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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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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 book of Genesis in which humanity disobeyed God and was expelled from the Garden of Eden. However, Simon’s death, rather than being redemptive of the boys’ sins, only proceeds to push them even further towards sin and evil.

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Historical Context