What is an examination of the description of nature in Lord of The Flies, including how nature reacts to the boys' attempts at civilization?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a misleading pathetic fallacy, in Chapter One, nature seems to mirror the delight of Ralph after he first arrives upon the island:

Here was a coral island [an allusion to Ballantyne's novel about English boys who fared well on an island where their civilized behavior defeated savages] at last was the imagined but a never fully realized place leaping into real life. Ralph's lips parted in a delighted smile and Piggy...laughed with pleasure.

On the other hand, Nature does truly act as pathetic fallacy when it reflects the boys' feelings at times, especially in the earlier parts of the novel. For instance, the littl'uns perceive the limbs of the trees as snakes, and they fear the creatures of the dark. In addition, the shelter of the secret area where Simon retreats provides him a respite from the conflicts of human nature. 

While the boys impose symbolic meaning upon natural phenomena, such as using the conch to represent authority and protocol, building shelters with limbs and leaves, and generating fire for a rescue signal, Nature, however, proves itself resistant to these impositions as the conch loses its significance when confronted with the savagery of Jack and the hunters; the rescue fire goes out, and the shelters collapse and are neglected. It is not long, then, before the boys discover that the island is not an idyllic Eden with fruit and beauty, but is, instead, a primeval formation of rock and creepers and forest and dark, shadowy fauna surrounded by a formidable ocean.

In the end, Nature is indifferent to the struggles of civilization. For example, after Simon is killed in Chapter Nine, Golding writes of the unconcern of nature for the murdered Simon:

Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling, and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved farther along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon's dead body moved out toward the open sea.

The life of a single boy matters not to the universe. Likewise, when Piggy is murdered by Roger, Piggy falls forty feet, knocks against the granite rocks that shatter his head, and he descends into the sea, but

Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.

Further on, as Jack and the other savages pursue Ralph, the set fire to the forest, and the forest burns furiously, unconcerned about its path of destruction. The evil, therefore, lies in what humans do, not Nature.

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Lord of the Flies

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