Simon’s death in ‘Lord of the Flies’ Essay
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Analyse, review and comment on the three different presentations of Simon’s death in ‘Lord of the Flies’.
In exploring the breakdown into savagery of a group of boys free from the imposed moral constraints of civilization and society, Lord of the Flies dramatizes a fundamental human struggle. They conflict over the impulse to obey rules and behave morally and the impulse to indulge in brute power over others. Golding’s novel, known to have been his most compelling, symbolizes his pessimism about the natural state of human beings, their culpability and sinfulness and his own cynicism about life inevitably inform the style and tone of his writing.
The castaways, who were initially cathedral choirboys of higher class yield to the fringe of repugnant behaviour and this consequents in ritual and sacrifice. Their inner natures convert to barbaric conduct resulting in the collapse of any civilised behaviour there once was to succumb to their surging urge of tribal power rather than of rescue and survival.
It was Golding’s intentions to expose the beast within every one of us and to tell a ‘true’ story about the collapse of a once civilised group of boys.
The death of Simon represented great sympathy towards characters and to a reader or audience. He portrayed an enigmatic character symbolizing Christ for one of God’s disciples was name Simon Peter. This spiritualistic idea is shown through his epileptic fits and that he is the first to die of the boys; which are revealed in all three versions of the novel including the original text itself.
The black/white version shows Simon with blonde hair, which I think reflects a more prophetic view of heaven and angels than the Simon in the colour version with the brown hair does. His death was an imperative part of the novel showing that the savage boys killed the less brutal character in the novel. It is Simon who walks in the forest alone at night, who acknowledges that there may be a beast and “… maybe it’s only us.” Thus it is Simon who senses what Golding calls: “mankind’s essential illness.” He is trying to say that man may fear darkness and solitude because they rob him of the worlds he builds with his daylight mind, and force him to live with his own interior darkness.
The dance itself is exceptionally symbolic in the novel and the film versions. It portrays a meaning beyond ritualistic actions that ever occurred on the island. It tells the reader to a time of pre-speech and where body language gave out messages, especially in the film versions where this is expressed with clothing, which gives non-verbal signals. The dance is a powerful way of communicating and it expresses many emotions across many cultures and can a story and takes place of a narrative.
In Peter Brook’s black/white version, I think that the choreography is cleverly executed and collated with the military drum rolls and this has proved effective in contrast with Harry Hook’s version, where the boys use simulation. Harry Hook uses a knowledgeable technique in which he depict s the boys simulating, then emulating and this leads to devastation at Simon’s death. Expressionism and body language has been know to man to have been the most common forms of communication, and in this case gives powerful thoughts to an audience or a reader.
Harry Hook builds up tension and suspense before the scene of Simon’s death with Jack giving dictatorial orders to the boys, such as, “Killed a pig today. There’s going to be a feast tonight”. I think this reflects cannibalistic behaviour, which signifies with the occurrence of Simon’s death.
The camera shot is taken to Simon viewing the Pig’s head. In my opinion this signifies an allegory of what has happened on the island. The pig’s head is flyblown and is allegorical in that it is decaying like society on the island. This scene is not illustrated in Peter Brooke’s version, but I think is significant because the boys’ recognition of evil, or the Devil, is embodied in the sacrifice they make after each kill.
The pig’s head symbolizes all of this to Simon, and also the cynicism of adults and the hollowness and superficiality of their world. The shot is taken back to the beach where there is fire and a red and orange glow. This signifies Hades, who is associated with hell, evil, and with a dervish who practises a whirling dance. The camera shoots back to the tranquil Simon who is illuminated by lightning looking at the Pig’s head and this creates a sombre mood for the audience. The camera then left Simon staring at the Pig’s head as if he was ‘in his own world’ to the beach again.
Jack swears when he saying that the conch doesn’t count anymore. The conch, representing the collapse of society, but the swearing portrays the opposite. Swearing was considered formidable at many boarding schools where boys were well – mannered and obedient. Harry Hook may have desired an additional excuse for creating the ‘collapse of society’ on the island. Peter Brooke did not use swearing, for he may have been more engrossed in sticking more closely to the text. The boys then simulate and dance around the fire.
Roger then becomes the pig and this simulation is portrayed using slow motion and with the boys’ expressions. It expresses emotion and is mirrored by those involved. Peter Brooke may not have had this advantage with cameras when producing the 1963 version but, in my opinion, could have used more simulation at the scene. Harry Hook may have used simulation in respects that it leads to emulation then to devastation. Then there is a scene from Hades, bodies glowing a fiery red and orange and the colours are associated with temper and fire. There is church music, which is relatively ritualistic and associated with religion such as with a Payan ceremony of devil worship.
A scene of contrast takes place with he camera shooting back to where Simon approaches the cave where the dead pilot lies. He stares at the body and the camera stays focused on him. This actually helps an audience to see Simon’s expression. The contrast is yet effective as this can tell an audience, once more, of Simon solitude in the way he is unconnected with the rest of the group.
I think that at this point before Simon’s death, both producers considered that his solitude should be a memento before he dies and this gives a prophetic view to the audience. The setting in darkness illustrates a sense of fear and tension. Simon does not scream or shout but slowly backs away and then runs. He holds a glow stick in his hand and with the right of the producer’s poetic licence. This adds to the prophetic view of Simon an audience has but the glow stick gives me a bizarre impression and perhaps this is linked with Simon’s death in that it also was bizarre.
The scene goes back to the frenzied boys who are now uncontrollable beyond limits. Their facial expressions show violent excitement and the desire to do anything. This is reflected to the audience and they themselves can visualise what it is like to fell like the boys do. They dance and simulate around the fire and slow motion is used in which Harry Hook thought would symbolise how the boys were feeling. Thunder illuminates them as they danced and this tells us of Harry Hooks aim to stick to the text in that he acknowledges that fact that Golding used double entendre with the storm. Peter Brooke did not spotlight the storm as efficiently as he could and therefore lacks this detail.
Harry Hook may have articulated the idea that the boys themselves have conjured up the storm. Then a loud thumping noise can be heard and this personifies the boys’ heart pulses as they go faster inevitably the music speeds up. Roger leaps in the air simulating and then the producer uses slow motion, a knowledgeable effect, to help an audience have a close focus on the expressions and movements of the boys. The music converts to that of Rites of Spring by Stravinsky, which is powerful mind-releasing music, and it gets faster as the boys move more rapidly in the circle.
Simon then appeared and there is silence as Jack says, “It’s the real monster. Kill him”. This is not expressed in the original text but Harry Hook defines the idea that the boys were not sure before of what they have become for they have lost total control over themselves. They rush towards the innocent Simon and savagely stab him. There is a crack of thunder and lightning and Simon’s body is illuminated but no occurrence of a heavenly choir song in comparison to Peter Brookes version. Loud drum rolls signifying a drawback and a look at his body lying on the beach follow this. There is then silence which is broken thunder/lightning and followed by military drum rolls as a grim reminder of what the boys once were.
Peter Brooke builds up the tension in his black/white version to a climax at the point of which the boys’ have totally become inhumane and sadistic. The black/white colour gives off a distinctive taste of fear to Simon’s death in comparison to the colour version.
Before that there is the sound of waves crashing rhythmically can be then heard in the background and this gives the audience a reminder of Utopia, which surrounds the boys. Jacks’ tribe then gave food to Piggy and Ralph who sit isolated from the rest of the tribe. This demonstrates their judgments how they choose to behave on the island: as tribes or as close to as they were before. The boys’ faces are painted which I think is quite ritualistic for they have separated into tribal groups and become rivals in their own parts of the island.
Jack deduces that “Conch doesn’t count”, which is partly true because in earlier stages of the two films, it embodied a sign of civilisation and authority and now it signifies loss of control. The conch also symbolized a church bell calling the faithful and it embodies the ritual of religious ceremonies. For the boys on the island it also symbolized a sense of order, democracy and unity and this is sign of tension for the irrepressible forthcoming events. Piggy, ominous or agonizing, as we may feel from his ‘nickname’ adds to the build up of tension, “there’s going to be trouble” and this is verified but ironic when soon after Piggy and Ralph join in the dance.
There is suddenly a burst of sharp contrast to where Simon is staring at the dead pilot. The suspension lines of the parachute create the impression that the body is moving, perhaps to characterize a ghost or spirit from the pilot to Simon. He slowly, quietly backs away, and I think this reminds us of the solitude he requires and the urge that he has not to scream because we already know from earlier on that he doesn’t like to draw attention to himself.
Then the camera shoots back to the dance where there is chaos, running, screaming, and rage, whirling hot rocks and sparks in the air. A steady drum roll punctuates the build up of frenzy, which I think is effective because they are military drum rolls reminding the audience of whom these boys once were and what they have now become. There is shrieking and banging of sticks and I think this articulates a ‘caveman’s’ culture to the audience. The frenzy commences continues but with tri-syllabic chanting, “Kill the beast! Slit her throat! Bash her in!” This tells me of the fear that the boys have seen and the envy to kill they have for anything that comes in their way. It also tells me of how brutal these boys sound and how brutal they will be when the death of Simon occurs.
The camera creates a side shot of Simon returning to the beach, which I think proves effective as this shows Simon inclining through the undergrowth in the dance. Jack said “Look the beast” which is punctuated with silence from all the other boys and this is an effective way to ‘top up the tension’. The boys then rush, screaming, rushing with the chant “Kill, kill, kill” which gives out a myriad of emotions. Simon screams out loud and this is plausible moment at which we hear Simon trying to attract attention to himself (for he was a tranquil person) and I think it was done deliberately because a few seconds later Simon is killed.
The boys frantically stab and beat Simon to death. We can hear the sound of tearing, clawing, ripping flesh and this creates the impression of cannibalism to the audience and it is also another reminder of what the boys have become. Then there is a contrast with silence form all the frenzy that has occurred. This is outstanding as a full stop means a pause in a written text whereas silence punctuates the ‘full stop’ there should be in text. This is followed by a heavenly choir singing the song, ‘Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy’ which empathizes an audience to believe Simon’s true culture. It also gives another reminder of the class these boys have come from.
In the original novel, the climax and tension is added to by a ‘blink of bright light’ and with Golding’s additional comment: ‘thunder exploded’ we know that something dire is about to happen. Ralph adds to the suspense by saying that there’s ‘going to be a storm’. Golding has used double entendre, which I think is an excellent effect in telling the reader that Ralph’s phrase has two meanings. There is to be a storm in the course of nature and a storm in which the boys themselves have conjured up. Golding then using personification by saying that the hunters are ‘flinching from the stroke of the drops’. This tells of how the raindrops are somewhat stroking them but the hunters flinch, after all, they have no consideration for each other or any of those they love. Golding says that they are ‘swaying’ and ‘moving aimlessly’ and I think that this comment tells me that they boys’ may also have lost control of their environment and their inner desires in an isolated situation as well as of society itself on the island.
Almost before the boys begin their dance, Golding describes the surroundings as “dark and terrible” and the reader would consider the word ‘terrible’ as though something sullen is about to occur, this is soon to be confirmed. The word ‘dark’, which is associated with evil and menace that is known to occur in this part of the day, will come into the readers mind. Golding then focus’ on the dance, which I think, is efficacious.
Golding describes the chant as a steady pulse just like the boys’ hearts are beating and the adrenaline in their veins whereas in Peter Brook’s black/white version, he uses a rhythmical drum roll gradually becoming steady. Golding then gives a detailed description of the storm that is about to commence not only with the boys’ themselves but with the weather. He says that “the noise was on them like a gigantic whip” and then “the chant rose a tone in agony” and this personifies that the boys’ become impaired from the noise with his simile of a gigantic whip. The chant becomes louder ‘in agony’ from the boys’ pains from the noise of the storm. This all adds to the tension up to Simon’s death.
Simon then appears and is brutally murdered; Golding describes the sound of his death with “the tearing of teeth and claws” which brings out Golding’s nature of “the end of innocence”. Golding, using effectual imagery, says that the “clouds opened” and let down the rain “like a waterfall” depicting a heaven-like image into a readers mind, after all, the boy with the birthmark has just been killed. Golding then says that the “figures staggered away” rather than using the word ‘boys’ and using the owrd ‘staggered’ indicating that he purposely wanted to create the impression of ‘evolving man’ to the reader. The two producers of the films used this technique effectively in creating this impression.
Fire is expressed numerous times in the two film versions and the original text. Golding signified that it is representative of life, but sadly and ironically, it is also the element which causes the death of the boy with the birthmark. In Golding’s view, the innocence of the child is a crude fallacy, for evolving man has always had, by nature a terrible potentiality for evil. Golding intended to convey a number of messages in his ‘modern fable’, none of which were light-hearted or facetious. His tone is one of hopelessness and despondency at the inevitability of evil and unpleasant things happening. Yet Golding does not overstate the more morbid perspective, nor does he become maudlin. He has showed us plainly what the consequences might be, then leaves us to think and learn.