How does fear play a major role in "Lord of the Flies"? What are the effects of fear on the boys as the story progresses?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hysteria regarding the existence of an enigmatic beast quickly spreads throughout the group after the littlun with the mulberry-colored birthmark describes a beastie that comes out of the forest at night. Ralph, Piggy, and Jack initially dismiss the possibility of a beast, but the littluns continue to cry during the night and insist that there is some sort of beast on the island. The talk about the beast becomes such a distraction that Ralph brings it up at the end of an assembly in chapter 5. While the majority of the older boys do not believe in a beast, Jack promises that his hunters can kill it, and Simon suggests that it exists.

In chapter 6, a dead paratrooper falls from the sky and lands on the top of the mountain. Eventually, Samneric spot the dead paratrooper and mistake him for the beast. Ralph, Jack, and Roger also believe they see the beast when they climb to the top of the mountain to investigate. Once the older boys discover what they think is the beast, the hopes of creating a civil society instantly collapse. Jack thrives in the hysterical environment, and Ralph is too confused and afraid to lead properly. Piggy cannot intellectually grasp the concept of the beast, and the only boy who understands its true nature is Simon. Jack eventually starts his own tribe of savages, where he uses fear to manipulate his followers. They believe that only Jack can protect them and begin leaving severed pigs' heads for the beast. Overall, fear incapacitates the boys, creates a hysterical environment, and prevents the boys from making rational decisions.

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lord of the Flies is a novel about a bunch of children (boys) left to fend for themselves.  This story began with fear.  They crashed into an isolated island with no adult supervision or help.  Fear is everywhere.  The forest is dark and noisy at night.  They're all young enough that the dark alone is scary to them.  Many have nightmares--the crash alone should be scary enough for their dreams at night, let alone the thought of never being found.

Fear is also in the way the boys slowly turn savage.  Jack uses fear to guide the boys into his tribe.  He will "protect" them.  He will provide meat/food for them. These are adult promises, so the boys join to avoid their fear.  When they stop fearing is when Ralph and Piggy are in real trouble.  If they have no more fears (like they do in Jack's tribe) they are dangerous. 

Fear is also within Jack's tribe once he has almost everyone in his tribe near the end of the novel.  He punishes Willard in chapter 10 just because he can.  So there is again fear within his tribe. 

The most obvious fear is with the dead man on the mountain.  The boys think there is really a physical beast there with them.  It's only them, which can be even scarier--especially for someone like Simon who knows that from the get go.  By the end, even Ralph is without hope. They have smoked him out of the forest, and then all fear for him is gone when the officer rescues them.

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Lord of the Flies

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