Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What does the sow symbolize during the killing scene in William Golding's Lord of the Flies?

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Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is set on an island inhabited only by a bunch of English schoolboys ranging in age from five or six to thirteen or so. One of the older boys, Jack Merridew, has a knife and determines that he will be in charge of the hunters (most of the choirboys over whom he was once the head).

The first time Jack tries to kill a pig, he is unable to do it because he is still civilized enough to be squeamish at the thought of a bloody killing, even one which would provide food for them all. It is not long before he begins wearing face paint; this "mask" removes him from all shame and conscience, and the killing gets easier. 

In chapter eight of the novel, Golding describes a particularly graphic group killing of a sow. 

      Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror. Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his spear whenever pigflesh appeared. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a highpitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her. 

The language of this passage clearly mirrors what a human rape scene might look and sound like. The imagery and action indicate that the hunters do more than simply kill the female pig; this sow is violated by Jack and his tribe of hunters. The sow, then, symbolizes a rape victim--and another form of depravity which occurs because there are no longer any restraints on the hunters' behaviors. Golding's theme of evil defeating good is seen in many ways throughout the novel; this is just one more. 

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