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How Golding Uses Symbols in Lord of the Flies.

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Introduction

How Golding Uses Symbols in Lord of the Flies William Golding's book, Lord of the Flies (published in 1954) tells the story of a group of boys, who are stranded on an unknown island, when their plane crashes. On the surface, it is an interesting story of how the civilised English boys, during their time on the island, gradually lose their veneer of respectability and "decent" behaviour and devolve to the basest and barest form of humanity. Eventually, the boys almost entirely shake off the civilisation of the world they once knew. If we scratch beneath that surface, what we find is a much more complicated observation of society, laden with corporeal, philosophical and religious symbols. Indeed, the superb use of symbolism in the book is one of the contributing factors to the profundity of the book. The symbols that stand out the most are the conch; the gradual destruction of the island; Piggy's spectacles; fire, and how it is used; and the beast, or the Lord of the Flies (another name given to the Devil), the crucial symbol, used throughout the book. All of these will be looked at into more detail, and, also, whether the beast is real or a physical manifestation of the boys' fears, as well as the key comment that it is the evil which resides within man, will also be discussed. First, is the conch. This is the shell, which is discovered by Ralph and Piggy, and is used to represent power, authority and rules. From the very first time it is mentioned, Golding describes it as: "pretty and a worthy plaything". It is, like everything else on the island, a simple and innocent object: and immediately afterwards, it becomes something so precious, due to its apparent beauty. Also, in the beginning, it is a mere utility: Piggy suggests that, when blown, it would be able to "call" the other boys, scattered around the area of the crash, to have a meeting. ...read more.

Middle

Their excitement overpowers their sense of reality, and the fact that they are alone, without any parents or adults, which piggy reminds them of. But in chapter two, only just after Jack, Ralph and Simon have surveyed the island, and told everyone else how big and beautiful it is, their enthusiasm leads them to make an irreparable mistake. In an attempt to make some sort of signal to the outside world, they start a fire, which subsequently ends up scorching a large chunk of the island's vegetation. This clearly symbolises man's effect on the natural world, and how selfish and inconsiderate we have been, in furthering our own society. The excitement and vigour with which the boys readily execute the fire also comments on this: - "'A fire! Make a fire!' At once half the boys were on their feet." Just like the young and carefree boys, man has created and used industry and technology to advance his own civilization, without the slightest thought for anything else. Already the intrinsic beauty of the island has been permanently tarnished twice. Piggy says, sarcastically, when commenting on the fire: - "You got your small fire all right." This theme of the gradual destruction of the island is continued throughout the rest of the book, which charts, in a way, the time and scale of man's destruction of the Earth. In chapter Six, the mother pig is brutally murdered, meaning that, now, although there will be plenty of meat, there won't be any new pigs to hunt, when they are all hunted down. And, of course, it all comes to an end, when the fire courses through the island, at the end, in chapter Twelve, finally completely obliterating anything natural, or pure, about the island. "[Ralph] heard a curious trickling sound...as if someone were unwrapping great sheets of cellophane...Smoke was seeping through the branches in white and yellow wisps...and then the smoke billowed around him." ...read more.

Conclusion

'Do our dance! Come on! Dance!' ...A circling movement developed and a chant...the littluns ran and jumped...Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society...The movement...began to beat like a steady pulse...There was the throb and stamp of a single organism." The way that Golding describes it, conjures up the image of the boys transforming, literally, into the very same beast that they are all afraid of. The pace and the language of the words give off a feeling of great tension, signified by the coming storm in the scene. Also, the boys are described as a "single organism". Due to the nature the story, Golding deliberately dehumanises the boys, and turns them into a mob, to comment on humanity as it acts in a very closed society. When one looks into human history, it is evident that in any one group, as factions, we have done terrible things to each other and to our environment. Simon's death, included here, is probably the most lucid example of how destructive human beings are en masse. The final, and most distinctive, symbol to be discussed is that of the beast. This is the most profound icon used by Golding to convey his overall message of the evils within man, and his pessimism towards human nature. The beast is first introduced by one of the littleuns in chapter Two, after Ralph and Jack have explained their situation to the other boys. " 'He wants to know what you're going to do about the snake-thing.'...'Now he says it was a beastie'" The idea that the beast is a "snake-thing" links in with the idea of the Original Sin: the Devil taking the shape of a serpent (snake) to tempt Eve, the "mother" of humanity, into wrongdoing. As looked at in discussion of the conch, the island, and the fire, we already know that things go wrong on the island, and that Golding attributes this to human nature. The beast, and this idea of it being inescapable represents this. ...read more.

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