What is the naval officer thinking at the end of Golding's novel,"The Lord of the Flies"?In other words, is there anything significant about the officer other than his arrival to rescue the boys?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Golding's allegorical novel, "Lord of the Flies," there is a final irony in the rescue of Ralph from the savagery of Jack and the hunters.  For, this rescue is effected by a warship with a naval officer arriving on the island.  While, on the one hand, this officer represents the discipline and order of a civilized society, he also, on the other hand, represents war with its accompanying brutality and savagery. 

This officer looks "down at Ralph in wary astonishment"; he wonders what has occurred on the island, while at the same time he is cautious of this apparent savage. 

In the background, with bows [that] hauled up and held by two ratings.  In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun.

With his gilded cap, gilt buttons, epaulettes, and revolver, the officer represents a decadent society that is, perhaps, not so civilized either. The officer's astonishment extends to his disapproval of the boys' lack of discipline as he looks at the painted faces of the boys:

I should have thought that a pack of British boys--you're all British, aren't you?--would have been able to put up a better show than that--I mean--

Without realizing the import of his words, the officer has called the boys "a pack"--much like wolves who also are bloodthirsty--and used a Britishism "a better show" which here contains an ironic meaning. For, while the officer means "appearance" the suggestion within the context of the situation is that he himself puts up "a show" of civilization with his gilded uniform, but he is, ultimately, a soldier of war, just as the boys are in battle with Ralph. 


coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The naval officer who arrives on the beach at the end of the novel 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding is significant because he represents both a postive and a negative benchmark for us (and the boys,other readers,naval officers and society as a whole) to measure the distance of how far the children have veered from their starting point of 'civilization.'

His shock and disgust at how far their 'standards' of dress and decorum and 'making-do' have fallen, every spick and span detail of his crisp white uniform and gleaming buttons remind us of the establishment the boys left in terms of class.

Yet, they have travelled further than he into the brink. They have stood on the edge of the abyss and know how to cry. He can't do 'emotions' though,and turns away. Smart and civilized now, his battle has not yet come - the hypocrisy is that is he and his kind that are the real ones playing games.

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Lord of the Flies

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