Does William Golding use personification in Lord of the Flies?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personification is giving human qualities or characteristics to something which is non-human or non-living, and William Golding does use personification in Lord of the Flies.

In chapter two, Ralph suggests that making a fire on top of the mountain would be a good idea because any passing ships would see the smoke and come to rescue them. All the boys are enthusiastic about the idea, and immediately they race to the mountain and build a fire that soon turns into a conflagration which burns up a large portion of the mountain and actually kills one of the little boys.

Golding describes this consuming fire as something which is alive.

Smoke was rising here and there among the creepers that festooned the dead or dying trees. As they watched, a flash of fire appeared at the root of one wisp, and then the smoke thickened. Small flames stirred at the trunk of a tree and crawled away through leaves and brushwood, dividing and increasing.

Note his use of the word crawled to describe the movement of the fire. Golding continues:

The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged an outcrop of the pink rock. They flapped at the first of the trees, and the branches grew a brief foliage of fire. The heart of flame leapt nimbly across the gap between the trees and then went swinging and flaring along the whole row of them.

In this passage, Golding uses both simile (the comparison to a jaguar) and personification to give life to the fire and its movements. The flames creep, flap, leap, swing, and flare; these are all examples of personification. 

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Lord of the Flies

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