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 is the supreme irony with fire at the end of Lord of the Flies?

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At the end of Lord of the Flies, the supreme irony with fire is that the smoke that attracts the ship comes from a fire that the boys started while pursuing Ralph. As social order deteriorated into anarchy, Jack’s boys set the woods on fire in order to smoke Ralph out. The irony is that during the earlier period of relative harmony, the boys had failed to keep the necessary signal fire going.

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As Lord of the Flies draws to a close, social order has deteriorated into a war against Ralph, who once had been the leader and the voice of reason. The boys are finally rescued when a navy cutter sees smoke from the island. Ironically, the smoke comes from the fire that Jack’s boys have set to smoke out their prey, Ralph. It does not come from the signal fire, which they had failed to keep going.

The importance of keeping a fire going is one source of conflict throughout the novel. Piggy and Ralph are staunch advocates of maintaining a fire that will produce enough smoke to be seen at a distance, which will enable them to be rescued. The boys who are assigned this duty, however, do not take their responsibility seriously. They are easily swayed by Jack’s perspective, which is that hunting and getting meat is the highest priority.

The first time Ralph, Simon, and Maurice glimpse a far-off ship in the ocean, they run back to the fire to stoke it. Ralph’s hopes are dashed when he realizes it has released its last wisp of smoke. As they see the ship disappear in the distance,

Ralph reached inside himself for the worst word he knew.

"They let the bloody fire go out."

Near the novel’s end, Ralph has no remaining allies and understands that the Jack’s warriors intend to find and kill him. They are advancing, formed into a solid line. Hiding deep within the thicket, he realizes that the huge trees have caught fire and are crashing down. When he is sure that a savage standing at the thicket’s edge has seen him, Ralph runs, charging through the burning woods.

He swung to the right, running desperately fast, with the heat beating on his left side and the fire racing forward like a tide…. He could hear … [his pursuers] crashing in the undergrowth and on the left was the hot, bright thunder of the fire.

Trying to escape being burned alive, Ralph flees the woods and heads for the water. Emerging onto the beach, he expects to find the hostile boys there. Instead, he runs into a uniformed naval officer standing on the beach.

The cheerful officer says to Ralph:

We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?

Although he is joking about the war, that is what the boys have been doing. He is soon shocked and disappointed to learn that two boys have died.

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What is the irony in Lord of the Flies?

Considering William Golding's Lord of the Flies as a whole, the greatest irony is that the boys, who escape war and death by their saving arrival on a paradisiacal island far removed from the "evils of society" degenerate into worse creatures than they would have become if they had remained in their homeland.  For the "evils of society," ironically, lie within the human heart; evil is inherent in man, the "beast" is he, as Simon discovers.  So, just as in the Garden of Eve where it is Adam and Eve who commit the evil act, so, too, is it in Lord of the Flies.  Interestingly, Golding eliminates any Eve from the situation to prove that the evil is inherent and not caused by any temptress or anyone else that can be blamed.  As the Lord of Flies hangs in space before Simon, it says,

'Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!' said the head.  For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter.  'You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you?  close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?' 


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What is the irony in Lord of the Flies?

I'm not sure whether you mean irony in the novel or irony in the symbol "The Lord of the Flies."  In the novel there are many ironies:

(1) The initial fire that was supposed to be a rescue fire results in the probably death of one littlun with the birthmark.

(2) The adult sign that Piggy and Ralph long for comes in the form of a dead parachutist that creates even more havoc on the island.

(3) The adults that Piggy and Ralph think are "having tea" and "discussing things" are actually engaging in a world war themselves.

(4) The fire that was supposed to smoke out Ralph so that Jack's tribe could kill him results in Ralph's (and the boys') rescue.

(5) The naval officer's "rescue" of the boys is from one warring place to another. 

(6) The boys' greatest threat was not an external one as they believed but themselves. 

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What is the irony in the final scene of the last chapter of Lord of the Flies?

There are many instances of irony, but the primary one is that the fire which Jack and his followers started to kill Ralph ended up being the signal that the rescuer saw to come and save him. Ralph had been considering and trying fire signals which are a sign of the history of humanity (building a fire) to attract attention from rescuers, but by this time the island had lost its sense of civilization. Hence, its quite ironic that the symbol of it, fire, was ultimately the resource used on their behalf, especially a fire built to kill.

Secondly, the naval officer which came to the rescue was himself a man of war and conflict as he was military, yet, he saw that these uncivilized and wild children were nearly inhumane- Yet, the irony is: Isn't the carnage of war inhumane as well?

Finally, the ending was not a happy one. You would have thought that the children would cheer and jump up and down. Nope. They were just astonished because they had become ultra-removed from the normal world. This man was basically interrupting the world as they now knew it, not rescuing them from it. Ralph fell apart, the kids were shocked, the man was disgusted. This was ironic in a story where you wish at all moments that they get rescued and you would think this would be a moment of joy. It is also then when you realize that, for these kids, life would never be good, healthy, or ever the same.

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