Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Overview

Lord of the Flies invites numerous angles of discussion and interpretation. One can analyze Golding’s novel as an allegory, whose story is designed to represent broader aspects of human existence. One can find equally rewarding material in discussions of Golding’s historical context and influences, in his use of symbolism, and in close readings of the novel’s key passages.

Allegory

Lord of the Flies has two primary allegorical interpretations: societal and biblical. By reading it as an allegory for society, Ralph represents democracy and civilization, holding the position of chief and discovering the conch, which is itself a symbol of civilized, democratic discourse... (Read more on Allegory in Lord of the Flies)

Historical Context

Lord of the Flies was written by Nobel laureate William Golding (1911–1993) in the early 1950s and first published in 1954. The Hobbesian vision of young boys in the wilderness was in many ways a response to the horrors of World War II, and... (Read more Historical Context for Lord of the Flies)

Literary Influences

Two of Golding’s major literary influences in Lord of the Flies are R.M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In Ballantyne’s novel, three boys, two of whom are named Ralph and Jack, are... (Read more on Literary Influences for Lord of the Flies)

Quotes

While Lord of the Flies is widely known as a novel of themes and allegories, Golding’s ideas are often most clearly seen through particular passages. Carefully studying the most important quotes reveals the broader designs and aims of the novel. (Read more on Quotes for Lord of the Flies)

Symbols

Lord of the Flies is an intensely symbolic work at all levels of analysis. As an allegory, the story’s most basic elements serve as symbols for aspects of human life. Golding builds this intentional symbolism into...(Read more on Symbols in Lord of the Flies)

Allegory

Lord of the Flies has two primary allegorical interpretations: societal and biblical. By reading it as an allegory for society, Ralph represents democracy and civilization, holding the position of chief and discovering the conch, which is itself a symbol of civilized, democratic discourse. Piggy, who becomes Ralph’s advisor, represents logic, reason, and order, the building blocks of a functional society. Piggy and Ralph function as two parts of a whole, with neither able to effectively lead without the other. Their partnership symbolizes the need for logic and reason in democracy as well as the need for leadership skills in order for logic and reason to be implemented effectively. 

By contrast, Jack represents both authoritarian government and a more savage impulse towards chaos. Golding uses the boys and their power struggles to represent the struggle between democracy and autocracy, with democracy positioned as civilized and autocracy positioned as savage. Simon, who is murdered by all of the boys, represents a more natural morality that is violently suppressed by the evils of human nature, which even society cannot contain. 

Taking a different approach, Lord of the Flies can also be read as a biblical allegory. The boys are stranded on an Edenic island, which provides for all of their needs. However, rather than being content to live in peace and happiness, they are overcome by fear and ultimately destroy their paradise with violent and reckless behavior. Simon, who picks fruit for the littluns and communes with nature, is a Christ-like figure. He hallucinates a conversation with the Lord of the Flies, a figure conflated with the devil, or Satan, where it tells him that humans are inherently evil and that the beast is a force that has been inside them all along. 

However, before Simon can bring this news to the other boys, he is murdered. His body is washed into the ocean by “moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes,” evoking an image of angels coming to guide Simon to heaven. By this reading, Lord of the Flies is a loose retelling of the Fall of Man from the biblical...

(The entire section is 4,837 words.)