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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How do natural images and descriptions impact the narration in Lord of the Flies?

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In William Golding's Lord of the Flies,many of the natural objects and their descriptions are symbolic of more meaningful objects or ideas.  Of course, the island appears to Ralph at first as a Garden of Eden noticeably minus the temptation of Eve.  That he strips off his clothes immediately indicates his feeling of purity as he gazes at the white surf that "flinked on a coral reef," the dark blue open sea, the sandy beach with palm trees that together "drew to a point at infinity.  Yet, amidst this openness and beauty there lurks the creepers that cover the island.  And, there is "the darkness of the forest proper and the open space of the scar."  As the boys learn, evil is present on the island.

And, then, there are the rocks, those "objects of preposterous time."  The pink granite makes a great platform that "thrust up uncompromisingly through forest. It poses an obstacle to climbing, representing the ages.  While little Henry plays with the small crustacea on the beach, some of the oldest forms of life, Roger throws stones, also an ancient symbol, all around him. Later in the narrative, Piggy, with his pink flesh is dashed against the rocks and his head smashed, and it is the innately sadistic Roger who commits the act.

Of course, the fire represents the boys' rescue.  But, it also is symbolic of power.  Like the mythological Prometheus who steals fire from the gods and gives it to man, Jack and the hunters steal the fire on the island as they gain more control, for who holds the fire, has power. After losing the fire to the hunters, however, the other boys are so excited about moving the fire to the beach that they work as though in a frenzy.  This descriptive scene indicates their need for safety.

The descriptions of the boys' mock pig hunt is one that is pivotal to the narration.  For, with its screams and beatings, it is a prelude to the real hunt of Piggy and Ralph, a telling description of the inherent evil in the boys.  And, of course, the scene in which Simon slips away and encounters the Lord of the Flies is central to the novel's meaning.  Simon stumbles through the undergrowth and creepers until he comes to an open spot. "He knelt down and the arrow of the sun fell on him."  When he happens upon the pig's head, it assures him "that everything was bad business."

Clearly, the images that are often symbolic and the descriptions that many times foreshadow more serious future events are meaningful forces for furthering Golding's narrative.

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In many ways, it is the island itself and Golding's description of it that drives many of the narrative events of the novel.  From the description of the place where the water rushes in and cleans things out where the little boys are supposed to relieve themselves to the darkened and cramped spaces of the thick jungle that bring out the fear in Ralph, much of the plot is driven by the actual structure of the island.

The other way in which the descriptions tend to influence the narration is in their intensity.  Simon's vision while he is in the hot and fetid circle in the jungle is made far more potent and in some ways sinister by the overwhelming sense created in the reader by the description of the place where he has his vision.

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