What Does The Island Symbolize In Lord Of The Flies

What does the island symbolize in Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Written in response to the Victorian novel by R. M. Ballantyne's adventure story, The Coral Island, in which English boys defeat savages on the island and civilization triumphs, William Golding examines in Lord of the Flies the innate nature of man, on an uninhabited island.

While the golden boy Ralph, upon looking around after the plane crash, thinks he has found himself on the "coral island," it is, perhaps, more of a Rousseauian island, but one that fails to preserve man's basic innocence. For, instead of the successful experiment of the  boys' being born upon it and brought up in a naive state of ignorance of the evils of society, they have come from "a civilization that...was in ruins" and landed upon the sands.

And, yet, the boys are provided the freedom from the restrictions of society. In some time, however, the conditioning of society erodes; for instance, Roger's arm held back by the fear of punishment, prevents him from hurting Henry, but after he has been on the island for some time, Roger's innate sadism has full play and he pushes a boulder upon Piggy's head, sending him careening down the mountain.

Others, like Jack, hide their sadism behind masks, but it is not long before they, too, allow their innate savagery to surface. Clearly, then, the beautiful island does not prevent the boys' spiritual corruption, and is no Coral Island. And, it is the intuitive Simon, hiding often in a forested area, who identifies the "beast," the evil of man, as inherent in them. For, eventually, Jack and his hunters become so savage that they burn and destroy the island's pristine beauty. 

They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought.

Therefore, the island of Golding's Lord of the Flies represents an environment free from influences, a virtual testing ground for the souls and characters of the boys, who reveal their innate nature. This island, that in the final paragraphs the naval officer unknowingly and with dramatic irony remarks,"I know. Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island," is only land; it is no Garden of Eden. The boys destroy it in their atavistic savagery that emerges.

a fleeting picture of the strange glamour that had once invested the beaches.

It is a pristine environment unlike the unrealistic Coral Island that is not outside the influence of the evil that lies innately within the hearts of men. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the novel Lord of the Flies, the uninhabited tropical island symbolizes the biblical Garden of Eden. In the biblical story, Adam and Eve roamed freely throughout the beautiful Garden of Eden, eating and enjoying the peaceful environment. They did not have to work or exert their energy in what was essentially paradise. However, they needed to obey one rule: they were not allowed to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve were then seduced by a serpent to eat the forbidden fruit and were cast out of the garden. Their tranquil lives in paradise were over, and their expulsion from the garden resulted in what was referred to as the Fall of Man.

Similar to the Garden of Eden, the uninhabited island is also a tranquil environment with plenty of fruit and food. The children do not have to toil for their food, and there are no remnants of civilization on the island. The children also arrive on the island as relatively civil, moral individuals, which represents Adam and Eve's original, sinless state. Similar to the Garden of Eden, the uninhabited island is essentially an empty slate. Golding also alludes to the story of Adam and Eve when a littlun mentions that he saw a "snake-thing," which also alludes to the serpent in the garden. As the novel progresses, the boys gradually descend into savagery and become bloodthirsty, immoral individuals. Symbolically, their descent into savagery mirrors Adam and Eve's sinful decision to eat the forbidden fruit, which results in the Fall of Man.

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Lord of the Flies

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