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 does the quote "Fancy thinking the beast was something you could kill" imply in Lord of the Flies?

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This quote expresses a central theme of the novel. Evil—"the beast"—is not a thing "out there" that can be killed off as the boys have killed the pig, but a force that lives within every human.

The head of the pig, the Lord of the Flies, mounted on a stick, says this to Simon (the Christ figure in the novel) in one of his visions. The pig speaks mockingly and belittling to Simon.

The Lord of the Flies (in Milton's Paradise Lost, the word "Beelzebub" means "lord of the flies") does his best to undermine the goodness and innate moral and spiritual qualities of Simon. The Lord of Flies says the other boys think Simon is "batty." The pig's head also says, spelling out the theme of evil residing in humans:

I'm the reason why . . . things are what they are.

Golding portrays a Hobbesian world in which even children, left to their own devices, turn to evil. To Golding, writing in the World War II period, humans are not, on the whole, innately good but innately evil.

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This statement is spoken by the "Lord of the Flies," the "pig's head on a stick" that speaks to Simon in his vision in the thicket. While the conversation between the pig's head and Simon can be confusing--and it was written in a way to seem mysterious and ambiguous--it presents one of Golding's strongest themes in the novel. The lesson of the novel is that humans, left on their own even in an idyllic environment, will create a society that quickly degenerates unless they can follow rules and unless they have a moral basis for their lives. Ralph is the character who grasps the importance of rules and order; Simon is the character who grasps the importance of morality. Simon has already suggested that the "beastie" the boys are afraid of is "only us." Here Golding explores that idea further. The head says, "I'm part of you.... the reason why it's no go." The fact that he is called the Lord of the Flies is a reference to Beelzebub, or Satan, the personification of Evil. So Golding here is saying that evil resides within the human soul--"close, close, close!"--and therefore it cannot be hunted and killed as something external. The only way for the boys to really deal with the evil and save their society is to recognize the potential for their own moral failings and to build their society on a moral foundation. 

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