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The Dreadful Consequences Of Fear In Lord Of Flies

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In Lord of the Flies, fear is inevitable; a foreign space, with a lack of authority, and no means of escape is indeed frightening. As time progresses, William Golding illustrates the fatal flaws of humanity as the boys on the island slowly abandon their moral constraints and revert back to a savage-like nature. Golding demonstrates the overarching theme that savagery is an intrinsic component within every human being, by suggesting that fear and its derived consequences are the source of all evil. This novel depicts fear and paranoia as driving forces in Lord of the Flies by connecting the island’s bleak symbolism to Ralph’s fear of insanity, Jack’s fear of failure, and Simon’s inherent lack of fear that leads to his tragic demise.

Lord of the Flies portrays a pessimistic outlook on society, by depicting the symbolism on the island in a cynical gaze throughout the novel’s entirety. In the very first page of the book a “witch-like cry” (Golding, 1) is referenced from a bird flying overhead, foreshadowing the danger and unease the island truly exemplifies. A similar idea is referenced when taking a look at the scattered images of decay throughout the chapters, beginning from fallen tree trunks to rotting pig heads. These symbols serve as permanent reminders that the island is a truly dangerous place, warning readers that the worst is yet to come. However, these warnings get overlooked, as Ralph takes on an almost delusional perspective, at the start of the novel. He is thrilled by the idea of an island devoid of rules or societal vexations. He provides an optimistic view on the boys’ chance of survival, as well as the certainty of their rescue. Piggy attempts to warn Ralph by stressing that “Nobody knows where [they] are,” (Golding, 9) Ralph immediately brushes this off, as simply an irrational thought. Ralph cannot get himself to accept the truth just yet. However, as time passes, it becomes evident that the boys’ time on the island is seemingly indefinite and their individual fears begin to brew. Ralph becomes terrified by the idea of never being able to get off of the island. He soon becomes obsessed with tending to the group’s signal fire, believing this is the only way the children will be rescued from the island. The other boys however begin to lose interest in these remedial tasks, such as tending to ‘silly’ fires or building shelters, all of which Ralph deems as priorities on the island. Jack is then put on signal fire duty by Ralph but decides to leave to join the hunter’s in a new pursuit. Ralph is furious when he finds out Jack left the fire unattended, just as a ship passes by the island for the first time, ruining the only chance at signaling those on board. A conflict arises between the two as Ralph screams, ‘You and your blood, Jack Merridew! You and your hunting! We might have gone home’ (Golding 74). Ralph’s main fear goes unnoticed because Ralph, unlike Jack, does not want to spend the rest of his life on the island fighting to survive and just wants to go home. This argument ultimately divides the island in two, forcing the boys to choose sides, remain with Ralph and (his remedial tasks) keep their humanity or go with Jack and (hunt but) regress further into savagery. Eventually, Jack gains the majority of support. Towards the end of the book Jack becomes progressively more despotic, as he leads the group into the brutal, animalistic murder of Simon. This further develops Ralph’s fear of never getting off the island, into a fear of insanity, as everyone around him experiences a loss of humanity, civilization, and morality. Ralph becomes aware that the boys are capable of inconceivable horrors when acting together and without reason. He cries out to Piggy that “[he’s] afraid. Of us. I [just] want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home” (Golding, 174). Ralph’s innocence is shattered by the undeniable horrors fear breeds, and now he will die by the hands of a savage he once called a fellow schoolboy. That is until the boys’ rescue, at last, the illusion of the island finally collapses, and Ralph cries for ‘the darkness of man’s heart’ (Golding, 225), vividly describing the feelings of shame and confusion he feels, by finally understanding the capabilities of fear’s influence on evil.

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Jack is a character that is heavily motivated by fear. He uses his fear of failure as a driving point to fuel the actions and decisions he makes. At the start of the novel, Jack attempts to murder a pig, as a way to gain approval from the other boys, by being the first to bring meat to the group. He fails at first. It is a difficult thing to lose your humanity after years of societal conditioning, being the one to take away a life remains a difficult task. It is not until Chapter 4, that Jack decides that his failure lies in his appearance. He uses dirt as a means of painting his face to form a mask, to shield himself from his own humanity. Jack revels in his newfound power, suddenly feeling “liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (Golding, 64). This liberation allows him to finally slaughter the pig, no longer feeling restricted by. Jack grows more confident, he begins to threaten Ralph’s authority, by mocking his fears. Eventually the boys’ fears on the island grow and incapsulate themselves into one figure, a beast. Jack takes advantage of the boy’s fears and uses it as a tool to gain authority. He does this by guaranteeing them protection, by vowing to slaughter the beast. Jack’s claim for leadership is justified through his promises to hunt down and slaughter the imaginary beast on the island. The others feed into his promises and begin to disassociate themselves with Ralph, despite Ralph’s real efforts to aid the group. Without a beast, Jack becomes more or less useless, so he continues to play into the beast’s narrative. Towards the end of the novel, Jack is completely in charge, no longer sharing his authority with Ralph. Despite Ralph’s powerlessness, Jack still views him as a threat. Ralph representing a link to civilization; a prior ideology that is now in opposition to his own. He is so afraid of being undermined by his followers that he becomes adamant on murdering Ralph; the only thing he views as a threat to his success on the island. (hate for what Ralph represents)

Simon is the dark horse of the novel, he is seen as a Christ-like figure who represents kindness, innate goodness, and self-sacrifice. He is the only boy on the island, that is inherently unafraid of his surroundings or the imaginary “beast”. Throughout the novel, Simon is shown distanced from the inherent power-struggle the other characters face, despite being the wisest of them all. In many of the boys’ imaginations, the beast remains a tangible source of fear on the island. However, what Simon knows, and the rest have yet to discover, is that there is actually no beast. Simon attempts to warn the group by taking ahold of the conch and timidly stating, ‘Maybe it’s only us’ (Golding, 96) when attempting to reference the inexistence of the beast. Nevertheless, the boys laugh at his hypothesis, it is easier to fear the beast than it is to face the reality that the boys are actually afraid of each other. Rather than viewing the beast as an external threat like the others, Simon understands that each person possesses an unbelievable capacity for evil, inherent to mankind’s essential illness. Simon is proven correct through his face to face conversation with the Lord of the Flies, who tells him ‘Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?’ (Golding, 111). This rotting pig head Simon is speaking to symbolizes the savagery on the island, considering the slaughter and presentation of the pig head perched on a stick was meant as a primality offering to give to the “beast’. However, Simon’s discovery of the truth leads to his ruthless murder, as the boys’ irrational fear of the “beast” causes them to mistake Simon as a threat. A direct parallel between him and Jesus is apparent, as both figures sacrifice themselves in attempts to save the others from danger. Simon’s death ultimately ends all hope of sanity and civility being restored in the boys.

Overall, Lord of the Flies depicts the idea that fear is a direct result of man’s inherent capacity for evil. Throughout the novel, Golding demonstrates the underlying theme that depicts fear and paranoia as driving forces in Lord of the Flies by associating the island’s grim symbolism to Ralph’s fear of insanity, Jack’s fear of inadequacy, and Simon’s innate lack of fear that leads to his untimely death. Human nature when associated with fear and power has proven itself to lead to dangerous outcomes.

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The Dreadful Consequences Of Fear In Lord Of Flies. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
“The Dreadful Consequences Of Fear In Lord Of Flies.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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