Evaluate the role of fire in Lord of the Flies.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fire plays a critical role in Lord of the Flies, taking the form of both salvation and destruction.  From the very beginning, Ralph emphasizes the importance of rescue and maintaining a signal fire to increase the odds of a ship coming to the island.  Immediately after his suggestion is made, the boys abandon the tribal meeting and build an enormous bonfire on the mountain; the fire building scene is both chaotic and frenzied, ending with the fire getting out of control and burning down the dry timber side of the mountain.  In this moment, the glamour of the island as a "Coral Island" type adventure ceases, and the boys' experience becomes very real, very quickly, as they realize that one of the littluns has disappeared unaccountably during the out of control blaze. 

Fire also becomes a symbol of power and dominance in the island after Jack steals Piggy's glasses, and with them the only capability to make fire on the island; by doing so, he also renders Ralph unable to maintain the signal fire, ending his chances of being rescued.

Golding uses fire to reinforce the conflict of man versus nature.  In the final chapter, fire plays a critical role once again, as Jack uses fire to flush Ralph out of hiding.  He sets fire to the jungle, and ironically, it is this blaze that alerts the cruiser to the boys' presence on the island, thus ensuring their rescue.  Fire, although portrayed repeatedly as a destructive, deadly force of nature, also ultimately comes to represent the boys', and especially Ralph's, salvation.

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Lord of the Flies

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