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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Interpret the following statement from Lord of the Flies: "The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life."

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In chapter 8, Simon comes face-to-face with The Lord of the Flies, which is a severed pig's head jammed onto a stick in the middle of the forest. Before Simon hallucinates and speaks to The Lord of the Flies, he looks into its eyes and Golding writes,

The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business. (106)

The Lord of the Flies goes on to confirm Simon's previous conclusions about the beast on the island. The severed pig's head assures Simon that a physical creature does not exist on the island and the beast is actually the inherent evil inside each boy.

The "infinite cynicism of adult life" means that humans are inherently selfish, skeptical individuals, who are more concerned about their own well-being and interests than they are in magnanimous efforts to help others. The Lord of the Flies's cynical disposition and message that everything is "bad business" represents William Golding's beliefs about human nature. Golding believed that humans were inherently wicked, selfish beings, who act cynically in their own best interests. Later on in the chapter, Simon hallucinates and speaks to The Lord of the Flies about the true nature of the beast. 

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This statement is from a description of the pig's head that Jack and his hunters stuck on a stick as a sort of sacrificial offering to the "beast" on the island in chapter 8.  Simon sees this head, the Lord of the Flies, and he goes into one of his trances.  The statement refers to the fact that the head represents the evil inside of all people.  It is this evil which is the problem on the island and among the boys.  Golding believed in thiis idea of inherent evilness and he believed that it especially came out as one aged from child to adult.  The boys have to grow up very quickly on the island because there are no adults, so the evilness comes out in them more quickly than it would if they were in society and civilization. The "infinite cynicism of adult life" means that there is no end to the lack of belief in goodness; that adults know that people are not good and that they do not act without selfish motive.  The Lord of the Flies tries to poison Simon with this belief; that all adults think this way and that all people are bad.  Simon realizes though that knowing that there is an evilness inside of each person is the first step in preventing that evilness from coming out.  He sees that if they are aware of the presence of this natural tendency, they can stop the tendency and stop the beast.  This is why Simon had to die in the story.  The beast could not allow Simon to share this insight.  The beast laughs at Simon's naivete, which is also part of that cynicism referred to in the quote.

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