Literary Analysis: 'Lord of the Flies' Metaphor

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Lord of the Flies written by William Golding is a novel that tells a story about a group of English school boys who find themselves stranded on an island without any adult supervision. From the start, it is quite evident that there are some distinct personality differences between the boys on the island. Because of this, the batch of boys experience different challenges whilst they are stranded on the island which results in numerous conflicts betwixt the boys. Eventually, there is a split in the group and the conflict progresses. It is clear that Golding intends the island and its human inhabitants to serve as a microcosm for the world and mankind. Through a fascinating series of motifs, descriptions, metaphors, and symbols, Golding communicates to the reader a series of theories regarding human nature.

Throughout the novel, Golding uses a series of symbols and metaphors to explain its theories. One of the most civilized characters in the book, Piggy, wears glasses. In addition to being the boy's only means of starting a fire, the glasses have come to represent civilization and the apparent weakness of those who live in it. Ultimately, the glasses, like the boys’ attempts at civilization are shattered. Another object which makes numerous appearances is the conch shell. At the beginning of the novel it is used call the boys together by Ralph and later serves as a means of regulating the boy's assemblies. It, like piggy’s glasses, comes to represent civilization. It is also of note that the conch, a typically fragile shell ends up smashed into thousands of pieces. Where the conch shell and glasses represent civilization, the signal fire which the boys light in the hope of rescue represents the desire to return to it. As the book goes on, the boys become increasingly uncivilized and they begin to neglect the signal fire preferring instead to hunt. By the end of the book, the signal fire is all but abandoned. It is however of note that in the last scene of the book the boy's own savagery and thirst for cruelty leads them to light the entire island on fire, ultimately it is this fire that gets them rescued and returned to civilization. Just as the water cools fastest when it is boiling, the boys are able to return to their civilized state only once they have succumbed to their own savagery. Perhaps the most important symbol of all is the lord of the flies himself, physically the lord of the flies is a pig’s head covered in insects. Metaphorically, the lord of the flies is the embodiment of all society’s evil, an entity capable of evoking the savagery within every individual. It is no mere coincidence that the Hebrew equivalent of the word devil, Beelzebub, translates fairly accurately too, lord of the flies. There are numerous other symbols in the book, the meaning of which vary from reader to reader.

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There are several theories about human nature that Golding portrays through motifs, descriptions, metaphors, and symbols. Through symbols, we can uncover more about the story. Readers understand the symbols in different ways and make their own conclusions about their meaning and what they represent. This always sparks debate and allows people to express their different opinions. Henceforth, making the book even better.

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Literary Analysis: ‘Lord of the Flies’ Metaphor. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
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