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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Which chapter titles in Lord of the Flies by William Golding are symbolic?

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Several chapter titles in Lord of the Flies can be taken literally as well as figuratively. Chapter 2, "Fire on the Mountain," refers to the first fire the boys build, but it can also refer symbolically to the raging, out-of-control behavior and emotions of the boys. The boys go crazy trying to build a fire and end up building one that is bigger than they can control, foreshadowing the continuing loss of civilization among the boys and the fully destructive fire at the end. The fire also causes Piggy to go into a fiery rant toward the boys and toward Ralph

Chapters 5 and 6, "Beast from Water" and "Beast from Air," are symbolic of two types of beasts that will destroy the boys and their society. The beast from water represents the fear the boys have. They focus that fear on an imagined beastie that might come onto the island from the ocean, but their fear itself becomes an unmanageable thing that leads to most of the boys abandoning reason in favor of a strongman who promises to protect them. The beast from air represents violence; the dead parachutist is a result of the war raging in the larger world—a direct parallel to the war on the island. Just as the adults in the outside world are in the process of destroying their society through violence, so the boys will destroy their society through violence.

Chapter 9, "A View to a Death," has several meanings, at least one of which is symbolic. In this chapter, Simon climbs the mountain to discover the truth about the beast and views the dead parachutist. As disgusting as this discovery is, it's good news because it is "harmless and horrible," and Simon wants to share the truth with the others as soon as possible. However, he gets killed in the act of trying to deliver the good news, and this "view" of his death is symbolic because Simon is portrayed as a Christ figure. Despite his innocence, he is killed by his own people, the result of a mob who "know not what they do." The final view of Simon's death, the glorification of his body as it washes out to sea, completes the symbolism of Simon as a Christ figure.

The chapter titles in the novel reflect its symbolism in some cases, especially the titles for chapters 2, 5, 6, and 9. 

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Chapter Eight, "Gift for the Darkness," is the most symbolic chapter title in Lord of the Flies.  "Gift for the Darkness is imbued with double-meaning and represents one of the larger themes for the entire novel, man's own potential for evil.

 In this chapter, the hunters realize their potential for cruelty and destruction as they kill their first sow, and Jack leaves the head on a stick as a 'gift' or offering to the beast.  That moment is the literal "gift for the darkness, but Simon also speaks to the Lord of the Flies who assures Simon that "I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are? 143)  Simon discovers that the beast on the island is the potential for evil in each of the boys, their own "gift for the darkness."


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