The Lord the Flies


The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel depicting the depravity of all human beings.  It follows a group of British boys on a journey from civilization to savagery and the ultimate fight for survival.  It explores startling questions about human nature through symbolism.  The dark side of human nature is manifest in everyone.  Only those who face the truth and are completely honest with themselves can overcome that darkness. 


The darkness is brought about by fear, cruelty, and deceit.  Fear is first introduced to island society by the littluns who speak of a beast from the water and from the forest.  This fear is multiplied and magnified tenfold as everyone is drawn into this terror of the unknown.  Though the older boys know that there is no beast because they have explored the island and found nothing, they choose to deceive themselves and succumb to fear, to darkness.  Cruelty is the most physical of the dark traits and even Ralph has an abundance of it.  The boys unite through common cruelty, from the teasing of Piggy to the killing of pigs.  Cruelty exists in moderation in most people and society usually does not allow it to develop.  In these unusual circumstances however, Roger and Jack reach new heights of violence towards others.  The darkness becomes a formidable force on the island as those who oppose it are subdued or killed, and the truth concealed.


It is possible to overcome the darkness by seeing the truth and accepting only complete honesty towards oneself.  Simon, after his conversation with the Lord of the Flies, becomes a bearer of truth.  He is the only child who understands what the beast is.  In carrying this knowledge, he is murdered by the masses, by those who are possessed by the darkness.  He is a sacrifice for the cause of shedding light in the dark because it allows Ralph to find conviction in himself.  This force of cruelty and deceit subconsciously manifests itself in the children, and they fall victims of the darkness by killing Simon.  After Simon’s murder, only Ralph is willing to face the events of that night.  Piggy calls it an accident while Jack tries to explain it away by claiming Simon was the beast in disguise.  Jack, while in self-denial, is also perpetrating an effective scheme to maintain power over the tribe.  An event of this magnitude had the potential to topple Jack’s leadership but instead he turns it to his advantage, by telling lies.  Simon’s murder allows Jack to emphasize the danger of the beast and therefore the necessity to hunt and give offerings to appease it.  Though not having as clear an understanding as Simon, Ralph makes the sacrifice worthwhile for he, from this point forth, can never be completely submerged in the darkness. 


Piggy’s death is further symbolic of the necessity for seeing the world clearly in order to overcome the darkness.  The reason Piggy and Ralph confront the tribe at the time which leads to Piggy’s death is because Jack steals the glasses in order to make fire.  The glasses and their utility represent civilization and intelligence.  Furthermore, though it physically helps Piggy see clearly, it symbolically is the force behind Ralph’s progressive ideas.  Piggy, the advisor behind Ralph’s leadership, gives Ralph a broader and clearer perspective.  It is in this manner that Ralph is able to make good decisions for the people.  Piggy is murdered by Roger on a sadistic whim and Piggy’s intelligence embodied by the glasses are perverted to serve the savages.  The tribe uses the glasses to make fire – the fire that will soon consume the entire island in the hunt for Ralph.  Though Piggy dies, his influence and his ability to see the truth continue in Ralph.  Completely alone, Ralph is able to draw on Piggy’s insight and hold on to civilization for strength.  Ralph, being the only remaining person on the island who is willing to face the truth, has to be eliminated.  The glasses, though turned from their original purpose of maintaining civilization, still retain some of its virtue.  The fire the tribe starts to smoke out Ralph using those glasses also serves to save his life; thus enabling him to survive the darkness of the island society.


The group of little boys on the island is a microcosm of human society.  The appearance of the naval officer at the end of the novel draws a parallel between the war waged in the adult world and the boys’ isolated existence.  It shows that even in “civilized” society, darkness permeates human interactions, be it between countries or countrymen.  Only the truth will prevail over the darkness of human nature.