Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lord of the Flies by William Golding - Book Review

Sources:
Lord of the Flies: A Novel by William Gerald Golding.
Golding's the Lord of the Flies (Cliff's Notes) by Maureen Kelly (Author), William Golding.
Lord of the Flies: A Teaching Guide (Discovering Literature Series, Challenging Level) by Mary Elizabeth, Kathy Kifer.
Spark Notes: Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Author).
Lord of the Flies - Student Packet by Inc. Staff Novel Units, Anc. Staff Novel Units.

Authored by William Golding in 1954, Lord of the Flies is a thought-provoking novel. The book describes in detail the horrific exploits of a band of young children who make a striking transition from civilized to barbaric. Without civilization, we would likely return to savagery and Lord of the Flies commands a pessimistic outlook that seems to show that man is inherently tied to society.

In the story there are many aspects that may be considered symbolism. One good example of symbolism is the shape of the island. The boat shape of the island is an ancient symbol of civilization. Giving the subtle impression that civilization may be going backwards for the island or its inhabitants the water current around the island seems to be "flowing backwards." Golding was influenced by events during the time period when the book was written, which was around World War II. Hence, it can be pointed out that the character of Jack could also represent Communism or Fascism.

William Golding presented numerous themes and basic ideas in Lord of the Flies. One of the most basic and obvious themes is that society holds everyone together, and without these conditions, our ideals, values, and the basics of right and wrong are lost. Anarchy and savagery can come to light without society's rigid rules. If there is no civilization around us, we will lose these values, and Golding is also showing that morals come directly from our surroundings.

There are other themes. People will abuse power when it's not earned. People often single out another to degrade in order to improve their own security when given a chance. You can only cover up inner savagery so long before it breaks out, given the right situation. It's better to examine the consequences of a decision before you make it than to discover them afterward. You can turn fear into either insight or hysteria, and the fear of the unknown can be a powerful force. These are other secondary themes included in the book.

An important part in the development of the story is played by symbolism. Some other figure is used in this narrative technique to give a significance to certain people or objects.

Piggy (and Glasses) represents clear-sightedness and intelligence. Their state represents the status of social order.

Ralph represents the Conch Democracy and order. Simon represents pure goodness, or the "Christ Figure." Roger represents evil, Satan. Jack represents savagery, anarchy. The Island is a microcosm representing the world. The "scar" is man's destruction and destructive forces. The Beast represents the evil residing within everyone, the dark side of human nature. Lord of the Flies is the Devil, great danger or evil.

While Jack's first attempt to kill the pig failed, his quote "next time..." foreshadowed his future of savage hunting.

Piggy is averse to most of the other boys, who he thinks are acting like little children (they are children, obviously, but Piggy acts like the adult figure). He cites their irresponsibility in dealing with the fire. Jack also shows signs of belligerence when he argues with Ralph about the signal fire, and claims that "The conch doesn't count on the mountain!"

Jack is solely concerned with hunting, and cannot see the necessity of other things that can keep them alive. Ralph and Jack are really beginning to fight in this chapter, and it foreshadows much more future conflicts down the line. Simon's actions present him as a very good, peaceful and helpful character, in contrast with many others.

Roger's first showing of aggression foreshadows his becoming a very evil and sadistic figure, and Jack's invitation to watch him paint his face is the start of their "evil friendship." Jack's mask of face paint represents a cover that he can hide behind, which liberates and frees him, allowing him to do anything when wearing it, without worrying about any important matters. Jack still does not understand Ralph's concern with the fire, and doesn't seem to care much for getting rescued. The primal dance performed by the hunters highlights their transition into savagery.

Simon is the only one to realize that there really isn't any "beast," but just a force of evil or savagery inside all of them that can manifest itself in different ways. The boys are beginning to split into two factions, those that support Ralph and those that support Jack and his more savage ways. The conflict between them is continuing to build up.

The fighter plane being shot down at the beginning symbolizes the war going on in the real world, and links it to the boys and their island. Jack's intrigue with Castle Rock foreshadows his future use of the location as a fortification.

Simon's reassurance of their rescue strengthens his position as a positive and good character. Ralph, on the other hand, showed his faltering in blocking his inherent savagery when he joined in on the pig hunt and dance. Even to Ralph, "the desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering." Even the mock pig hunt is becoming something of danger and greater brutality.

Jack's killing of the mother pig shows his great lack of foresight, as by killing the mother, they were losing all the other piglets who would've been a future source of food. The strange events with Simon are also some of the most important in the book, hence the book's name. Simon's conversation is the basis of the theme of the novel, and is partly his imagination, and partly some kind of "message" from the unknown. The Lord of the Flies basically confirms to Simon that the Beast really is "inside" everyone, but says that everyone would rather have fun than worry about anything else. The threat of being killed clearly foreshadows the ending of Simon's life.

The beating of Simon by all the boys, even Ralph and Piggy who were caught up in the frenzy, fulfills the Lord of the Flies' "prophecy." Even these boys were overcome with their savage side when in such close contact with all the other boys.

The murder of Simon is somewhat of a wake-up call for Ralph, who doesn't accept that it was just an accident. The constant need to be reminded about the fire, though, shows that he is losing touch with civilization, and responsibility. Roger being ready with the massive boulder foresees some future use for it, undoubtedly to cause harm. The stealing of Piggy's glasses shows a disappearance of a symbol of order and clear-sightedness, as many of the boys unwillingly drift from civilization.

Piggy's willingness to come along for what he believes is right, and his standing up and speaking out shows that he has gained greater courage and confidence since the beginning of the novel. His tragic death and the shattering of the conch represents the disappearance of some of the last remnants of democracy. With Samneric taken under Jack's control, Ralph is the only one left with the waning sense of democracy and goodness.

The "stick sharpened at both ends" is a reference to what they did with the Lord of the Flies, impaling one end in the head and the other in the ground. This shows the brutality of what they planned to do to Ralph, who indeed felt like a pig being hunted by the savages. The fire set on the entire island shows the tribe's complete lack of foresight, because if they were not rescued they would have no food or shelter. Ironically, the fire meant for evil started by Jack turned out to be what got the boys saved. The arrival of the Naval officer thus seems like a happy and ironic ending, but if one digs deeper it is just a continuation from one war to another. Once all the boys get on the Navy cruiser, they'll most likely just be subjected to more battle and fighting, this time on a worldwide level, due to the war taking place in the outside world.

In chapter one, Piggy and Ralph meet up with each other after escaping from their shot-down plane. A large scar was made in the untouched jungle, symbolizing the first of man's destruction on the island. A war is going on in the outside world, and now for the rest of the book, everyone will be isolated from it and put into their own "world."

Piggy tells Ralph how to use a conch shell found on the island to make a noise. Ralph does so, and calls all of the other boys on the island who crashed down with the plane. Jack and his Choir, Simon, Sam and Eric, and many other characters join in an assembly (including the littl'uns, which are the youngest kids at about 6 or 7 years old). Rules are set down, and Ralph is to be chief. There is no one else on the island but the young boys, so Jack decides to take his choir out to hunt for wild pigs, although he is unsuccessful in killing a small pig with his knife.

In Fire on the Mountain, Ralph calls another assembly, and reminds everyone that they are completely alone on the island, and there are no adults. Jack recounts his failure in killing the pig, and reiterates the need for skilled hunters. Several rules are made up, such as "whoever holds the conch gets to speak." Unexpectedly, an unnamed littl'un with a birthmark on his face tells about a "beastie" that he saw somewhere on the island. The general consensus from the others is that there is no such thing, and it must be his imagination.

Ralph then suggests making a signal fire, which would be necessary if they hope to get rescued. The boys scramble off to gather wood to build a fire. Unsure of how to light it, they finally grab Piggy's specs and focus the sunlight to ignite their fire. They were not careful, however, and soon the fire is engulfing half the forest near the mountain. The little boy with the birthmark is noticed to be missing, perhaps swallowed up by the raging fire.

Jack is busy tracking a pig at the start of a chapter called Huts on the Beach, when he arrives at the beach where Simon and Ralph are constructing huts. Ralph complains no other boys are helping them with their shelters, but Jack tries to argue that hunting is more important; this expands into yet another argument between Ralph and Jack. When Jack again brings up hunting, Ralph presses that keeping the signal fire is much more important than hunting. The boys continue on their path of mutual dislike and Jack disagrees with Ralph on various levels. Meanwhile, Simon picks fruit for the littl'uns and makes his way into the jungle finding a clearing, ignorant to the fussing of the other boys. He climbs onto a mat of creepers, and remains there; he enjoys the tranquility of this spot, where he can be in touch with nature. This chapter really establishes the roles that these boys will take during the rest of the book.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel about how people interact. Though not directly stated, it suggests how chaos and anarchy can become prevalent when there is no law. It shows how the idea of culture and civilization can become shattered. This is shown mostly through the characters in the book and the use of symbolism throughout the novel.