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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Why is Golding's use of the word beast to describe Simon's body in Lord of the Flies significant?

Quick answer:

It is significant that Golding uses the word beast to describe Simon's dead body on the sand because the term indicates the boys' inability to recognize goodness when it lies before them. Instead, they have succumbed to their evil desires, which Simon had warned them about.

Expert Answers

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Simon is often recognized as a Christ-like character; his intentions are focused on helping others, and he has a deep understanding of the inherent evil in humanity that the other boys never attain. When he finds the dead paratrooper, he rushes toward the group to share this new knowledge with them, undoubtedly hoping that the truth will quell their panic about a nonexistent "beast" that roams the island.

At the same time, the rest of the group gathers to perform their ritual dance, chanting, "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" Simon emerges from the forest just as the group reaches a climactic frenzy, and they believe that the approaching figure is the beast itself. The group immediately attacks Simon and violently beats him to death.

In this section, the boys only see a "beast" in their midst, not their friend Simon who has faithfully aided them in any way he possibly could. Even when they have killed him, the boys fail to see the truth:

Even in the rain they could see how small a beast it was; and already its blood was staining the sand.

Simon understands early in the novel that the "beast" they seek isn't a tangible creature; instead, they are fighting against the evil within themselves. When the boys look at Simon's dead body and only see a "beast," it reflects their inability to perceive the truth. This moment reflects a new sense of hopelessness, as the evil within the boys has blinded them to reality and has led them to engage in horrific actions without any remorse. They see goodness as a "beast" that must be eliminated, indicating that they have lost all sense of morality and virtue.

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