How does Golding use light and dark imagery to convey the deeper meanings of the novel?

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haleystewart10 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lord of the Flies, light and dark are used to represent the battle between good and evil, civilization and savagery, that occurs in the hearts of people. The story presented to us by William Golding is a literary thought-experiment that asks this question: when deprived of the structure and law of society, when left to his own natural devices, is man good or evil? That Lord of the Flies takes place among children, men at their most innate and "natural" form, shows how this question about human nature is the novel's main preoccupation.

One of the ways in which the theme of light versus dark, civilization versus savagery, is played out in the novel is through the character of Piggy, who notably has glasses that enable him to "see the light." Piggy sees the light and represents the light. Reasonable, intelligent, and just, though physically weak, he is the "light" of civilization and stands in opposition to the "darkness" of savagery that is the bloodthirsty Jack. That Piggy is eventually killed shows the novel's depressing belief that on the whole, man's darker instincts will win out over his better ones. It is not surprising that Lord of the Flies would come to such a conclusion, given that William Golding had just experienced the atrocities of World War II.

poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Light and dark serve as traditional symbols within William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Darkness is a natural representation of evil, which can be seen in the awful deeds that take place during the night or under the cover of darkness. The threat of the beast seemingly becomes more potent at night, as well as the wild behavior of Jack's hunting, bloodthirsty tribe. Like the jungle around them, the darkness is untamed and uncivilized, and its presence influences the boys, corrupting their hearts and unleashing the most unsavory components of their human nature.

Light, on the other hand, offers safety to the boys, most often in the form of fire. The fire is the place where they gather to convene meetings, to stay warm, and to sleep. It is also the means of their opportunity for rescue (via the signal fire) and, in fact, is the cause of their ultimate rescue when a naval ship spots the immense fire that Jack has set in the jungle to smoke Ralph out of his hiding place. The beach, which is arguably one of the lighter places on the island, is the site of both their arrival and rescue; it is the point at which the boys are most in touch with civilization. 

merehughes eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way  he uses light and dark is that the jungle is dark.  This underlies a sense of danger and the idea that in the jungle lurks evil.  In contrast, the beach and especially our initial description of the island seen through the eyes of Ralph is full of light.  

Also, the need for a fire is significant.  Fire is a symbol of light and more importantly, the fire must be made, watched over and never allowed to go out.  The boys want the fire to be seen so that they may be rescued.  Additionally it adds warmth and light in the darkness.  Fire could be read as a symbol of civilization and the fear that they might lose the fire could symbolize the fear of the wild.   

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Lord of the Flies

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