Indicate the circumstances and state the significance for the following quote from Lord of the Flies:

The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.

In this quote from Lord of the Flies, the boys mistake Simon, who comes out of the woods, for the beast they fear. They pounce on him as if they are animals and kill him, savagely ripping him apart. This is a highly significant scene in the novel. The boys have killed Simon, the Christ figure, and have descended into brutal, irrational barbarism.

Expert Answers

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At this climatic point in the novel, Simon has gone looking for the beast on his own. He finds that what the boys think is a beast is the dead body of a parachuter. The strings of his parachute have gotten caught in the trees. He has been dangling there, a rotting corpse, swaying and seeming to bow in the breeze. Simon cuts him down; then, exhausted, he goes to tell the rest of the boys that the beast is nothing but a dead man.

As this is happening, a storm is brewing with thunder and lightning. The boys have all gathered around Jack's area, eating the meat he has provided. Even Ralph and Piggy are there. Jack is in charge, painted and dressed as their leader. To keep from being frightened by the storm, the boys do a dance to reenact the earlier brutal killing of the pig. They chant,

Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!

At this point, Simon crawls out of the woods to tell them the true story of the beast. They jump on him as if he is the beast and cry,

Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!

This time, they are talking about what they think of as the real beast, not the pig. They are in a savage frenzy and want to tear apart Simon because they believe he is the beast.

The "beast [that] struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water" is Simon, not a real beast. The boys simply don't realize this. They become not individuals but a "crowd" or mob that runs after Simon. They "leapt on to the beast [Simon], screamed, struck, bit, tore" at it. Finally, they become no more than wordless beasts themselves, all "teeth and claws."

Once they have killed Simon, the storm breaks into torrents of rain and wind. They back away from the corpse, and the wind blows the freed parachuter down the mountain, frightening them away.

This is a highly important scene in the novel. The boys, acting like savage beasts themselves, murder Simon, the Christ figure in the novel. In killing him, they symbolically kill off the wisdom and spiritual power he possessed, leaving themselves at the mercy of their most brutal impulses. Civilization has now been stripped away from the boys, who share the collective guilt of killing an innocent person.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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