Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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What does Golding present about "man's essential illness" in from Simon's encounter with the pig's head (The Lord of The Flies)?

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Wlliam Golding uses Simon's encounter with the pig's head as a revelation "man's essential illness," or the evil inherent in mankind. 

In this scene from the chapter "Gift for the Darkness," Simon encounters the sow's head on a stick, swarming with flies:

They were black and iridescent green and without number; and in front of Simon the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. (138)

The Lord of the Flies represents corruption and decay.  He addresses Simon's fear of the beast and confirms his speculation from the chapter "Beast from Water" that "maybe it's only us" (89).  Golding's symbolic representation of evil mocks Simon:

"Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!" said the head..."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?" (143)

Simon gains clarity and insight that the presence of evil on the island stems from the boys themselves.  Their capacity for violence and deceit rivals and surpasses even the scariest Beast.

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Man's essential illness is original sin. Golding was a self-professed religious man, and much of his work in this novel is biblically allegorical. The scar left by the boys' airplane on the otherwise untainted and edenic island represents Adam and Eve's decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, thus resulting in mankind's disconnect from harmony with nature and his ability to choose evil over good (sin). As Simon tries to relate "mankind's essential illness" in chapter five, he asks, "what's the dirtiest thing there is?" (89) Jack's subsequent profane retort only goes to prove Simon's point that evil only exists within man, but his inarticulateness and the boys' refusal to see his wisdom prevent him from explaining further. When Simon encounters the pig's head covered in flies, he is symbolically speaking with the devil, who tempts him to "have fun on this island" (144). This "Lord of the Flies" is not only a cause of evil (since it is a translation of the Greek "Beelzebub", or devil) but also a product of evil, since it was created after the symbolic rape scene with the maternal sow by Jack and his hunters. Simon, like Jesus, sees through the temptation of evil and, after waking up from his fainting spell, proceeds to discover that the "beast" is merely a dead paratrooper and that the true beast is only the fear within all of us and the temptation to succumb to it. (the belief that God won't take care of us when we are in need, so we rely on our own will to get our "needs" met, otherwise known as sin) Ironically, when Simon attempts to tell the other boys about his revelation, they mistake him for the beast and murder him out of fear, much like the Romans murdered Jesus as he attempted to deliver the truth about the nature of God. In essence, Golding is using Simon as a symbol of purity and truth in order to contrast him with Jack and his hunters, symbols of depravity and immorality, so that he can convey that original sin has caused all humans to become abhorrently susceptible to a dark and dismal decline into barbarism and sin.