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...

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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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