Theological Allusions in William Golding's Novel 'Lord of the Flies': Critical Essay

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William Golding was a British novelist, playwright, and poet, best acknowledged for his novel 'Lord of the Flies', which turned out to become a huge success mainstreaming globally. Golding made it one of his main focuses to tackle many themes in his novel. One of those themes is Christian allegories, in which he puts emphasis on the fact that certain characters and places bear deeper connotations behind them. In the novel 'Lord of the Flies', Golding initiates the use of biblical allusions to create parallels between certain characters and places, where we see the sow's head symbolizing the devil, Simon portraying the embodiment of Jesus Christ, and Jack being referred to as Lucifer.

The title of the novel itself includes an ecclesiastical reference symbolizing the devil. To begin in the Bible, the devil possesses multiple names, of which one is christened ‘Beelzebub’. This is a Hebrew name in which its translation in English is in fact ‘Lord of the Flyers’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’. Beelzebub is in charge of causing problematic situations such as jealousy, murder, separation, etc. “I bring destruction by means of tyrants… I bring about jealousies and murders in a country and I instigate wars” (Testament of Solomon 6: 1-4). Similar situations occur in the story after the boys chose to name the slain sow the ‘Lord of the Flies’ after finding it surrounded by multiple insects. Those situations include the murder of two important characters, Simon and Piggy, and the separation of the tribe because of pride and jealousy influenced by Jack toward the others. This has an effect on the characters of the story because it literally shows that there is an evil force among them throughout the whole story. The devil does things to cause annihilation and pain, this is what the beast/’Lord of the Flies’ does as well throughout the story, which exposes the parallel between the both of them. Secondly, like the devil, the beast confronts Simon, a symbol of Christ, during a period of meditation and tries to lure him to do things for his own benefit. At the end of the eighth chapter of the novel, Simon goes off to the forest to find a place for peaceful introspection when he is confronted by the sow's head, in other words, the ‘Lord of the Flies’. During his talk with the beast, the beast initiates the fact that Simon should forget about everything he knows is right and important and should lay back and have fun like the rest of the boys instead: “You’d better run off and play with the other”, “‘Come now’, said the Lord of the Flies. ‘Get back with the others and we’ll forget this whole thing’”, and “‘Or else’, said the Lord of the Flies, ‘we shall do you’” (Golding, 143-144). This situation is the equivalent of when Jesus had an encounter with the devil in the New Testament during his walk in the desert for forty days and forty nights. There the devil told Jesus to forget his responsibilities and not to kill himself for his people so he could live a long life of power and praise: “‘If you are the Son of God’, he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’’” (Matthew 4: 6-7). Both Simon and Jesus were tested and tempted by evil and overcame it because they both knew that listening to malevolent conditions where not the way to proceed. Lastly, the beast also brings out the worst within people. When it came to the well-being of the young boys, the beast used the fact that the boys were isolated from civilization and had no oriented support to help them with all the fear and doubt that they possessed. That quickly leads to most of the boys becoming savages, portraying uncivilized behavior and making really bad decisions, which include murder and abuse. Believing in something like the beast, or more say a false idol who was just a fragment of their imagination, made it easy for evil to form within them giving the beast a manipulator ideology in which he uses it to display a devilish persona. To conclude, Golding uses many allegorical illustrations to demonstrate the co-extending similarities between the beast and a religious figure.

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Simon was a character that portrayed peace and generosity between the boys. He was very insightful, brave, and expedient, which gave him a symbolic innuendo to Jesus Christ. First and foremost, Simon was desiring a helper by nature. He was always genuinely making sure that the other boys in his surroundings were getting what they needed and being treated fairly and made it his non-asking job to help the ones in need as also did Jesus Christ during his time. Examples of these are shown from the very beginning of the novel. In the second chapter of the book, Simon defends what's right and stands up for Piggy when the other boys were making a mockery out of him because of his spectacles, he then states that if it wasn't for Piggy’s specks, they wouldn't have any fire and that not all input is substantial: “We used his specs… he helped that way” (Golding, 42). This quote demonstrates how pure of heart and understanding Simon is, instead of making fun of his peer like the others, he decides to uplift him. Like Jesus, Simon had an instant connection with kids. In the Bible, Jesus is seen sharing food with young kids and caring for them. This sensible act is shown in the third chapter of the novel, when the Littluns were hungry and couldn't reach the fruits that were laid on the trees, so Simon decided to help them get them: “Then, amid the roar of bees in the afternoon sunlight, Simon found for [the Littluns] the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands” (Golding, 56). Loving and nurturing others are some of the assets which compare Simon to Christ. In addition, Simon’s capability to understand the thin line between evil and good shows how much he promptly knows about the true meaning behind certain things like the beast. Since the beginning, Simon tended to understand the situation of the beast in depth. He always knew and felt that the so-called beast was just the underlying darkness that roamed within all the boys. That is why he was so eager to tell the boys that they shouldn't be focusing on that, instead, they should be looking deeper within themselves: “As if it wasn’t a good island… As if...the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing was real. Remember?” (Golding, 52), “Maybe there is a beast… Maybe it’s only us” (Golding, 89). These quotes demonstrate therefore how Simon wants the boys to self-evaluate themselves because he knew that destruction was going to occur among the boys and the real enemies to face will be only themselves. Finally, the insight that Simon possess makes him prophesize his own downfall. Both Jesus and Simon die knowing that their departure from earth was coming to an end, trying to help the people that they loved change their ways. “You’ll get back to where you came from… You’ll get back all right. I think so, anyway” (Golding, 111), this quote reveals how Simon is saying that he isn't going to make it out while reassuring Ralph that he is going to go back home. By initiating the use of ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ in his statement, he is deliberately emphasizing that he’ll not be leaving with the rest. This Christian allegory referring to Simon highlights great importance to the readers.

Jack, a character full of mischief and hardheadedness, obtains allegorical associations with Lucifer. Ironically, Jack Merridew had musical talent and was capable to sing pretty well, looking at the fact that he was the leader of a choir before his departure on the island: “I’m a chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp” (Golding, 18). Lucifer was also a talented being, he too managed the choir up in Heaven and was known as the best singer in Heaven. Both were known as good leaders before turning on an impactful negative path. Secondly, Jack was jealous of somebody that was higher in power than him. In the novel, Jack was engorged with resentment and envy towards Ralph because he was the one chosen to be the leader of the tribe. Jack personally believed that being chief was not only because of intelligence but also because of strength which he believed that Ralph did not possess. As a result, Jack’s covetousness made him not want to follow anything Ralph had to say. “‘Shut up’, said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. ‘Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things’. ‘A chief! A chief!’. ‘I ought to be chief’, said Jack with simple arrogance, ‘because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp’”, “He’s like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn’t a proper chief” (Golding, Chapter 8). These quotes tackle the arrogance that Jack has, which foreshadows him becoming savage-like, luring others along his side. This has a biblical equivalent to when Lucifer wanted to surpass God because he felt like he was better than him and obtained so much hatred towards him, resulting in him becoming wicked in the passing. Jack like Lucifer ends up ruling their own kingdom in the end. Lastly, Merridew was very deceitful. Jack had a tendency to trick the other boys into doing things for his own benefit, an example of this is made when he convinces the hunters as well as Ralph to play vicious and abusive games with the sow and one of their peers. The temptation made Ralph go against everything he stood for, suddenly snapping out and remembering what was right. In addition, Jack is also deemed as deceiving because of the face paint and mask he wore, people no longer recognized who he really was: “He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger...and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness”. Golding uses apologies to make a contrast between two figures of opposite ends.

In conclusion, the initiation of theological allusions in the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ creates great importance in the fact that many emphasized details are pulled to refer to certain characters with their corresponding other. Understanding the deeper meaning behind certain surroundings gives the reader an open mind to understand the way of the writer's intention, making the story alluring. The idea that the sow’s head symbolizes the devil, that Simon is seen as Jesus Christ, and that Jack represents Lucifer gives an appealing touch to Golding's novel itself.

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Theological Allusions in William Golding’s Novel ‘Lord of the Flies’: Critical Essay. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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