Symbolism In Lord Of The Flies By William Golding

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What does symbolism add to the literature? Symbolism is a literary device used to express something in an indirect way. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is an example of literature that uses symbolism frequently. Lord of the Flies narrates the story of a group of boys that are stranded on an island, and what happens to them during the time spent there. Throughout the novel, Golding uses symbolism through his characters as a way to express notions in an indirect way. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, different abstract ideas are presented through the symbolic characters of Ralph, Jack, and Simon.

The novel’s protagonist, Ralph, is utilized to symbolize the human qualities of civilization. First off, once arriving on the island, Ralph establishes rules for speaking. As all the boys are gathered together; talking over each other, Ralph mentions, “ We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school”. Ralph’s establishment of rules, when it comes to speaking, introduces his commitment to maintaining civilization on the island. Later on, Ralph complains about the lack of shelters being built. As Jack returns from the forest, he meets with Ralph who is upset with the other boys, expressing, “‘All day I’ve been working with Simon. No one else. They’re off bathing or eating or playing’. Although Ralph is upset with the lack of help, his determination to build the shelters further expresses his desire for civilization. Finally, Ralph is consistently vocal about the importance of maintaining a fire. While the boys are gathered together at a meeting, Ralph frantically explains, “‘The fire is the most important thing on the island’. Ralph holds the fire at high importance, which keeps him tied to civilization when the rest of the boys begin to stray into savagery. In conclusion, the human quality of civility is expressed through the symbolic character Ralph.

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The novel’s antagonist, Jack, is utilized to symbolize the human trait of savagery. First off, Jack has a growing obsession with hunting a pig. While Jack and Ralph are conversating, Ralph mentions the importance of being recused and Jack, “had to think for a moment before he could remember what rescue was” before expressing, “‘Rescue? Yes, of course! All the same, I’d like to catch a pig first-’. Jack’s growing obsession with hunting a pig clouds his judgment and begins to stray him farther from civilization, and closer to savagery. Secondly, Jack masks himself by using face paint while hunting. As the hunters are preparing to hunt, Jack covers his face in clay and as he looks at his reflection, “He looked in astonishment, no longer himself, but an awesome stranger”. Jack’s use of face paint removes him from his personal identity and emotions, allowing him to become the savage needed to hunt. Finally, as Jack and his tribe are seeking out Ralph, Jack decides to burn down the island. “They had smoked him out and set the island on fire” concludes Ralph, as he questions the smoke forming as he flees from the boys. Jack’s rash decision to set fire to the island indicates his full submission into savagery. In conclusion, Jack is a symbolic character that is used to present the human quality of savagery.

The novel’s character, Simon, is utilized to symbolize the human trait of natural goodness. To begin with, Simon has a deep connection and appreciation for nature. While the other boys assumed Simon fell asleep, he had really gone on his own into the forest where he “squatted down the leaves and looked out into the clearing”, admiring the beauty of nature. Simon’s appreciation for nature exudes his natural goodness, as his actions are completely different from the other boys. Secondly, Simon’s treatment of the littluns of the group reflects natural goodness. As Simon is wandering the island, a group of littluns follows him towards the fruit trees, from there he “found for them the fruit they could not reach . . . and passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands”. Simon’s treatment towards the littluns contrasts with the other boys, he is kind and patient which reflects his natural goodness. Finally, Simon is the only one that recognizes that the ‘beast’ is within the boys. As the boys are discussing the ‘beast’ rumour is true, Simon confesses, “‘Maybe there is a beast’. ‘What I mean is...maybe it’s only us’. While fear and savagery cloud the rest of the boy’s judgments, Simon’s natural goodness allows him to recognize the darkness within the group. In short, Simon’s characterization is utilized to symbolize the human trait of natural goodness.

In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, different abstract ideas are presented through the symbolic characters of Ralph, Jack, and Simon. The human qualities of civilization, savagery, and natural goodness are symbolized through Golding’s writing, which gives a different perspective on these abstract concepts. However, through this symbolism, Golding carries a greater implication. Golding seeks to express, through these symbolic characters, that some human qualities are easier to possess than others. Therefore, Lord of the Flies presents the question, is it easier to abandon your morals or maintain them?

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Symbolism In Lord Of The Flies By William Golding. (2021, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
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