In Lord of the Flies, what is the symbolic significance of the parachutist, and why is it mistaken for the beast?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The dead and dangling parachutist represents several ideals in Lord of the Flies. He reminds the reader (and, eventually, the boys) of the war that is being waged elsewhere. He serves as a reminder that there are no adults on the island: Those on the plane, and the paratrooper himself, have all died. He represents a way of rescue--being seen by airplanes--but also of the dangers and unlikelihood of such a scenario. The author uses the parachutist to symbolize the boys' fear of the unknown and how there is little difference in death between the rotting corpse of the paratrooper and that of the pig's head. The parachutist is mistaken for the beast because its movement signifies the possibility of life, yet its mysterious appearance cannot be visually ascertained from a distance. The boys are afraid of encountering the beast, and when the parachutist is seen on the top of the mountain, they decide to keep their distance--until Simon finally undertakes the mission to determine its real origins.

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