The Lord of the flies is one of the greatest pieces of literature of the last century. After reading the novel, the reader is left with a multitude of sensations that amount to a feeling of awe at the masterpiece they haven just read. This novel works so well because is a multi-layered book that works remarkably well on each echelon of meaning. The novel succeeds as an amazing adventure of a group of schoolboys stranded on an island, having to fight to survive an escaping from a terrible “Beast”.
It is difficult to read a page of the novel without wondering what tragic events will unfold next. Golding does not relent in the constant flashes of action and description even at the calm beginning of the novel, when the reader studies the book with a feeling of interest and intrigue as they wonder how the boys will respond to their own island.
On another level, Golding brilliantly depicts the boys’ swift decline into savagery.
Golding seems to make astounding observations on what makes humans different human and provides profound description on the way a civilized human becomes a mere savage. Golding seems to suggest that Human characteristics come from the influence of society and civilization and when removed from society, refined humans transcend into barbarians.
Civilization is a main theme in the novel. Golding also uses symbolism and metaphors to make statements on the potential and the success of different factors of society. Golding chooses an island as the setting for an island because he wishes to create a microcosm of the world. The novel also relies on the boys being left to their own devices, without the intervention of adults. Golding chooses a group of children rather than adults because children represent innocence and they are also unchanged by society much like humankind was when it first started life on earth.
Different types of society are represented on the island. There are two boys fighting for power on the island – Ralph and Jack. They represent democracy and totalitarian dictatorship respectively. Ralph aims to lead the island fairly- through voting. He is elected by a vote just like a democratic election. Where as jack rebels against the others, disobeying Ralph’s authority and starting his own tribe.
Ralph makes rules but doesn’t physically enforce them- he wants people to do what he likes but he really bases his rules on the wants and needs of others. Jack on the other hand, makes his tribe do exactly what he wants. He is a complete despot.
Ultimately, neither tribe succeeds on the island. The message that Golding seems to be given to the reader is that no society can succeed on earth- democracy is no form of government because it is based almost entirely the wants of the people and the country, therefore is actually being run by the people and not the government. Totalitarianism and fascism are an effective form of government as the country is being run entirely by those in power but ultimately the people will rebel, as they are not getting what they want. This is another profound and intelligent opinion that makes the Lord of the Flies such an excellent novel.
The Novel seems to be essentially a book about power and the struggle between Ralph and jack but also the struggle between good and evil. Golding implies that all people have good and evil within them. The boys start off as innocent, good people. From an early point in the novel, the boys fear a ‘Beast’. There is actually no physical ‘Beast’ but as the messianic figure- Simon says, “Maybe it’s only us”. In the novel Simon is entirely correct. The boys simply fear the evil that they capable of throughout the beginning of the novel the boys seem to want to hide from, or fight the beast showing that are against evil. Later in the novel, Jack attempts to appease ‘The Beast’ proving that he has become evil.
The subject of religion permeates the whole of the novel. The theme of good vs. evil in the novel ties in with the religious theme. Simon seems to be a messianic, Christ-like figure. Several biblical moments appear to have been recreated within the novel. The island itself represents the Garden of Eden. The beast on the island represents evil but also the Devil. Jack’s tribe reverts to a form of devil worship towards the end of the novel. Simon is the one who mainly confronts the beast; Simon’s meeting with the beast represents Jesus’ temptation by the devil, in the bible.
This is such an excellent novel because it integrates a collection of complicated but comprehendible themes. Certain metaphors and symbols appear after reading the novel for a second time. It is an exciting and mentally engaging novel on many levels.