In Lord of the Flies, what are some possible interpretations of the Lord of the Flies as a literary symbol?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Golding uses the fly-bloated sow's head, the Lord of the Flies, as a symbol for decay and destruction in his novel The Lord of the Flies.  Simon encounters the pig's head in Chapter Eight, "Gift for the Darkness;" originally Jack Merridew left the pig's head as a gift for the beast.  As Simon views the "head grinning amusedly in the strange daylight, ignoring the flies, the spilled guts," he ponders the possibility of a beast, wondering if he could have been wrong about the beast earlier, when he suggested to the other boys that perhaps the beast is only the the boys themselves (137). 

Golding uses the imagery of the Lord of the Flies to represent corruption and decay.  The pig's head becomes a visual symbol of the boys' negative, disruptive influence on the island.  What once was a vital, living creature is now an image of death.  The name Lord of the Flies is a symbolic link to the devil, as a Greek translation of the name Beezelbub, which literally means Lord of the Flies ("Notes on Lord of the Flies" 205). The Lord of the Flies taunts Simon with the truth about the Beast and his own role on the island:

"Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!" said the head..."You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you? Close, close, close.  I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are?" (143)

The Lord of the Flies is truly a visual manifestation of everything that is wrong and destructive on the island; the ugliness and rank decay of the sow's head becomes a perfect symbol for the boys' own descent into savagery.

 

"Notes on Lord of the Flies" by E.L. Epstein appears in this edition of the novel: 

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Perigee, 2006.

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