Lord of the Flies Critical Analysis

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Lord of the Flies Critical Analysis


        Lord of the Flies is an important title for the novel because it is one of the most important symbols in the novel.  The Lord of the Flies, or the pig's head, is symbolic because it embodies the savagery that is the result of Jack's corruption and lust for blood.  As Simon attempts to talk with it, he hears voices in his head of the pig saying there's no way to escape: “This is ridiculous. You know perfectly well you'll only meet me down there—so don't try to escape!”  The author puts this line in the novel because like most the other boys in the society, he would soon submit to the savagery that now overwhelmed Ralph's and Piggy's true leadership.  

Author: William Golding

First Publication Date: 1954


        Jack is the power-hungry boy who is absorbed in his self-pride.  He establishes himself as the head of the choir, holding a respectable place of leadership amongst them.  However, he is not chosen for chief because he is not thought of as interesting amongst the littler kids.  He is outraged at the election of Ralph as leader, but submits to a position of semi-leadership over the hunters of the group.  On his first expedition up the mountain, he, Ralph and Simon come across a pig stuck in an entanglement of vines.  Jack hesitates to kill it, which signifies his ongoing attachment to sanity and to the composure of decency.  However, this hesitancy is short-lived as he gains his own egomaniac ideas about killing and hunting.  He becomes bloodthirsty, basing his own principles on gathering meat with his hunters.  His position of power shifts gradually throughout the book.  As he gains more success in hunting and as he assumes a more savage role, he gains much more influence over the other boys in the group, whom he eventually aggregates to his own tribe.  The source of his power is not necessarily that he obtains food for the boys, but because he is able to manipulate life, to kill the pig and thereby bringing calm to the fears of a beast that the boys say exists in the forest.  

        Ralph is a smart and logical leader.  He and Jack are strong foils of each other because of the contrasting views each have in how they should run the society in which they live.  Ralph wisely attempts to prioritize their rescue by constantly promoting the idea of a fire on the top of the mountain.  He is elected the chief of the boys and is resisted by Jack.  As a ship passes by the island, Ralph is enthusiastic but is infuriated when he finds out that it is because of Jack's selfishness that the fire on the mountain was not lit.  When things get into sway, Ralph makes the suggestion of building shelter, which he prioritizes over hunting.  Jack in his lust for blood, disregards this and heads off to hunt.  Ralph, along with one or two other boys helps to build shelters, while most the other children play.  This shows that Ralph has dedication to his goals and shows qualities of a good role model and a strong leader but doesn’t have enough support from the other boys to maintain a proper hold on the boys.  The major issue Ralph struggles with is control over the boys of the group.  Although his methods are strong, reliable, and practical, most the other boys eventually decide to stick with Jack because he eases their fears of the beast, and gives them a false sense of security over no particular danger in the forest.  Ralph in this way is stranded, which symbolizes the diminishing role of sanity and civility in the society the boys create.

        Piggy is one of the first characters introduced in the book.  He is segregated from the group because of his inability to perform physical tasks and because of his obesity.  He is clearly the most intellectual of the group.  When everybody decides to scramble up to the top of the mountain to build the fire, Piggy is the only one who realizes that there is a child that is missing from the group.  Piggy represents the oppressed and the ignored.  Jack despises him mostly because he is absorbed in himself and also because Piggy is different from the rest of the group.  


        The novel is set in some remote island near Europe sometime during World War II.  This is important because it increases the tension created by the savagery of the characters in the society they create.  Golding is trying to comment on the fallacy in society and the contrast between civility and savagery.  Because they are on a remote island, the boys are very desperate to escape, which brings forward primitive characteristics in some of the boys, namely Jack.  Ralph and Piggy, in the end, seem to be the only two characters who are still set on maximizing their chances of rescue, while Jack cares more about power and of survival.  

        The location of the fire is also an important factor in the setting of the novel.  In the beginning, the boys place the fire on top of the mountain, so to maximize the chances of being discovered.  However, fears arise as time passes which causes delusion as the younger boys believe that there is a beast in the forest.  When Roger, Jack, and Ralph go up to the mountain to check if a beast existed, their primitive instincts caught hold of them which caused them to make assumptions about false things.  This effectively ends the earlier ideas of a possible fire on the top of the mountain.  After Jack separates from the group, Ralph, Piggy and the twins attempt to make a fire on the beach so they could be found, but Jack ruins this idea, stealing Piggy's glasses so that they can create a fire of their own, for food.

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Plot Structure and Narrative Techniques:

        Golding uses a very distinct structure in how he accounts for each of the events that occur.  In the novel, he breaks up each of the twelve chapters into the twelve most distinct changes in the nature of the society.  In the first chapter, for example, the society is first created and order exists.  Ralph is chief, and although Jack is jealous of his power, he is content with having a position of leadership over the hunters. In the second and third chapters, Golding presents two examples in which the boys take on a ...

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