What is the significance of the following passage from William Golding's The Lord of the Flies? Why is it important to the novel as a whole?"In a...

What is the significance of the following passage from William Golding's The Lord of the Flies? Why is it important to the novel as a whole?

"In a moment the platform was full of arguing, gesticulating shadows. To Ralph, seated, this seemed the breaking up of sanity. Fear, beasts, no general agreement that the fire was all-important: and when one tried to get the thing straight the argument sheered off, bringing up fresh, unpleasant matter. He could see a whiteness in the gloom near him so he grabbed it from Maurice and blew as loudly as he could. The assembly was shocked into silence. Simon was close to him, laying hands on the conch. Simon felt a perilous necessity to speak; but to speak in assembly was a terrible thing to him.

“Maybe,” he said hesitantly, “maybe there is a beast.” The assembly cried out savagely and Ralph stood up in amazement.

“You, Simon? You believe in this?”

“I don’t know,” said Simon. His heartbeats were choking him. “But. . . ”

The storm broke. “Sit down!” “Shut up!” “Take the conch!” “Sod you!”

“Shut up!” Ralph shouted. “Hear him! He’s got the conch!”

“What I mean is. . . maybe it’s only us.” “Nuts!” That was from Piggy, shocked out of decorum. Simon went on. “We could be sort of. . . ” Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness. Inspiration came to him.

Expert Answers
kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, the boys trapped on the island rapidly divide and fall into conflict. This passage illustrates not only the conflict on the island but a third perspective on the matter that taps into overarching themes of human nature.

One of the great motivators of this collapse is the fear of the Beast. The primal fear of a predator wreaks havoc on the other decisions that the boys' society depends on. This passage demonstrates the effects of this fear, what Ralph describes as a "breaking up of sanity." 

In one camp, Ralph insists that the Beast does not exist, as demonstrated through his shocked reply, "You, Simon? You believe in this?" On the other hand, Jack uses fear of the beast to elevate his position in the boys' society. 

Simon's perspective on the Beast is figurative, and Golding manipulates his character to reveal a more insidious possibility. Rather than fear an external monster, Simon looks inward and ventures the possibility that "maybe it's only us." The boys on the island fear the violence and wildness of the Beast, but their fears are motivating them toward actions of violence and untamed savagery. As such, the Beast could very well be real -- their own fears realized through their actions. 

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Lord of the Flies

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