Setting in Lord of the Flies

Essay on the setting in LOTF

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  • Created on: 04-06-11 13:10
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LORD OF THE FLIES : Notes On The Setting
For the boys at first, their reaction to the island is purely positive: they
are on a tropical coral island with no grownups, `like in a book', where
they can have fun and adventures. As Ralph repeats, `this is a good
island', for "Here at last was the imagined but never fully realized place
leaping into real life".
For readers, on the other hand, Golding's presentation of the island is
far more ambiguous: he depicts it as a place of great beauty, but also of
Many descriptive elements suggest at first a paradise: the beauty of the natural
landscape, the abundance of the wildlife (colourful birds and butterflies), and
the quality of the light, the absence of adults. The warmth of the water
Golding also presents many clues, however, that the island could prove to be a
hostile environment. At the beginning, the dense undergrowth impedes the
boys' progress ­ Piggy's knees are scratched with thorns. References are
made to a powerful storm with `tree trunks falling'. Certain descriptive details
are quite discordant ­ `skulllike coconuts', the bird with a `witchlike cry'.
The longer the boys stay on the island, the more negatively they
themselves view their surroundings. They suffer from sunburn, the oppressive
heat, bouts of diarrhoea from the fruit, the physical discomfort of `rolling
noisily to rest among dry leaves(77), dirt and decay. The landscape loses its
`glamour' as the boys struggle with the demands of survival: `even the green
depths of water held no balm'(65). Ralph is the character who most clearly
experiences this disenchantment. He "found himself understanding the
wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation..."
Later in the novel, as he stares out to sea on the other side of the island, he
"The filmy enchantments of mirage could not endure the cold
ocean water, and the horizon was hard, clipped blue...On the other
side of the island, one might dream of rescue, but here, faced by
the brute obtuseness of the ocean, one was clamped down, one
was helpless..."
To the boys, the island itself seems almost to be a living creature, having
immense power over them. Golding uses personification to increase this effect:
`The heat seemed to increase until it became a threatening weight'(9) `now the
forest stirred, roared, flailed...' `the sun gazed down like an angry eye'(57),
`white and brown clouds brooded'(153), `the water bounded from the
mountain top..'(161) The island almost seems to possess a malevolent force,
`two grey trunks rubbed each other with an evil squeak that no one had noticed

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The island becomes a source of fear, at first for the littluns, but
then for all of them. With the onset of evening and the end of light and
warmth, the island becomes the embodiment of fears they can neither
recognise nor understand, taking the form of `snakes', or an unseen `beast'.…read more

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