or situation that is apparently contrary to what is intended or desired.
a) Fire with intent to kill ended up being the reason for rescue- When pursuing Ralph, Jack ordered the forest to be set on fire, to either kill him or force him out into the open.
“He (Ralph) heard a curious trickling sound and then a louder crepitation as if someone were unwrapping great sheets of cellophane. A stick snapped and he stifled a cough. Smoke was seeping through the branches.” (Pg. 215, 2nd Para.) This proved to be their saving grace, as a naval boat saw the smoke, and came to the boys’ rescue, just in time to save Ralph. “We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?” (Pg.
b)Young, Savage warriors were reduced to children in the presence of an adult – The same tribe who killed Simon and Piggy, and who were hunting Ralph down to kill him, began to sob like babies. The mere sight of an adult made them realize what they had done, and could never undo. “The other little boys began to shake and sob too.” (Pg. 223, Para.
c)The once respected leader became a hunted outlaw- Ralph, who in the beginning was almost unanimously voted chief, was pursued and hunted by the very boys who voted for him. “They hate you Ralph…They’re going to hunt you tomorrow.” (Page 201)
d)Simon, who discovered that there was no beast, was killed as the beast – The mystic Simon, who Bravely marched to the supposed “beast” found that it was a dead pilot. When he ran to tell the boys this, they went into a frenzy and beat him to death. “That was Simon…That was murder.” (Pg. 172)
e)The main savages: Jack, Roger, Maurice, etc., were once choir boys- Jack and Roger, the two vicious savages, were once choir boys, the personification of goodness and purity. In the first chapter, Jack stated, “Choir! Stand still!” (P. 21)
2. REALISM – philosophy or action based on things as they are, not as they should be.
a)Ralph and Piggy discuss the fact that they are alone on the island and that in all probability no one knows where they are. Ralph realizes the situation they are in and decides to form a tribe. He attempts to create order and civility in the wild, which, in his eyes, is the only way to survive. A quotation from page 15 reveals the boys’ knowledge of being alone and of their location unknown to the world: “They’re all dead,” said Piggy “an this is an island. Nobody don’t know we’re here. Your dad don’t know, nobody don’t know….We may stay here till we die.” Piggy is not an idealist. He is well aware of the perilous situation he’s in. Also, it is shown that Ralph intends to bring order to the group through his leadership. “Shut up, said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things.” Ralph realizes the importance of order even alone on an island, without grown-ups.
b)Another example of realism in the novel is Ralph’s insistence upon a fire. Ralph knows that smoke is the only way that they are going to be rescued, hence he is always stressing the importance of a fire. The others in the tribe cannot grasp or refuse to grasp the importance of the fire. They are not realistic. “There’s another thing. We can help them find us. If a 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.” (Pg.41) This shows Ralph’s opinion on the importance of a fire.
c)Again, Ralph is the more realistic member of the group. He is always stressing importance on a fire rather than obtaining meat. Jack would rather be idealistic and live comfortably spending his time hunting. His first priority should be keeping the fire going, not hunting for meat. Ralph is smart enough to know that being rescued is more important than any kind of luxuries such as meat. Ralph does not care much for making life more comfortable on the island because he is being realistic. “There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out.” (Pg. 76) This shows Ralph’s rage when Jack let the fire go out.
d)Ralph also attempts to build shelters to ward the chill of the night. This action is also proof of the situation as it is, not as it should be. Ralph has trouble constructing the shelter because the others refuse to help him. They prefer to waste time swimming and playing. The shelters are important because of the climate. Ralph realizes the need for the shelters in event of a rainstorm, etc. “If it rains like when we dropped in we’ll need shelters all right.”
3. SURPRISE – a sudden or unexpected event or fact in a story. The surprise is proportional to the unexpectedness of what happens; it becomes pronounced when the story departs radically from our expectation.
a)It is surprising when Simon was killed by the others – “Simon was crying out something about a dead man on a hill.” (Pg. 168) “At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore.” (Pg. 168) The group was so caught up in the ritual dance that they killed Simon as if he was the beast. This event was unexpected to the reader.
b)It was surprising when Ralph met the naval officer on the beach- “A naval officer stood on the sand, looking down at Ralph in wary astonishment.” (Pg. 221) Ralph was being chased by the hunters and the reader does not expect the officer to be standing on the beach.
c)It was surprising when Piggy was killed by the falling boulder- “The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee.” (Pg. 200) Piggy was such a strong figure in the story that it was unexpected for him to have been killed by the boulder.
d)It was surprising when Sam and Eric told the hunters where Ralph was hiding – “He meant he’d hide in there?” (Pg. 212) The reader would not expect that the twins, formally loyal to Ralph, would reveal this secret.
4. SUSPENSE – is a tense feeling of waiting or expectation aroused in a reader by the events in a story which need explanation or fulfilment.
a)Throughout this novel, we see the hatred which Jack possesses for Piggy. We see this hatred through Jack’s statements towards Piggy. “You shut up, you fat slug!” Furthermore, we see this contempt in the way Piggy is in fear of Jack. “He hates me. I dunno why….I’m scared of him.” (Pg. 53) We wonder if Jack will do something to Piggy because of this hatred.
b)”There was a sudden bright explosion and a corkscrew trail across the sky; then darkness again and stars. There was a speck above the island, a figure dropping swiftly beneath a parachute, a figure that hung with dangling limbs.” (Pg. 104.) Through the description of the fall of this figure, we wonder who it is, what it is coming for, and we want to see if it is alive or not.
c)”He was chief now in truth; and he made stabbing motions with his spear. From his left hand dangled Piggy’s broken glasses.” (Pg. 186) At this point, we wish to be enlightened on what will occur because of the shift in command between Ralph and Jack. We also wish to see what will occur when Ralph and the others find out about Piggy’s stolen glasses. d)”Hide, break the line, climb a tree- which was the best after all?” (Pg. 218) This quote makes us feel that Jack could make a wrong decision or that he could do something rash in this situation. We wonder if he may get caught by the hunters because of these factors. e)”He stumbled over a root and the cry that pursued him rose even higher…Then he was down rolling over and over in the warm sand, crouching with arm up to ward off; trying to cry for mercy.” (Pg. 220) This quote makes the reader want to know if Ralph will be captured or if he will escape. We wonder what the savages will do if they catch him.
5. SYMBOLISM – a symbol in a novel is based upon an image. An image is something that can be recognized by one or more of the five senses. Symbols can be either public or private. A public symbol is one which anyone can understand without explanation, since the images that are used are familiar to everyone. A private symbol is one which must be explained by the author since its meaning is arbitrarily assigned by him.
a)When we see the crosses on the choir boys, we know without further explanation that they are Christians and that they are supposed to act and behave like Christians. “Their bodies, from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross on the left breast and each neck was finished off with a hambone frill.” (Pg. 21)
b)Piggy’s glasses are made into a private symbol. The author has arbitrarily indicated that the glasses will have something to do with reason. The loss of one lens, then the weakening of Piggy’s eyes and finally, the theft of the glasses is used to show the progressive loss of reasonable behaviour among the boys. “Piggy’s glasses flew off and tinkled on the rocks.” (Pg. 78) “From his left hand dangled Piggy’s broken glasses.” (Pg. 186)
c)The author has made the conch a private symbol by turning it from a pretty shell into an emblem of Ralph’s rule. The conch symbolizes Ralph’s power. This is proven when Ralph says, “Hear him! He’s got the conch!” (Pg. 16)
d)The dead airman symbolizes the boys’ lack of knowledge and their wild imagination. They thought the dead man was the beast. This is proven when the twins said, “We saw the beast.” (Pg. 108)
e)The Lord of the Flies represents the lowest part of a man, the source of violence, hatred, fear, and murder. The meeting between Simon and the Lord of the Flies represents the recognition of these forces in all men. “…and in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on a stick and grinned.” (Pg. 152)
Cite this essay
“Lord of the Flies”. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/lord-of-the-flies-new-essay