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The Peculiarities Of Tone In Lord Of The Flies

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Tone can be defined as the general character or attitude of a place, a piece of writing, a situation, etc. In literature, tone is the foundation of everything created; without it, there would be no mood, theme, characterization, or anything else involved in the makeup of a story. In the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a group of boys are dropped on a tropical island during a time of war. With no adults left to guide them, the boys are forced to figure things out for themselves, some attempting to cling to what little civilization was left, while others had different and more disturbing things in mind. Even so, civilization crumbled and a primitive, dystopian world was born on the island.

Golding’s use of figurative language moves to create three distinct tones in the following scenes from the text: the hunting and killing of the sow, the interaction between Simon and the Lord of the Flies, and the tragic death of Piggy. First, Golding develops a very judgemental tone when describing the hunting and killing of the sow. This part of the novel commences when Jack splits off from the rest of the original group and creates a rather savage group of his own, his only goal being to hunt and kill for meat. The newly-established group ventures into the woods and pursues a sow, which they later on kill viciously and mercilessly, establishing a very malevolent mood. For instance, in chapter eight, Golding creates tone using figurative language when the text states that the “sow staggered her way ahead of them, bleeding and mad, and the hunters followed, wedded to her in lust, excited by the long chase and the dropped blood” (Golding 135). This quote from the text proves that the boys on the island are descending into savagery and becoming increasingly bloodthirsty.

The metaphor “wedded to her in lust” shows that they were consumed with a desire for the sow’s spilled blood and flesh, while the second part where it says that they were excited by the “dropped blood.” This proves that the boys were overcome with a thirst for hunting and killing; it marks the moment in which everything becomes primitively chaotic. The boys proceed to stab the dead sow’s head onto a stick to provide an offering to “the beast.” The text says that “the head remained there, dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood-blackening between the teeth” (Golding 137). The head, which becomes a very prominent figure in the book, is personified to move the scene into a more ominous tone. These two quotes are important because they set the tone and mood for the remainder of the chapter and shows how the boys on the island are becoming barbaric and inordinate. The hunting and killing of the sow sets a judgmental tone for the rest of the chapter, which goes on to contribute to other chapter as well. Second, Golding develops a grim and farcical tone when describing Simon’s interaction with the “Lord of the Flies.” This part of the novel begins when Simon stumbles upon the dead sow’s head impaled by a stick. Simon is dehydrated and begins to have hallucinations, thus creating the vivid, alarming visions in which the sow’s head becomes the “Lord of the Flies.” For instance, in chapter eight, the text states that the “Lord of the Flies” had “hung on his stick and grinned” (Golding 138). This depiction of the “Lord of the Flies” shows that the sow head was mocking Simon when it says “and grinned.” This is because a grin can be described as smug and knowing.

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The mockery hinted at in this quote brings forth the inner struggle that Simon faces and pokes at what he might face back home in England. The personification of the “Lord of the Flies” moves the tone into one of grimness. As the chapter continues, the “Lord of the Flies” says to Simon that it was “fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill” (Golding 143). This golden line sheds light on how “the beast” is found within rather than being a physical thing that you can conquer. This is important because it progresses the idea that the boys are becoming less and less civilized as the novel continues, and that the nature of evil resides within mankind itself. Together, these two quotes shows how important Simon and the “Lord of the Flies” are in progressing tone because there is many forms of figurative language used. The interaction between Simon and the “Lord of the Flies” sets a grim tone that leads to many other things in the book, including Simon’s death. Without Simon there to keep the peace, civilization deteriorated and led to the death of yet another character.

Finally, Golding develops a solemn, tragic tone when describing the death of Piggy. This scene begins when conflicts rise between the two opposing groups. Piggy attempts to use reasoning to persuade the savages, which then ultimately leads to his downfall when Roger gets sick of his words and sends a boulder spiraling towards him. For example, in chapter eleven near the end of the novel, the “sound of hatred beat at them, an incantation of hatred” (Golding 180). Here, the hatred is personified to make the emotion that is felt stronger. This is where the action and suspense begins to truly build, foreshadowing what comes later on in the chapter. The “monstrous red thing” bounded towards them until it “struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist” (Golding 181). This is one of the most critical moments in the book because it marks the point where all civilization and morality ceases to exist. When Piggy is knocked back and falls forty feet to his death, a sense of morality and maturity is lost also.

All ties to the civilized, other world are lost, and it adds to the solemn tone and the shocked mood. The death of Piggy and the tone created from it serves as a motivating factor for the remainder of the novel. His final moments set a tragic and solemn tone for the rest of the novel, driving a wedge even further between the two sides. In conclusion, Golding creates a macabre, farcical, and solemn tone in the scenes where the hunting and killing of the sow occurs, where the interaction between Simon and the Lord of the Flies takes place, and where Piggy is struck down off of a cliff by Roger and dies. In chapter eight, the establishment of tone in the selected scenes begins when the hunting and the killing of the sow commences, setting a judgemental tone. As the chapter advances, the interaction between Simon and the “Lord of the Flies” is introduced, moving the tone into one of grimness and farcicality. The selected scenes end in chapter eleven when Piggy dies and the conch shatters, ending off on a very solemn tone and disbelieving tone. Golding’s use of figurative language develops tones that are crucial to progressing the story further. It is the tones that Golding uses that develops theme, mood, and characterization. It helps develop the idea that the evil comes from within rather than from a physical object, and that everyone has a beast residing within them; even you.

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The Peculiarities Of Tone In Lord Of The Flies. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“The Peculiarities Of Tone In Lord Of The Flies.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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