What role does guilt play in Lord of the Flies? For example, what does it mean when some boys feel guilt over Simon's death, while others do not? 

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of Chapter 9, Simon is brutally murdered by the group of boys who initially mistake him for the beast coming out of the forest. The boys were so worked up into a frenzy that they were unable to control themselves as they beat, ripped, and stabbed Simon to death. In Chapter 10, Ralph climbs onto the platform and simply says, "Simon" (Golding 155). Piggy nods solemnly and gazes out into the lagoon. After Piggy suggests that Ralph call and assembly, he begins to shiver and says, "That was Simon...That was murder" (Golding 156). Piggy gets extremely upset and starts trying to defend their actions by saying that it was dark, and they were scared. Ralph takes full responsibility for what they did and feels appalled, excited, and guilty for participating Simon's murder. Piggy justifies their actions by claiming that it was an accident and tries to dismiss it, but Ralph refuses to drop the subject. Piggy says, "Look, Ralph. We got to forget this. We can't do no good thinking about it, see?" (Golding 157). Piggy then tells Ralph not to let Samneric know that they were participants and Ralph says, "But we were! All of us!" (Golding 157).

Piggy explains to Ralph that they only participated at the end of the dance and stood on the outside, which in a way makes them feel "less guilty" about Simon's death. He says, "That's right. We was on the outside. We never done nothing, we never seen nothing" (Golding 158). When Samneric arrive, they claim that they went straight into the forest after the feast. Piggy tells Samneric that he and Ralph left early too. Golding writes, "The air was heavy with unspoken knowledge." Sam then shouts, "dance?" and all of the boys shake (Golding 158). The boys continue to maintain that they left early and did not even witness Simon's murder.

On the other side of the island, Jack tells his savages that the beast disguised himself and that he may come again. Stanley raises his hand and says, "But didn't we, didn't we---?" (Golding 160). Jack yells, "No!," and Golding writes, "In the silence that followed, each savage flinched away from his individual memory."

Many of the boys, including the savages, feel guilty about Simon's murder. The fact that some of the boys feel guilty while others do not suggests that there are still remnants of civility and morality in them. However, Jack is completely void of civility and does not feel guilty over Simon's death. The other boys attempt to repress their feelings of guilt. Guilt is a very strong emotion and none of the boys, except Ralph, want to discuss the roles they played in Simon's death. Piggy tries desperately to justify his actions while Samneric claim that they were not even present. The fact that they have the ability to feel guilt suggests that they have not entirely turned into savage beasts. Essentially, the boys' feelings of guilt are a gauge of their of civility and morality. By the end of the novel, the majority of the boys have become so barbaric that they are unashamed, and feel no guilt about their immoral actions.

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Lord of the Flies

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