Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

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What comparison is implied at the end of the novel Lord of the Flies?

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The group of boys find themselves stranded on a remote island with no adults for the majority of the novel. Over a period of time, they lose all sense of order, eventually killing members of the group without any cause whatsoever. Their sense of savagery is best symbolized by Jack, who grows increasingly bloodthirsty as the plot progresses. It would be easy to make an assumption that this kind of senseless killing could only happen to impressionable kids without much life experience and that if adults had been around, this situation could never have deteriorated to this extent.

Until the rescuers show up. By a stroke of coincidence, a naval ship was in the area and spotted the smoke on the remote island.

When the officer spies Ralph, he rests his hand on his gun until he determines whether this child is trustworthy. And in the final line of the novel, he rests his eyes "on the trim cruiser in the distance."

Golding is comparing the experience of the boys to the experience of adults in any war. Perhaps the boys's reaction isn't so unexpected, after all. Perhaps they didn't only kill members of their group because they are kids in need of supervision. Perhaps there are no easy answers when it comes to war.

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Lord of the Flies ends abruptly with a frantic Ralph fleeing the burning jungle, only to be promptly rescued by the arrival of a naval officer in a crisp white uniform; his sudden presence represents a return to order and the sanctity of civilization.  Only seconds later, the savages with spears in hand stumble onto the beach, and the officer comments that it looks like they have been "having a war or something" (201). 

Golding makes a timely comparison between the immaculate naval officer and his "trim cruiser" and the boys' own manhunt for Ralph (202).  Golding himself had this to say about the significance of his novel's ending:

"The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser, which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way.  And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?" ("Notes on Lord of the Flies" 204).

Golding cleverly uses the boys' fallen society to parallel the epic struggle of World War II.  The novel's ending reaffirms that the boys' downfall on the island did not occur just because they were young or because of their environment; by slyly hinting at the drama of World War II, Golding suggests that his theme of destruction has universal meaning for all of humanity.

"Notes on Lord of the Flies" by E.L. Epstein--

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

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