Characters - Ralph & Jack
Ralph: - The protagonist of Lord of the Flies. He is 12 years old, blond, athletically built and attractive. He is elected leader following the founding of the conch and the learning of how to use it. His main focus is rescue and he attempts to focus on the future, as well as the now. He does this by building a fire in the hope of rescue and the building of huts for shelter. He occasionally makes foolish mistakes, such as joining in with the hysteria when brutally murdering Simon.
Jack: - The antagonist of Lord of the Flies. He is tall, redheaded and is the leader of the choir boys. Thinks of himself as superior to most because he can 'sing C sharp.' When Ralph is elected chief, Jack becomes upset, but he instead becomes the leader of the 'hunters.' Jack leads the boys from civilised young boys into savages. He is a bully, and threatens those who are weaker than him, and when he forms his own group on the island, he beats many of the little'uns, just because he can. He breaks Piggy's glasses, knowing that he is practically blind without them, he then leads others to Piggy's death. He only concentrates on surviving right now, which leads to the murder of the sow, which would result in no more piglets in the future. He also allows the fire to extinguish in order to go out and hunt. This results in a ship not noticing the boys on the island.
Characters - Piggy
Piggy: - Overweight, wears thick glasses and has asthma. He quickly befriends Ralph and realises that he can express his views through him. Piggy is an orphan that was brought up by his aunt, and he constantly refers to his old life. Piggy doesn't believe in the 'beastie'. He is intellectual, but lacks social skills and is therefore an outsider. He cannot do anything for himself and constantly tries to get out of work whilst relying on Ralph. He is the voice of reason on the island and a link to the adult world because of his maturity and intellect. Piggy is eventually murdered by Roger. His hair doesn't seem to grow as the other boys' does, and this could suggest that he remains civilised throughout the book, whereas the other gradually become savages.
Simon: - Simon is the Christ - like figure in the novel. He is a loner and often experienced fainting spells. He wanders into the forest by himself to think and sees beyond the surface. As the novel progresses, Simon gradually becomes alienated and he becomes brave in the face of danger. He is the only boy on the island to confront the beast and find out what it really is. He thinks that the beast is just a figment of the boys' imagination, which it is. Once he discovers the 'beast' is just a dead parachutist, he goes to tell the boys, but gets brutally murdered by the boys.
Character - Roger & Sam and Eric
Roger: - Roger is initially a quiet, shy boy but he gradually becomes a malicious murderer, becoming the most savage of the boys. He has no sympathy or regret after commiting murders or violent acts. He engages in the sadistic toture of the pig, of Piggy and the little'uns. He supports Jack in the same way that Piggy supports Ralph.
Sam & Eric: - Sam and Eric are twins who do everything together. When they first appear in the novel, they are described as boys who 'breathed together' and 'grinned together.'
Ralph vs. Jack: - Ralph represents order and composure in society. Eventually Jack grows tired of being ordered aroung by Ralph, so leaves and forms his own group of savages. He let the barbarism inside of him transform him into a savage creature and he went on a rampage, destroying the makeshift civilisation the boys worked so hard to create.
Boys vs. Beastie: - The beast is a manifestation of all the evin within the boys. As the boys grow further and further away from civilisation throughout the novel, their desire to kill the beast grows.
Boys vs. Nature: - At the beginning of the novel, Jack is afraid to kill the pig. Towards the end of the novel, however, Jack's warrior identity brutally murdered the sow and hung its head on a stick 'sharpened at both ends' in an offering to the beastie.
Boys vs. Piggy: - Piggy represents the weak, those of whom are usually vicitmised. The boys torture him because he is fat, wears thick glasses and has asthma. This could show a lack of understading as the boys may not have met someone who has had that amount of problems before.
Major Conflicts Cont.
Jack vs. Society: - The barbaric quality that arises in Jack throughout the novel is really a rebellion against soceity. He grew tired of taking orders from Ralph and participating in the democratic system that they had, so decided to become a sort of dictator with his own group of savages. This sense of anarchy must have existed inside of him before the encounter on the island, but his experiences served to bring it out of him.
The Need for Civilisation & Law: - Law and rules are a necessity to keep the darker side of human nature in line. When all elements of civilisation disappear on the island, the boys revert to a more primitive side of their nature and they turn into savages, and the democracy is replaced with a dictatorship/anarchy. Society holds everyone together, and without civilisation and rules, the boys' ideas, values and basic ideas of right and wrong are forgotten and the evil of human nature emerge.
The Loss of Identity: - The boys lose their individual identity when the older children become known as the bigguns and the younger become the little'uns. They are not known by their names anymore, just as one group. When the hunters paint their faces and kill pigs, they are losing their individualism, and becoming part of a group mentality of savagary. The twins, Sam and Eric, combine personalities and they become 'samneric'. They are no longer known as two separate people, but as one person who can no be separated as Sam and Eric.
Key Issues Cont.
Loss of Innocence: - As the boys on the island progress from well-behaved, orderly children longing for rescue to cruel, bloodthirsty hunters who have no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence that they possessed at the beginning of the novel. The painted savages in Chapter 12 who have hunted, tortured, and killed animals and human beings are a far cry from the guileless children swimming in the lagoon in Chapter 3. But Golding does not portray this loss of innocence as something that is done to the children; rather, it results naturally from their increasing openness to the innate evil and savagery that has always existed within them. Golding implies that civilization can mitigate but never wipe out the innate evil that exists within all human beings. The forest glade in which Simon sits in Chapter 3 symbolizes this loss of innocence. At first, it is a place of natural beauty and peace, but when Simon returns later in the novel, he discovers the bloody sow’s head impaled upon a stake in the middle of the clearing. The bloody offering to the beast has disrupted the paradise that existed before—a powerful symbol of innate human evil disrupting childhood innocence.
Human Nature: - The shortcomings in human nature will lead to an equally flawed society. Without the restraints of civilisation, the behaviour of people will regress to their savage beginnings. Survival is of the utmost importance. The base form of human nature will lead to anarchy, violence, death and murder.
Power: - Different types of power, some used and abused. Democratic power is shown when choices and decisions are shared among many people on the island. Jack shows authoritarian power by threatening and terrifying others by mention of the beast. Some of the boys utilise brute force when hunting pigs, and later hunting Ralph.
Fear of the Unknown: - The boys' fear of the unknown on the island leads to their fear of the beast. The boys cannot accept the notion of a beast existing on the island, not can they let go of it. The recognition that no real beast exists, and that the only beast on the island is fear iteself is one of the deepest meanings in the novel.
Blindness and Sight: - Piggy is blind to his immediate surroundings but really understands what is going on on the island. Unfortunately, the boys do not realise that Piggy sees more, and he is treated poorly and is eventually killed.
Piggy & his glasses: Clear sight and intelligence. Piggy's glasses bring 'fire' to the island.
The breaking of Piggy's glasses: The pregressive decay of rational influence on the island.
The conch: Democracy and order.
Simon's behaviour: Christ-like figure & purity.
The island: a microcosm representing the world.
The beast: the capacity for evil within everyone
Roger's behaviour: evil and ******
Jack's behaviour: savagery & anarchy
Interpretive Level Cont.
The Signal Fire: The signal fire burns on the mountain, and later on the beach, to attract the notice of passing ships that might be able to rescue the boys. As a result, the signal fire becomes a barometer of the boys’ connection to civilization. In the early parts of the novel, the fact that the boys maintain the fire is a sign that they want to be rescued and return to society. When the fire burns low or goes out, we realize that the boys have lost sight of their desire to be rescued and have accepted their savage lives on the island. The signal fire thus functions as a kind of measurement of the strength of the civilized instinct remaining on the island. Ironically, at the end of the novel, a fire finally summons a ship to the island, but not the signal fire. Instead, it is the fire of savagery—the forest fire Jack’s gang starts as part of his quest to hunt and kill Ralph.
The Lord of the Flies: It is the bloody, severed sow’s head that Jack impales on a stake in the forest glade as an offering to the beast. This complicated symbol becomes the most important image in the novel when Simon confronts the sow’s head in the glade and it seems to speak to him, telling him that evil lies within every human heart and promising to have some “fun” with him. (This “fun” foreshadows Simon’s death in the following chapter.) In this way, the Lord of the Flies becomes both a physical manifestation of the beast, a symbol of the power of evil, and a kind of Satan figure who evokes the beast within each human being. Looking at the novel in the context of biblical parallels, the Lord of the Flies recalls the devil, just as Simon recalls Jesus. In fact, the name “Lord of the Flies” is a literal translation of the name of the biblical name Beelzebub, a powerful demon in hell sometimes thought to be the devil himself.
An Allegorical Novel
Golding employs a relatively straightforward writing style in Lord of the Flies, one that avoids highly poetic language, lengthy description, and philosophical interludes. Much of the novel is allegorical, meaning that the characters and objects in the novel are infused with symbolic significance that conveys the novel’s central themes and ideas. In portraying the various ways in which the boys on the island adapt to their new surroundings and react to their new freedom, Golding explores the broad spectrum of ways in which humans respond to stress, change, and tension.
Religious Parallels: A Christ-like figure. Many critics have drawn strong parallels between Simon and Jesus. Among the boys, Simon is the one who arrives at the moral truth of the novel, and the other boys kill him sacrificially as a consequence of having discovered this truth. Simon’s conversation with the Lord of the Flies also parallels the confrontation between Jesus and the devil during Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, as told in the Christian Gospels.
Although Simon is wise in many ways, his death does not bring salvation to the island; rather, his death plunges the island deeper into savagery and moral guilt. Moreover, Simon dies before he is able to tell the boys the truth he has discovered. Jesus, in contrast, was killed while spreading his moral philosophy. In this way, Simon—and Lord of the Flies as a whole—echoes Christian ideas and themes without developing explicit, precise parallels with them. The novel’s biblical parallels enhance its moral themes but are not necessarily the primary key to interpreting the story.
Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel, and many of its characters signify important ideas or themes. Ralph represents order, leadership, and civilization. Piggy represents the scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization. Jack represents unbridled savagery and the desire for power. Simon represents natural human goodness. Roger represents brutality and bloodlust at their most extreme. To the extent that the boys’ society resembles a political state, the littluns might be seen as the common people, while the older boys represent the ruling classes and political leaders. The relationships that develop between the older boys and the younger ones emphasize the older boys’ connection to either the civilized or the savage instinct: civilized boys like Ralph and Simon use their power to protect the younger boys and advance the good of the group; savage boys like Jack and Roger use their power to gratify their own desires, treating the littler boys as objects for their own amusement.
1. 'Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.'
This passage from Chapter 4 describes the beginnings of Roger’s cruelty to the littluns, an important early step in the group’s decline into savagery. At this point in the novel, the boys are still building their civilization, and the civilized instinct still dominates the savage instinct. The cracks are beginning to show, however, particularly in the willingness of some of the older boys to use physical force and violence to give themselves a sense of superiority over the smaller boys. This quotation shows us the psychological workings behind the beginnings of that willingness. Roger feels the urge to torment Henry, the littlun, by pelting him with stones, but the vestiges of socially imposed standards of behavior are still too strong for him to give in completely to his savage urges. At this point, Roger still feels constrained by “parents and school and policemen and the law”—the figures and institutions that enforce society’s moral code. Before long, Roger and most of the other boys lose their respect for these forces, and violence, torture, and murder break out as the savage instinct replaces the instinct for civilization among the group.
2. 'His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.'
This quotation, also from Chapter 4, explores Jack’s mental state in the aftermath of killing his first pig, another milestone in the boys’ decline into savage behavior. Jack exults in the kill and is unable to think about anything else because his mind is “crowded with memories” of the hunt. Golding explicitly connects Jack’s exhilaration with the feelings of power and superiority he experienced in killing the pig. Jack’s excitement stems not from pride at having found food and helped the group but from having “outwitted” another creature and “imposed” his will upon it. Earlier in the novel, Jack claims that hunting is important to provide meat for the group; now, it becomes clear that Jack’s obsession with hunting is due to the satisfaction it provides his primal instincts and has nothing to do with contributing to the common good.
3. '“What I mean is . . . maybe it’s only us”'
Simon speaks these words in Chapter 5, during the meeting in which the boys consider the question of the beast. One littlun has proposed the terrifying idea that the beast may hide in the ocean during the day and emerge only at night, and the boys argue about whether the beast might actually exist. Simon, meanwhile, proposes that perhaps the beast is only the boys themselves. Although the other boys laugh off Simon’s suggestion, Simon’s words are central to Golding’s point that innate human evil exists. Simon is the first character in the novel to see the beast not as an external force but as a component of human nature. Simon does not yet fully understand his own idea, but it becomes clearer to him in Chapter 8, when he has a vision in the glade and confronts the Lord of the Flies.
4. '“There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”'
The Lord of the Flies speaks these lines to Simon in Chapter 8, during Simon’s vision in the glade. These words confirm Simon’s speculation in Chapter 5 that perhaps the beast is only the boys themselves. This idea of the evil on the island being within the boys is central to the novel’s exploration of innate human savagery. The Lord of the Flies identifies itself as the beast and acknowledges to Simon that it exists within all human beings: “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?” The creature’s grotesque language and bizarre appropriation of the boys’ slang (“I’m the reason why it’s no go”) makes the creature appear even more hideous and devilish, for he taunts Simon with the same colloquial, familiar language the boys use themselves. Simon, startled by his discovery, tries to convey it to the rest of the boys, but the evil and savagery within them boils to the surface, as they mistake him for the beast itself, set upon him, and kill him.
5. 'Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy.'
These lines from the end of Chapter 12 occur near the close of the novel, after the boys encounter the naval officer, who appears as if out of nowhere to save them. When Ralph sees the officer, his sudden realization that he is safe and will be returned to civilization plunges him into a reflective despair. The rescue is not a moment of unequivocal joy, for Ralph realizes that, although he is saved from death on the island, he will never be the same. He has lost his innocence and learned about the evil that lurks within all human beings. Here, Golding explicitly connects the sources of Ralph’s despair to two of the main themes of the novel: the end of innocence and the “darkness of man’s heart,” the presence of savage instincts lurking within all human beings, even at the height of civilization.
Brief Facts about LOTF
genre · Allegory; adventure story; castaway fiction; loss-of-innocence fiction
narrator · The story is told by an anonymous third-person narrator who conveys the events of the novel without commenting on the action or intruding into the story.
point of view · The narrator speaks in the third person, primarily focusing on Ralph’s point of view but following Jack and Simon in certain episodes. The narrator is omniscient and gives us access to the characters’ inner thoughts.
tone · Dark; violent; pessimistic; tragic; unsparing
tense · Immediate past
major conflict · Free from the rules that adult society formerly imposed on them, the boys marooned on the island struggle with the conflicting human instincts that exist within each of them—the instinct to work toward civilization and order and the instinct to descend into savagery, violence, and chaos.
themes · Civilization vs. savagery; the loss of innocence; innate human evil
motifs · Biblical parallels; natural beauty; the bullying of the weak by the strong; the outward trappings of savagery (face paint, spears, totems, chants)
symbols · The conch shell; Piggy’s glasses; the signal fire; the beast; the Lord of the Flies; Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Roger
foreshadowing · The rolling of the boulders off the Castle Rock in Chapter 6 foreshadows Piggy’s death; the Lord of the Flies’s promise to have some “fun” with Simon foreshadows Simon’s death