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Last Updated September 6, 2023.


Mal is the oldest member of the Neanderthal family, representing the status quo: the seasonal rituals and traditions which they have performed for thousands of years. His death in the cave is used by Golding as an opportunity to reveal the caring nature of Neanderthals and their capacity for affection, illustrated through their thoughtful and genuine grief.


The emotion that most defines Lok’s character throughout the novel is bewilderment. He does not seem to recognize the danger that is posed by “the others” because he possesses such complete innocence and naiveté that he is unable to conceive that other beings would want to harm him. For the majority of the novel, the reader sees the events of the story from Lok’s perspective, and thus the reader is encouraged to empathize with him and the plight of the Neanderthals—even though their antagonists are the progenitors of the human race and therefore the ancestors of the reader.


Fa is Lok’s last surviving companion, who is ultimately swept away by the river they had initially been attempting to cross. She demonstrates emotional sensitivity, as when she declines to tell Lok about the fate of Liku, but she does not have his moral convictions—in that she is ready to abandon the “new one” to her fate.

The Old Woman

The only character not to be named, the Old Woman, like Mal, embodies the traditions of her clan and the annual routines they have honored year after year. This is symbolized in her possession of the embers that the clan depends on.


As a character, Liku illustrates the irrationality of hostility between the different groups of humans. Even after being abducted by “The Others,” she forms a friendship with one of them and, had she been given time, might have even become one of them. Her death and consumption by her captors represents the dangers of ignorance and the fear that drives human impulses—for the homo sapiens, Liku was a strange and terrifying animal fit for eating rather than a thoughtful, caring being.


Tuami assumes the narrative perspective in the novel’s final chapter. While he reveals to the reader the genuine nature of the fear that he and his fellow homo sapiens had felt toward the outsiders, he also illustrates the human vices of arrogance and jealousy as well as the tendency toward violence, which are conspicuously absent in the character of Lok.


Vivani is different from the other female characters in the text (Fa and the Old Woman) in that her power derives not from spiritual ritual but from physical attributes. Her partnership is what empowers Marlan and is viewed by Tuami as a means for his potential empowerment.


Marlan is a tyrant, and his character illustrates the tendency among homo sapiens to seek absolute power and to retain it by intimidating others.


Tanikal is the only member of “The Others” to communicate in a nonthreatening way with the Neanderthals. As a young girl, Tanikal has not yet been influenced by the prejudices of adults. Because of this, she is devastated by the murder of Liku.

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