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 is the Lord of the Flies, and what does it symbolize?

The Lord of the Flies is a pig's head on a stick. Initially, it symbolizes success in the hunt, but its deeper symbolic value signifies the violence and chaos which overtakes the boys on the island.

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The Lord of the Flies that provides William Golding's book with its title is a boar's head mounted on a spear, or, as Simon says when he is trying to break the hypnotic hold the object has over him, a "Pig's head on a stick." The phrase "Lord of the Flies" is a mistranslation of the name Beelzebub, Lord of the Flyers, a Philistine god and another name for Satan.

At the most basic level, the head of a boar mounted on a spear is a symbol of success in the hunt. It is Jack who leads the hunt and throws himself into the activity with most vigor, and it is he who later paints his face with boar's blood and encourages his followers to do the same. The Lord of the Flies, therefore, also symbolizes violence and chaos—and the way in which Jack's leadership causes order to break down.

The Lord of the Flies is important enough to furnish the title of the book because it symbolizes what happens to all the boys on the island, but Jack in particular. Jack always wants to be leader, but initially, he grounds his claims in the arguments of civilized authority. He ought to be chief, he says, because of his accomplishments at school and in the choir. In his battle for supremacy with Ralph, he finds that these achievements count for nothing. He must rely on violence and ruthlessness to secure his position. It is these characteristics that the Lord of the Flies ultimately represents.

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The Lord of the Flies is the head of the pig that Jack and his followers kill. They mount it on a stake as an offering to the "beast" they believe lives on the island. As it decomposes, flies swarm around it. Simon sees the head, identifies it as the "Lord of the Flies," and has a hallucinatory conversation with it. During this conversation, the Lord of the Flies tells Simon that it symbolizes the evil residing inside the boys.

The term "Lord of the Flies" may be a reference to Beelzebub, who, in Christian tradition, was a demon serving Satan. In Milton's Paradise Lost, Beelzebub is Satan's right-hand man when the two devils awaken after being thrown by God into the sea of fire and brimstone. Milton envisions the other demons swarming around Satan and Beelzebub like flies.

The dead pig's head symbolizes how quickly humans can fall into barbarism once the veneer of civilization is ripped away, swarming around the rot of evil like flies. It does not, for example, take long for Jack to lure most of the boys away from the civilized norms represented by Ralph, Piggy, and the fire. Ralph and Piggy symbolize decency and deferred gratification, neither of which lasts long against the allure of indulging one's most violent and impulsive desires. The pig head identifies Jack's cruel and irrational rule with evil.

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What exactly is the beast in the novel Lord of the Flies? What does it symbolize? Explain.

The Beast is built up to be a physical personification of evil. It is treated as...

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a God-like monster who is given sacrifices and offerings, and it is feared by the boys. What we ultimately come to realize, however, is that there is no beast. At least, the beast does not exist in a literal, physical, living and breathing sense of the word. Instead, the beast represents the potential for evil that exists within all of us. As the boys become more and more savage, as they give in to what Golding presents as natural, basic instincts that have been tamed by civilization, the role of the beast becomes More evident. Essentially, what Golding is telling us is that the more savage we become, the stronger the beast within us becomes because it is a self-created and self-perpetuating evil.

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What exactly is the beast in the novel Lord of the Flies? What does it symbolize? Explain.

There is, of course, not really any beast.  The beast is something that is within the boys.

In my opinion, the beast symbolizes the evil that is inside of each one of us.  Only Simon realizes that the beast is within them, though.

If you look at the story, you can kind of see how this is. The beast only comes to exist because the boys believe in it.  The more they believe in it, the more savage they become.  By the end of the book, they have made the beast into something of a god and are leaving sacrifices to it.  This shows us how strong evil and savagery have become (the hunters win, Piggy is dead, etc).

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What is the symbolism behind the Beastie in Lord of the Flies?

The Beastie represents the boys’ fears of the unknown.

When the little boys first discuss the Beastie, no one wants to take it seriously.  It is just a joke, something that the small boys are afraid of.  It comes up at an assembly meeting. 

“He wants to know what you’re going to do about the snake-thing.”

Ralph laughed, and the other boys laughed with him. The small boy twisted further into himself.

“Tell us about the snake-thing.”

“Now he says it was a beastie.” (Ch. 2)

Ralph tries to explain to the boys that a snake thing could not exist on an island of that size.  The older boys try to dismiss the littleuns’ fears as a bad dream or the fears of young children away from home.  They do not want to admit any fears themselves.

Jack uses this as yet another opportunity to undermine Ralph.  As Ralph tries to assure the little boys that there is no Beastie, Jack takes the conch and tells them that if there is one he would take care of it for them.

Jack seized the conch.

“Ralph’s right of course. There isn’t a snake-thing. But if there was a snake we’d hunt it and kill it. We’re going to hunt pigs to get meat for everybody. And we’ll look for the snake too–” (Ch. 2) 

Ralph is annoyed because Jack contradicted him and also implied that he could take care of something that Ralph could not.  It is another example of the difference between the two of them and the constant struggle for leadership.  Their styles are different, and Jack is always trying to be theatrical while Ralph is always trying to be practical. 

The Beastie comes to represent the fear of the unknown, not just for the littleuns, but for all of the boys.  Jack meets the unknown head-on, while Ralph makes plans.  The Beastie never goes away.  It is always in the back of everyone's minds.

“They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if—”

“As if it wasn’t a good island.”

Astonished at the interruption, they looked up at Simon’s serious face.

“As if,” said Simon, “the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing, was real. Remember?”

The two older boys flinched when they heard the shameful syllable. Snakes were not mentioned now, were not mentionable. (Ch. 3)

When the children attack the Beastie, it turns out not to be the beast after all.  It is Simon, coming to warn them about the parachutist he saw that frightened him.  Beasts are everywhere, but they are all manifestations of the boys' fear.  

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In Lord of the Flies, what does the beast signify? What is it symbolic of?

The beast signifies different things to different people: both characters in the book and readers. At its most basic level, the beast is associated with the dead airman who parachutes over the island in the Chapter Beast from the Air. Sam and Eric make this association. Symboloically, therefore, the war that wages outside the island, which ahd also caused the boys to be stranded initially, can be viewed as the beast.

The beast also symbolises the boys' fear and fear of the unknown. In Beast from the Water, the multiplying theories about the beast indicate the mass panic and terror taking the group. The various descriptions of the beast also connect it to the jungle which may symbolise its connection with the boys' increasing savagery and barbarism.

Simon may come closest to describing the beast as "us": an inherent and internal 'evil' or savagery which all humanity carries around and which becomes explicit in characters like Jack and Roger. It is highly ironic and appropriate that Simon identifies the 'true' nature of the beast and is killed as the beast.

To a religious reader, the concept of the beast is readily associated with both Satan and the concept of original sin. In this interpretation, the island becomes a second garden of eden, the boys' descent into savagery a second Fall.

To characters like Jack, the beast becomes a method of control through fear and intimidation. In many ways, Jack is the embodiment of the beast.

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Describe the symbolic significance of the Beast in the novel Lord of the Flies.

The Beast in The Lord of the Flies represents the boy's fear.

The adult-less island is unknown and the boys fear the unknown.  Coming from England, they have no experiences with what they find on the island.  In the fire light and in the dark, ordinary things take on new and mysterious forms.

As children, we fear the dark because it hides, in our childlike minds, all the monsters that disappear in the light of day.

Whether he recognises this or not, Jack gets the upper hand.  He appeals to the boy's fears and uses this to control them.

Ralph and Piggy understand that the beast exists in their minds but are unable to get the others to understand.

The boys give into these fears, offering sacrifices to the "Beast".  They believe that if they give the Beast sacrifices, that the Beast will not harm them.  At first they sacrifice the head of the wild boar but eventually Simon and Piggy are sacrificed.  Ralph would also be the next victim if Jack and his tribe have their way.

For each boy the Beast is different.  It is whatever they fear the most.

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