What is motif, and how does Golding use Biblical parallels as  motif?"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A motif is a recurring literary device, structure, or contrast that helps to develop and inform the major themes of a narrative.  In William Golding's "Lord of the Flies," there are Biblical motifs that assist in the development of the theme of Good and Evil, especially if the novel is read as an allegory. As such, the island represents the Garden of Eden in which the boys are as close as possible to a state of innocence, having been removed from the influences of modern society.  However, like Adam, they fall victim to the forces of evil; but, this evil is not in the form of a serpent.  Rather, it is an intrinsic defect in human nature.  That this evil is inherent is underscored especially in the character of Roger, the

slight, furtive boy whom no one knew, who kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy.

Early in the novel, when little Henry plays on the seashore, Roger throws rocks near him, but not at him because he has been conditioned by society.  Later, however, once the restrictions of society have been loosened for some time, Roger's sadistic nature is emerges--much like the appearance of the devil--and he releases the rock that kills Piggy and he tortures the twins Sam and Eric until they join the other hunters.  Finally, representing consummate evil, he is the one who prepares a stick, sharpened on both ends, on which to impale the head of Ralph.

It is only Simon, representative of the untarnished soul of man, who understands the intrinsic nature of evil in man.  At one meeting, he essays to communicate this, but becomes incoherent; leaving the group he retreats to his secret spot on the mountain where he encounters the "lord of the flies."  This name represents Beelezebub, or the devil.  The pig's head, with evil surrounding it in the form of flies, tells Simon,

Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill...You knew didn't you?  I'm part of you?  Close, close, close!  I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?

In the denouement of the narrative, Ralph/Adam, after his many conflicts with Jack and the hunters, realizes that the inherent evil of man has taken over the boys; he weeps

for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy [who represents rational thought].

Clearly, in Golding's allegorical novel, the Biblical representation of the island as a Garden of Eden, the golden-haired Ralph as an Adam-figure, the secretive and sadistic like the force of evil present in Roger and the black cloaked hunters led by Jack, as well as the Lord of the Flies, representative of Beelezebub, act as motifs that further the theme of Good and Evil.


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Lord of the Flies

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