What is the effect of the 'beast' in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies?

Expert Answers
kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, the boys on the island develop a fear of the "Beast", which resides on the island with them, and this fear eventually becomes a source of motivation for their actions and decisions. 

  • Fear: Initially, the idea of the beast strikes deep fear into the boys, altering their experience from one that is care-free and lawless into one that is tinged with menace. This initialized by the littl'un's claim that he's seen the beast, reinforced by Sam'n'Eric's sighting, and finalized by Jack, Ralph, and Roger's encounter with the dead parachutist. 
  • Power Shift: The beast's appearance shifts power from Ralph to Jack, whose claim to raw violence appears to be a better defense against the beast. Jack uses the idea of the beast to draw the boys together in "hunts" and "celebrations". This culminates in Jack's decision to leave the sow's head as a sacrifice for the beast, transforming it into a deity that can be pacified. 
  • Symbol: Simon's experiences with the beast, particularly his hallucinatory "conversation", reinforce the symbolic nature of the beast so feared by all the boys. This scene confirms that this beast is in fact human nature, which without society, has been loosed on the island to revel in its savagery and cruelty.