How are symbols (including colors) used to suggest that the island is a living thing in Lord of the Flies?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Golding utilizes symbols and colors on the island in Lord of the Flies in three distinctive ways:

1.  To emphasize the power of the natural world-- A great example of Golding's use of symbols and color is when the boys' first fire on the mountain gets wildly out of control:

"The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a gaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged an outcrop of pink rock" (44).

Golding's portrayal of the enormous fire serves as a harsh reminder to the boys of the power of the natural world, something that they should not underestimate in its ability to be destructive.  In this way, nature's destructive power reflects the boys' innate capacity for destruction; the boys' first act as a group, building the fire, results in an enormous natural catastrophe costing the lives of one of the boys.  Golding uses the imagery and metaphor of the deep "drum-roll" of the fire continuing on, his way of foreshadowing more deaths and destruction to come (47).

2.  To suggest the fragile balance of the natural order of things--Golding also uses natural imagery to emphasize the fragile, delicate state of the island. Like the conch, life on the island existed on a delicate balance.  From the green candle buds to the clear water of the beach to the pigs living on the island, Golding portrays the island as being pristine and untouched.  The boys' arrival upsets the natural order of things.  The plane crash leaves a visible "scar" on the island; Jack slashes at the candle buds; the hunters target and kill the sow mercilessly. 

When the boys first arrive, the island still seems bright, vital, and  full of life--as if the island were its own kind of living organism-- but the boys' arrival upsets that delicate balance.  Like an infection, the boys begin to ruin the fragile beauty of the island, and as the novel progresses, the island seems to sicken and weaken.  Golding's imagery, particularly in "Gift for the Darkness" suggests decay and rotting.  His use of the sow's head, as the Lord of the Flies, acts a perfect metaphor for the slow destruction of the island.  What once was a valuable part of the island's life force (the sow), now hangs rotting and fly-infested on a stick.  The boys' actions defile the island, changing it from being a "good island" to a place of death and violence. 

3.  As a metaphor for the boys' descent into savagery-- 
Similar to his use of the metaphor of the Lord of the Flies to represent the state of the island, Golding also uses the setting and details of the island to reflect the state of the boys' emotions and feelings.  When the boys first explore the island, Golding portrays the island to reflect their own joy and vigor; everything seems bright, golden, and welcoming.  As the story progresses and the boys begin their own personal descent into savagery, Golding's descriptions of island life become increasingly dark and forbidding.  Golding's details and imagery in the setting helps to define the mood of the story; for example, the jungle is never so dark and dangerous as it is on the last day when Ralph attempts to hide from the savages. 

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Lord of the Flies

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