Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
Start Free Trial

The beast is first described as a "snake-thing." What do you think is the significance of this? Where else do images of snakes appear in the novel?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Beast's supposedly snake-like demeanor represents trouble in paradise. Just as Satan disguised as a serpent messed things up for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, so the Beast looks set to introduce evil to the remote desert island on which the boys have been stranded. When the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The Beast's supposedly snake-like demeanor represents trouble in paradise. Just as Satan disguised as a serpent messed things up for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, so the Beast looks set to introduce evil to the remote desert island on which the boys have been stranded. When the boys first fetched up on the island, they thought it was paradise. Free from adult supervision, they had themselves a whale of a time. But the discovery of what they think is a creepy Beast stalking the island has put a bit of a dampener on things. Of course, the Beast isn't actually real, but the evil certainly is. Only it's lurking in the hearts of some of the boys—most notably Jack and Roger—rather than in some strange, mythical monster.

In chapter 2, there's a reference to snakes in the following passage:

"That little 'un—" gasped Piggy—"him with the mark on his face, I don't see him. Where is he now?"

The crowd was silent as death.

"Him that talked about the snakes. He went down there—"

A tree exploded in the fire like a bomb. Tall swathes of creepers rose for a moment into view, agonized, and went down again. The little boys screamed at them.

"Snakes! Snakes! Look at the snakes!"

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The motif of snakes in Lord of the Flies refers to evil, the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The author, William Golding, imagined this novel as an allegory, a story in which characters, events, and objects stand as symbols for an idea or theme. The allegory of Lord of the Flies may represent the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. The snakes in the jungle then would symbolize the serpent in the apple tree who tempts Eve to commit sin. According to religious belief, the Devil sent the snake to defy the wishes of God. In the same way the Beast, a representative of the Devil, is identified with the snakes.

The image of the snakes appears another time in Chapter Two when the boys light a large signal fire on the mountain.  As the fire grows more and more out of control the littleuns scream "Snakes! Snakes! Look at the snakes!"(page 46). Their vision makes sense in terms of the allegory as the appearance of the devil in the flames of hell.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team