How does William Golding present ideas of power in the novel The Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is an immediate establishment of power in Golding's Lord of the Flies as the "fair boy," Ralph appears in Chapter One.  This fair boy with his "golden body" is the natural leader, who commands merely by his appearance. With Piggy's adulation and assistance in reasoning, along with the conch, a symbol of parliamentary power, Ralph is chosen as the leader of all the boys, even over the assertive, red-haired Jack Merridew.

However, with fire as a symbol of great force, the most significant action that defines the reversal of power from Ralph to Jack is the hunters' stealing of the fire in Chapter Eight. Alluding to the mythological tale of Prometheus, who steals fire from the gods and gives it to man, Golding allegorically symbolizes Jack's usurping of power over the boys. 

Another symbol that designates power is the pig's head, the lord of the flies. This symbol of Beelzebub indicates the supremacy of evil over the boys.  For, when Simon stumbles upon it, he falls inside its mouth and passes out. After he regains consciousness, Simon speaks with the lord of flies and,later, tries futilely to articulate this experience, but is crushed by the evil, savage power of Jack and the others. This power of the "beast" in the heart of man leads to the deaths of Simon and Piggy and the reckless pursuit of Ralph:

Ralph stumbled, feeling no pain but panic, and the tribe, screaming now like the chief, began to advance.  Another spear, a bent one that would not fly straight, went past his face and one fell from on high where Roger was.  The twins lay hidden behind the tribe and the anonymous devils' faces swarmed across the neck.  Ralph turned and ran....He saw the headless body of the sow and jumped in time.....

The yelling ceased, and Samneric lay looking up in quiet terror.  Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority. 

This "nameless authority" is the power of evil, the ultimate force on the island, one that has always been present in the sadistic Roger and is now in the savage Jack and the other hunters.

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Lord of the Flies

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