Lord of the Flies
William Golding describes the slow and inevitable breakdown of civilisation in his book Lord of the Flies. Golding writes about a group of young boys who are stranded on an uninhabited island and shows how they are slowly turning into savages and how civilisation is becoming more and more distant from the boys. The inherently savage nature of man is conveyed to us through the clever use of symbolism throughout.
Piggy and his glasses symbolise intelligence and adult reason on the island. Piggy states, My auntie told me not to run with the constant repetition of My auntie it is almost like she is present on the island. We read, I expect well want to know all their names and make a list. This shows us that Piggy is thinking logically about how they are going to keep order on the island and how they are going to keep track of every child on the island. Golding writes, What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? By saying this it shows that Piggy can see before anyone else that the boys are becoming less civilised and more like savages as each day passes. When Piggys glasses are stolen he becomes helpless, much like a child and when they get damaged and then destroyed it symbolises that they are gradually refusing to listen to adult reason and that they dont care what adults think anymore.
Ralph, the protagonist of the story, and the conch both symbolise civilisation on the island. At the start of the book the boys respect the conch and as they become less civilised the conch starts to lose its power, we see this when Golding writes, Conch! Conch! we dont need the conch anymore when Jack says this it shows that as civilisation is breaking down and the boys are becoming more savage the conch is becoming powerless and the boys are starting to disrespect it. Towards the end of the book the boys destroy the conch and this shows that the boys have become complete savages. Ralph, from the beginning, shows that he is a natural leader and is also very civilised we see this when he says, Ill give the conch to the next person to speak. This shows that Ralph is thinking logically and using the conch to keep order in the meeting. As time passes on the island Ralph, like everyone else, becomes less and less civilised. We read that, The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering this shows that Ralph is getting involved in the violence and hunting whereas at the start of the book he was completely against hunting but he has been watching Jack doing it for a while and he is starting to think that it is quite normal, this shows that even the most civilised people have some capacity for savagery.
Jack, the antagonist of the book, is the ultimate symbol of savagery and evil as he tortures people to maintain power and enjoys killing. Jack also has no respect for the conch or the rules, we see this when Jack says, The conch doesnt count on top of the mountain so you shut up! Obviously Jack doesnt respect the conch or the other boys that are on the island. Jack also doesnt respect the rules and we see this when he says, Bollocks to the rules! This shows that he doesnt want to stick to the rules and he also doesnt want any adult reason on the island, almost as if he doesnt want to grow up. The adult world and the threats of punishment for doing something wrong are the reason that the boys act morally, but because they have been living without adults for such a long time they realise that they wont get punished for misbehaving. Jack likes the idea of having power of people and encourages them to do evil things to animals and to people. We see this when he says, I cut the pigs throat this shows that he is proud that he has killed a pig.
On the island, Simon symbolises the good of humans. Unlike the other boys, Simon throughout the whole book is very civilised and can see that civilisation is breaking down. As soon as civilisation has broken down the other boys resort to savagery whereas Simon does the complete opposite. Simon is portrayed to be a very courteous young boy and almost like a Jesus figure. He is always nice to all of the other boys on the island and getting things for the younger boys that they could not reach, we see this when Golding writes, Simon found for them the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless outstretched hands. At this point he is getting fruit off of a tree for the small children because the fruit on the trees are nicer than the fruit on the ground but the children cannot reach it. He doesnt have to do this but he chooses to because he is very helpful.
In the book, the non-existent beast symbolises the savage nature of man and shows that once civilisation has broken down true savagery rises. Most of the boys are afraid of the beast, whereas Simon is the only one that realises that there really is no beast and all that the boys should fear is themselves. We see this when Golding writes, However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human. As the boys get more and more savage, their belief in the beast grows. The way the boys are behaving is what brings the beast to life, so the more savage the boys act, the more the beast seems to exist.
The signal fire is very significant in Lord of the Flies because it represents the boys desire to be rescued and return to civilisation. At the start of the book all of the boys long to keep the fire going because they all want to return home. Golding writes, Dont you understand? Cant you see we ought to ought to die before we let the fire out? this shows that Ralph can see that the fire is more important than anything because it is their only chance of getting home. As the story goes on and the fire starts to burn out it shows that the boys are starting to lose sight of their desire to get home and eventually they let the fire burn out completely. Ironically, at the end of the story, a passing ship sees smoke coming from a fire and comes to rescue the boys, but the smoke was not coming from the signal fire but from the forest fire that Jacks gang had started ad part of his mission to hunt down Ralph and kill him.
To conclude, Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a fascinating novel in which the author uses symbolism to show the true savage nature within man, how civilisation can be broken down and how even the most civilised of people have some capacity for savagery.