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 main theme of the novel and what are the symbols that are related to the theme?

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Although many claim that this novel is about civilization, the loss of innocence and brutality, I believe all of these are contained in the age-old theme of good vs evil. What turns a group of innocent boys into savages as they are removed from the rules of grownups (society) is the evil nature that lives within each of us, an evil nature that, if left unchecked by morals (rules), turns us into beasts.

The conch shell is an important symbol. Whoever has the shell is in control. This shell, then, symbolizes civilization, or rules if you will. The signal fire is also an important symbol. The boys hope the fire will bring civilization to them, to rescue them. So, it too, is a symbol of civilization. The "Lord of the Flies" - which is the sow's head - is an important symbol of evil. It represents the evil that resides within us all. The Biblical imagery of the novel reflects the Biblical theme that man has two forces at war within his soul - good vs evil. This is also represented by Ralph vs Jack. If evil is not kept in check by the forces of good, we all become Beelzebubs, Lord of the Flies. The idea of the "beast" that the boys have is also symbolic of this evil that lives within them. Even though there is no real beast, as Simon realizes, the boys have believed it into existence and it has manifested itself as The Lord of the Flies, so these two symbols are related.

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