What Does The Signal Fire Symbolize In Lord Of The Flies

What does the signal fire represent in Lord of the Flies?

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Among other things, fire represents light, the light at the end of the tunnel which the stranded boys on the island eventually hope to reach. So long as the fire can be kept going, there will be hope that the boys will one day be rescued. But once it goes out, that hope will instantly die out with it.

It's notable in this regard that the very boys charged with looking after the fire—Jack and his gang—couldn't care less about its going out. They'd much rather head off for another pig-sticking adventure or bully some littluns just for the hell of it.

Jack realizes early on that it's not in his interests for the other boys to have hope or to see light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of a possible rescue. He knows that, as long as the boys remain stranded on the island, he'll get to be king of the castle. He enjoys life on the island, and in truth, doesn't want his captivity to end. That being the case, he's completely indifferent to whether or not the fire goes out. His neglect of the fire shows him to be the enemy of hope, civilization, and enlightenment, indeed all the many things that the fire symbolizes.

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The signal fire represents both hope and civilization.

The boys originally make the fire because they still have the hope that they'll be rescued. They're aware that potential saviors might not see them as they sail by; their solution is to make a fire and send smoke high into the sky. As long as the fire is burning, the boys are making an active attempt to be rescued.

The fire also represents civilization. It helps them stay more civilized than they'd be without fire; fire is an important tool for any society. They cook meat on it. They use it to stay warm. The fire also helps them stay on a schedule and create a society—their own civilization. They realize that they'll have to have a set rotation of people dedicated to tending the fire to make sure it doesn't go out. Civilization is a precious commodity that the boys have to work to maintain.

It's only when the fire is no longer a signal fire—when it's out of control—that the boys give up any semblance of civilization. This is just before they're found by their rescuers.

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The signal fire is meant to attract the attention of passing ships. It is an expression of the desire of the boys to escape. In a larger sense, the fire is symbolic of a wish to return to civilization and becomes an expression of political power as well. This comes to a head in the chapter "Cry of the Hunters," in which Jack decides to let the signal fire die and go hunting instead. Jack's decision is, of course, an overt challenge to Ralph's authority, but more than that, it is at once a embrace of desire over duty and a rejection of the wider world in favor of the primitive society the boys have created on the island, one which Jack thinks he can dominate.

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The signal fire in the story is a symbol of hope of the boys' return to civilisation. By keeping the signal fire going they hope to attract the attention of a passing boat or aircraft who will then rescue them. It starts off on the mountain but then later moves to the beach. Because it is linked so closely with the boys' return to civilisation, it becomes an indicator of the boys' connection to civilisation. For example, in the early parts of the novel the boys want to maintain the fire and keep it going which is a good sign as it shows they want to be returned to civilisation. However, when the fire is allowed to burn low or even goes out, it is highly symbolic of their rejection of civilisation in place of the barbaric savagery that runs amok on the island. It is highly ironic that at the end of the novel a fire does attract a ship, but it is not the signal fire, instead it is the fire that Jack and his mob start to hunt and kill Ralph.

One key passage that demonstrates this is in Chapter 4 when Jack and his hunters neglect their responsibility to keep the signal fire going and go and hunt and kill a pig instead. Ironically, this is when Ralph and Piggy can see a ship on the horizon, who of course does not know they are there because the signal fire has gone out. We see here that Jack and his hunters are more interested in hunting and savagery and satisfying their blood instinct than they are with rescue and return to civilisation.

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