In Lord of the Flies, what's the author's attitude towards the characters (i.e. Ralph, Piggy, Simon, Jack, etc.) and what are some examples in the text where it shows that?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The descriptors Golding uses to portray the characters defines his attitude toward them. He presents Ralph, for example, in a very positive light. In chapter one he describes him as "the boy with fair hair" and later "the fair boy." His view of Piggy, though, is less positive. The descriptions Golding gives of him are in stark contrast to those of Ralph and are not very complimentary. Golding describes him wearing a "greasy wind-breaker" and states that "the naked crooks of his knees were plump...." He furthermore states that "he was shorter than the fair boy and very fat."    

In his later description of Ralph, Golding conveys a very positive image of him and mentions the following:

You could see now that he might make a boxer, as far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil.

When Golding describes Jack, he uses language that contrasts with what he says of Ralph. At first, Jack is not particularly marked out, but the description points out that he is part of a menacing and sinister group of approaching boys.

...something dark was fumbling along.

Then the creature stepped from mirage on to clear sand, and they saw that the darkness was not all shadow but mostly clothing. The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in step in two parallel lines and dressed in strangely eccentric clothing.

Further descriptions of Jack depict a lean, aggressive individual. The fact that he is wearing a cloak adds to the mystery and accentuates his sinister appearance. Golding says the following about him:

Inside the floating cloak he was tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes, frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger.

Golding's description of Simon suggests a physically weak but striking individual.

Now that the pallor of his faint was over, he was a skinny, vivid little boy, with a glance coming up from under a hut of straight hair that hung down, black and coarse.

Simon is later, in chapter 3, described thus:

He was a small, skinny boy, his chin pointed, and his eyes so bright they had deceived Ralph into thinking him delightfully gay and wicked. The coarse mop of black hair was long and swung down, almost concealing a low, broad forehead.

The focus on his glance and the brightness of his eyes suggests that Simon can (and will) see things that others cannot.

The twins, Sam and Eric, are described as bullet-headed, which clearly implies that Golding wishes to portray them as not particularly intelligent. The novel depicts them as secondary individuals who are always ready to follow instructions.  

The descriptions of the littluns present them as weak, afraid, playful, and careless. Their fear becomes a metaphor for not only the boys' fear in general but also humankind's fear of everything it cannot or refuses to understand.

When Golding focuses on specific individuals, he wishes to make clear what they represent. He describes Roger as "dark" and "furtive." The description paints a picture of someone who is more animal than human.

...the shock of black hair, down his nape and low on his forehead, seemed to suit his gloomy face and made what had seemed at first an unsociable remoteness into something forbidding.

This portrayal suggests malice and is illustrated later when Roger throws stones at the unsuspecting littluns and, in chapter 11, releases the boulder that kills Piggy and smashes the conch.

Golding's purpose is clear. The physical and other descriptions of the characters denote their function in the novel and allude to their natures. The narrative suggests that humankind intrinsically possesses both good and evil qualities and that we have a choice about which of the two we will allow to dominate us.

garthman99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author’s attitude in my opinion is that the strong survive and the weak and naive perish. Ralph the protagonist and Jack the antagonist are the main ‘big uns.’ Both are strong. Both became leaders of their respective tribes and both survived. Ralph is portrayed as being noble, courageous and although he did not have Jack's prowess as a hunter he acquires some of that skill and sticks a pig. He demonstrates great daring to avoid being captured and apparently ‘dispatches’ some of his pursuers. Jack is somewhat of a megalomaniac: he seeks to usurp Ralph's authority, shows no respect for the conch and sadistically ties up and whips Wilfried, a tribe member. Simon was a helpless victim of circumstances and after his death, he was washed away by the ocean. Piggy although being strong intellectually was frequently the object of social derision and in the novel he often sought Ralph’s approval. Coincidentally, he (Piggy) was washed away by the ocean. The ocean although not a character as such is neutral. It holds the prospect of salvation and actually does bring salvation and it cleanses the land of the weak - Simon and Piggy.

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Lord of the Flies

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