What is the “sign” that comes “down from the world of grownups”? What are its literal and figurative meanings?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Literally, the sign that comes from the world of grownups is a dead paratrooper who falls from the sky and gets tangled in the trees at the top of the island.

The twins Eric and Sam see it and are frightened. At this point, it takes on figurative meanings. To them it is the dreaded "beast." They describe it as follows:

"It was furry. There was something moving behind its head—wings. The beast moved too—" "That was awful. It kind of sat up—" "The fire was bright—" "We'd just made it up—" "—more sticks on—" "There were eyes—" "Teeth—" "Claws—"

This fantastic notion of the dead paratrooper as a beast becomes the "truth" the boys now accept. The paratrooper morphs into the symbol of what is threatening, feared, and to be destroyed. The boys project onto it their own fears and make it larger than life, a monster rather than a corpse. Primitive emotions swamp reason and lead to bad outcomes when Simon is mistaken for the beast.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the end of Chapter 5, Ralph and Piggy lament about their situation and comment that they wish "grownups" were around because grownups "know things." Ralph says, "If only they could send us something grownup...a sign or something." (Golding 94) At the beginning of Chapter 6, an air battle takes place over the island while the boys are sleeping. During the battle, a paratrooper gets shot out of the sky and lifelessly floats to earth. The trooper's parachute cords get tangled in the canopy of the forest, and his dead body moves with the wind on top of the mountain. Golding utilizes dramatic irony by answering Ralph's request for a sign from the grownups with the corpse of a paratrooper. The paratroopers descend from the sky symbolizes Lucifer's fall from heaven. Later on in the novel, the dead paratrooper is mistaken for the "beast." The "beast" represents the inherent evil present in every human which correlates with Lucifer's nature. Literally, the "sign" from the grownups is the dead paratrooper, and figuratively the paratrooper symbolizes the existence of evil on the island and alludes to Lucifer's fall from heaven

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial