Lord of the Flies Analysis
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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(Novels for Students)

Point of View
All novels use at least one perspective, or point of view, from which to tell the story. This may consist of a point of view of no single character (the omniscient, or "all-knowing" point of view), a single character, multiple characters in turn, and combinations or variations on these. Golding uses the omniscient point of view, which enables him to stand outside and above the story itself, making no reference to the inner life of any of the individual characters. From this lofty point he comments on the action from the point of view of a removed, but observant, bystander. Golding has commented in interviews that the strongest emotion he personally feels about the story is grief. Nevertheless, as the narrator he makes a conscious decision, like the British captain at the end of the story, to "turn away" from the shaking and sobbing boys and remain detached. The narrator lets the actions, as translated through the artist's techniques of symbolism, structure, and so on, speak for themselves. Even so dramatic and emotional an event as Piggy's death is described almost clinically. "Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across that square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red."

A symbol can be defined as a person, place, or thing that represents something more than its literal meaning. The conch shell, to take an obvious example in the story, stands for a society of laws in which, for example, people take their turn in speaking. The pig's head is a more complex example of a symbol. To Simon, and to many readers, it can have more than one meaning. On a rational level, Simon knows the pig's head is just that: a "pig's head on a stick." But on a more emotional level, Simon realizes that the pig's head represents an evil so strong that it has the power to make him faint. When he thinks of the head as "The Lord of the Flies," the symbol becomes even more powerful, as this title is a translation of "Beelzebub," another name for the Devil. Similarly, the fire set by using Piggy's glasses, when controlled, could be said to represent science and technology at their best, serving humans with light and heat. When uncontrolled, however, fire represents science and technology run amok, killing living things and destroying the island. Simon himself can be said to symbolize Christ, the selfless servant who is always helping others but who dies because his message— that the scary beast on the hill is only a dead parachutist—is misunderstood. Throughout the story, the noises of the surf, the crackling fire, the boulders rolling down hills, and trees exploding from the fire's heat are often compared to the boom of cannons and drum rolls. In this way, Golding reminds us that the whole story is intended to repeat and symbolize the atomic war which preceded it.

In the setting for Lord of the Flies, Golding has created his own "Coral Island"—an allusion, or literary reference, to a book of that name by R. M. Ballantyne. Using the same scenario of boys being abandoned on a tropical island, The Coral Island (1857) is a classic boys' romantic adventure story, like Johann Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson, in which everyone has a great time and nobody dies or ends up unhappy. Golding, however, has quite different ideas, and he has used the setting in his story to reinforce those concepts. Yes, the island can be a wonderful place, as the littluns discover by day when they are bathing in the lagoon pool or eating fruit from the trees. But at night the same beach can be the setting for nightmares, as some boys fancy that they see "snake-things" in the trees.

Golding builds a similar contrast between the generally rocky side of the island that faces the sea, and the softer side that faces the lagoon. On the ocean side of the island, "the filmy enchantments of mirage could not endure the cold ocean water. . . . On the other side of the island, swathed at midday with mirage, defended by the shield of...

(The entire section is 5,504 words.)