Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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What are two examples of flashbacks from Lord of the Flies?

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1. In chapter 1, Golding utilizes a flashback when Piggy recalls his old life before he crash-landed on the uninhabited tropical island. Piggy attempts to have a friendly conversation with Ralph by telling him,

"I used to live with my auntie. She kept a candy store. I used to get ever so many candies. As many as I liked. When'll your dad rescue us?" (Golding, 9)

Piggy also explains why he cannot do manual labor or physically exert himself by informing Ralph that he has asthma.

2. In chapter 4, Roger and Maurice knock over several sandcastles while the littluns are playing on the beach. After knocking over the littluns' sandcastles, Roger stands on the edge of the forest and begins throwing stones at a littlun named Henry. However, Roger experiences a flashback to his old life in England, which influences him to aim to miss whenever he throws the stones. Golding writes,

Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins. (47)

3. In chapter 5, Ralph holds an assembly and begins discussing the existence of the beast. When a littlun volunteers to speak about the beast, he experiences a flashback as soon as Ralph asks him his name. The littlun tells Ralph,

"Percival Wemys Madison. The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-" (Golding, 66)

Percival's automatic response is a flashback to his former life in England, where he was taught to repeat his name, address, and telephone number.

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Golding utilizes flashbacks in Lord of the Flies to reveal Ralph's state of mind and explore his tenuous connection to civilization and reality.  One such flashback occurs in chapter seven when Ralph climbs the mountain with Jack and his hunters to search for the beast.  Ralph retreats to a fond memory of the "cottage on the edge of the moors" (112).  In this particular flashback, Ralph recalls the security and comfort of living at home with his parents in the snug cottage.  Ralph recalls that his parents were both there with him, and wild ponies would come up to their fence.  Ralph clings to this memory, because it makes him feel safe and protected.  If only for a few moments, he can pretend that "everything was all right; everything good-humored and friendly" (112). 

Later in the novel, Ralph returns to the comfort of this memory in yet another flashback in Chapter Ten.  Golding uses Ralph's memories to show how the boy attempts to cope with the stress of his circumstances; Ralph retreats to the cottage in Devon the night after Simon's death.  Golding's flashback suggests that Ralph is trying to replace the violent memories of the dance with something more peaceful and secure feeling.  However the cottage at Devon offers Ralph little relief, as even "the attraction of wildness" of the ponies and cottage has faded for the boy; Ralph's mind at this point needed a "consideration of a tamed town where savagery could not set foot" (164). 

Golding's use of flashbacks in Lord of the Flies reveals the fragile state of Ralph's mind as the danger and savagery of the island intensifies. 

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