Lord of the Flies

Analysis on Lord of the flies

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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

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Rising Action

The boys assemble on the beach. In the election for leader, Ralph defeats Jack, who is furious when he loses. As the boys explore the island, tension grows between Jack, who is interested only in hunting, and Ralph, who believes most of the boys’ efforts should go toward building shelters and maintaining a signal fire. When rumors surface that there is some sort of beast living on the island, the boys grow fearful, and the group begins to divide into two camps supporting Ralph and Jack, respectively. Ultimately, Jack forms a new tribe altogether, fully immersing himself in the savagery of the hunt.

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Simon encounters the Lord of the Flies in the forest glade and realizes that the beast is not a physical entity but rather something that exists within each boy on the island. When Simon tries to approach the other boys and convey this message to them, they fall on him and kill him savagely.

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Falling Action

Virtually all the boys on the island abandon Ralph and Piggy and descend further into savagery and chaos. When the other boys kill Piggy and destroy the conch shell, Ralph flees from Jack’s tribe and encounters the naval officer on the beach.

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Civilisation and Barbarity - The Beginning

At the beginning , the rules stop them from violence. Jack can't bring himself to kill a trapped piglet. Roger doesn't throw stones directly as Henry because of the "taboo of the old life".

Piggy is anxious about the rules and he gets upset and scornful when the other boys don't follow them. He calls them a "pack of kids" and says they should "act proper". 

Ralph wants to have fun on the island but he knows that they need to have rules and think ahead. He is bitter that he has to be the dutiful one.

Jack at first believes that they need rules as "they're not savages". This is highly ironic when you think about he he behaves later on in the book.

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Civilisation and Barbarity - The Middle

The boys start to live by the natural rhythm of the day "from dawn to quick dusk" rather then clock times. They feel "menaced" by the dark and choose to sleep through it.

Jack chooses "fierce exhiliration" of hunting over sensible behavour. This marks a major turning point. When Jack and the hunters manage to kill the pig, they let the fire go out and missed a chance to get rescued - selfish, disobeying the rules, the savagery of hunting is beginning to fulfill their minds.

When piggy reminds Jack that is was his duty to keep the fire going, Jack hits him on the head and breaks his glasses. This is the start of violence within the group.

Ralph see's that their old world of laws is 'slipping away'. He realises that the boys will go "further and further" with no rules to limit their behaviour. He is right as by the end of the book he is being hunted like an animal.

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Civilisation and Barbarity - New society

Jack starts a new group to hunt, feast and "have fun".

First thing they do is vicously slaughter a sow. They seem to enjoy the cruelty and are rejecting the values and decencies of their old life.

They let their basic fears and instincts to control them - they kill Simon in a dancing frenzy when they mistake him for the beast. Golding describes the "tearing of teeth and claws" portraying the boys animalistic behaviour.

Jack starts to create his own violent punishments to enforce his rules - he ties up Wilfred and beats him. Roger becomes the torturer and executioner - he has no morale, savagery has over-taken his mind, he is the most dangerous as he has no reason to cause the pain and just finds it fun and exhilirating.

Any sense of civilisation, authority and order vanishes as the conch smashes and Piggy dies 

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Civilisation and Barbarity - Appearance, Primitive


The schools uniform which represent discipline and unity slowly gets dirty, torn and lost. Ralp feels sad that the dirty clothes have become 'normal' as is shows they have lost their old values and standards

Jack paints his face for hunting and realises it frees him from civilised rules and embarassment. The masks of paint provide a "liberation into savagery"

When piggy is killed, Ralph looks at the tribes "anonymous devils's faces". These painted faces show a new uniform - one that represents that no one has to take individual responsibility for the violence

Primitive Rituals

"Kill the pig" becomes more sinister each time you hear it. The rituals indicate that the boys believe in the beast 100%.

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Civilisation vs. Savagery

The conflict between the two instincts is the driving force of the novel, explored through the dissolution of the young English boys’ civilized, moral, disciplined behavior as they accustom themselves to a wild, brutal, barbaric life in the jungle. Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel, which means that Golding conveys many of his main ideas and themes through symbolic characters and objects. He represents the conflict between civilization and savagery in the conflict between the novel’s two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, who represents order and leadership; and Jack, the antagonist, who represents savagery and the desire for power.

As the novel progresses, Golding shows how different people feel the influences of the instincts of civilization and savagery to different degrees. Piggy, for instance, has no savage feelings, while Roger seems barely capable of comprehending the rules of civilization. Generally, however, Golding implies that the instinct of savagery is far more primal and fundamental to the human psyche than the instinct of civilization. Golding sees moral behavior, in many cases, as something that civilization forces upon the individual rather than a natural expression of human individuality. When left to their own devices, Golding implies, people naturally revert to cruelty, savagery, and barbarism. This idea of innate human evil is central toLord of the Flies, and finds expression in several important symbols, most notably the beast and the sow’s head on the stake. Among all the characters, only Simon seems to possess anything like a natural, innate goodness

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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.

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Biblical Parallels

The island itself, particularly Simon’s glade in the forest, recalls the Garden of Eden in its status as an originally pristine place that is corrupted by the introduction of evil. Similarly, we may see the Lord of the Flies as a representation of the devil, for it works to promote evil among humankind. Furthermore, 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.

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Symbolism - The Conch

Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach at the start of the novel and use it to summon the boys together after the crash separates them. Used in this capacity, the conch shell becomes a powerful symbol of civilization and order in the novel. The shell effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak. In this regard, the shell is more than a symbol—it is an actual vessel of political legitimacy and democratic power. As the island civilization erodes and the boys descend into savagery, the conch shell loses its power and influence among them. Ralph clutches the shell desperately when he talks about his role in murdering Simon. Later, the other boys ignore Ralph and throw stones at him when he attempts to blow the conch in Jack’s camp. The boulder that Roger rolls onto Piggy also crushes the conch shell, signifying the demise of the civilized instinct among almost all the boys on the island.

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Symbolism - Piggy's Glasses

Piggy is the most intelligent, rational boy in the group, and his glasses represent the power of science and intellectual endeavor in society. This symbolic significance is clear from the start of the novel, when the boys use the lenses from Piggy’s glasses to focus the sunlight and start a fire. When Jack’s hunters raid Ralph’s camp and steal the glasses, the savages effectively take the power to make fire, leaving Ralph’s group helpless.

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Symbolism - 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.

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Symbolism - The Beast

The imaginary beast that frightens all the boys stands for the primal instinct of savagery that exists within all human beings. The boys are afraid of the beast, but only Simon reaches the realization that they fear the beast because it exists within each of them. As the boys grow more savage, their belief in the beast grows stronger. By the end of the novel, the boys are leaving it sacrifices and treating it as a totemic god. The boys’ behavior is what brings the beast into existence, so the more savagely the boys act, the more real the beast seems to become.

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Symbolism - Lord of the flies

The Lord of the Flies 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.

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Symbolism - Ralph, Jack , Simon, Roger and Piggy

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.

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Key links to outside the story

Jack is a Hitler-like figure , a leader who demands total loyalty and obedience. Furthermore, Hitler lead through violence and fear just like Jack and they persecuted the weak (Piggy). 

The conflict between Jack and Ralph is like the tension between Russia and America. They are "two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate".

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