Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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How does William Golding use the beast in the novel as a whole? What might the beast symbolize?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the story, the boys fear a fictional beast, which they believe lives on the top of the mountain and desires to eat them. The littlun with the mulberry-colored birthmark is the first to claim he’s witnessed the beast, and hysteria quickly spreads among the boys after Samneric see the corpse of a deceased paratrooper on the top of the mountain, which they mistake for the beast. Shortly after Samneric claim that they saw the beast, Jack, Ralph, and Roger also witness the corpse and confirm Samneric’s discovery. The only boy on the island who genuinely understands the true nature of the beast is Simon, who is a symbolic Christ figure. Unlike the others, Simon realizes that the beast is actually the inherent evil inside each boy. Unfortunately, Simon cannot express his opinion in front of the boys because he is too shy and awkward. In Simon’s secluded spot in the forest, he hallucinates and ends up speaking to the severed pig’s head. The Lord of the Flies confirms Simon’s belief by telling him that the beast is something inside each boy, which cannot be killed. Overall, the beast symbolically represents the wickedness and evil inherent in each human, which is one of Golding’s primary themes throughout the novel.

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angelacress eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Golding uses "the beast" as a symbol for the savagery that lives in each and every human being. At first, the imaginary beast is an unknown that the boys are afraid of. They are afraid of it because they do not know what it is, and they are not familiar with "the beast" living inside each of them.

Simon is the only one of the boys who realizes that the beast is not real, and the only reason that the boys fear it is because it exists in each of them. The rest of the boys, however, become more and more savage. As the boys become more savage, the beast becomes more and more real to them. They fear it intensely and treat it as if it were some sort of god, leaving it sacrifices and offerings to placate its whims.

The boys don't realize that it is their behavior that makes the beast real. They don't realize that the more savagely they act, the more real the beast becomes.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Most of the boys have got it into their heads that there's a fearsome beast lurking around every corner, stalking the island in search of its next meal. There isn't, really; it's all just a figment of their boyish, overactive imaginations. Because the boys are young, naive, foolish, and frightened, the beast myth proves a difficult one to let go of, not least because Jack cynically encourages belief in the beast's existence as a means of consolidating his dictatorial power.

So long as the boys are scared, so long as they think they really are in danger from the beast, they will look to Jack to offer them protection. If they only stopped to think for a moment, however, they'd realize that the beast is but a symbol of the darkness and evil that lurk deep within the human soul.

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mrerick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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...and, in one of the many instances of irony thoughout the novel, Simon, who is the only character that recognizes the "beast" for what it truly is, is killed as a result of that growing beast while attempting to expose that there is no "physical" beast!

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jgrenning | Student

Golding uses the beast to symbolize humanity’s irrational fears and how they affect human conduct.

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