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 do the "little'uns" symbolize in Lord of the Flies?

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The little'uns in Lord of the Flies symbolize the helpless members of a society.

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Readers often like to make symbolic significance out of characters, but even William Golding stated that the characters in Lord of the Flies are symbolic. The "little'uns" are no exception. While the little'uns might not be a single character, they are no less symbolic.

One thing to keep in mind about symbolism is the reader. Symbolism is inherently subjective, and different readers could interpret the little'un symbolism differently. With that said, it is fairly common for readers to agree on the notion that the little'uns symbolically represent the helpless and/or weak members of a society.

Weak and under served members of society are often treated as a nameless and faceless group. While Golding doesn't leave every little'un without a name, the text does frequently group all of the young kids together. They are basically a nameless and faceless group. Their young age, when compared to the rest of the group, means that they are treated as ignorant, naïve, and/or innocent. They are even treated as pawns to be controlled by Jack and Ralph. Their leadership depends on followers, and having more pawns/little'uns supporting one side is advantageous. In the grand scheme of things, the little'uns hold zero power. They are only beneficial in numbers, and a loss of one or two isn't something to be overly worried about, and that is exactly how many chess players use their pawns. The little'uns symbolize the weaker and more helpless members of a society who are frequently used and thrown away by the more powerful social and political leaders like Ralph and Jack.

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What do the littl'uns represent in Golding's Lord of the Flies?

Much like the Roman mob in Shakespeare's tragic play, Julius Caesar, the littl'uns are led by whoever has the most persuasive techniques.  While the Romans are first swayed by the reasonable arguments of Brutus, and shout their approval of him, Marc Antony engages them with his funeral oration in which he employs rhetorical language, employing visual effects such as the bloody stab wounds in Caesar; he persuades the mob that Caesar loved them enough that he bequeathed money to them,.  In fact, the Roman citizenry are so incited by Marc Antony that they riot in the streets.

Similarly, at first the littl'uns are respectufl to Ralph and Piggy sho appeal to their reason by explaining that shelters and fire must be maintained.  However, when Percival relates his dream and sighting of the "beast," and their fears are aroused, along with their hunger, Jack--like Marc Antony--appeals to their stomachs and their emotional needs, telling the small boys that he can kill the beast if there is one just as he and the hunters kill the pig, providing them food.  Thus, the littl'uns are persuaded to join Jack and the hunters since man's primal needs must always first be satiated.  And, when brute force is added to the equation, there is only one response for the littl'uns:  savagery.

By their being persuaded and manipulated by the older boys, the littl'uns represent the "herd" that is often much of mankind.  They are the common, uneducated, and deprived who follow the stronger leader--humanity at its base level.  As such, they provide the voting power for the leaders who are cognizant of their immature and underdeveloped reasoning ability. 

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