British Literature

Literary Analysis Symbolism in Lord of the Flies by William Golding



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Where does human evil come from? What is the source of evil, and why does it emerge? The theme of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies provides one possible answer to this question; theme is an insight about life that is revealed in a literary work. The main theme of Lord of the Flies is that a lot of evil in the world comes not from a few leaders who lead many others astray; it comes from within almost every human, from people acting on their desires to dominate, to hurt, and to destroy weaker things. The actions of the characters Roger, Ralph, Little Henry, and Simon clearly illustrate this main theme of Lord of the Flies.

There is much evil in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, and much of it is seen in Roger. Roger is a cruel beast who takes sadistic pleasure in the pain and torment of others. He exercises a fabricated, dominating authority over whomever he can. Golding clearly reveals this through his description of the way Roger approaches the captive Sam and Eric: "Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority" (182). Roger embodies evil and Golding characterizes him as a classic villain. He acts on his evil and rarely, if ever, does good.

Some characters like Roger portray evil in a clear, easy to see manner; however, with other characters the evil is more difficult to discern. Ralph, who is seen as the protagonist in Lord of the Flies, is also capable of evil. One incident occurs during the hunt where Ralph maims the sow: "Ralph talked on, excitedly. I hit him all right. The spear stuck in. I wounded him!' " (Golding 113). This is one clear example of Ralph taking pleasure in dominating and hurting weaker things. Ralph is the embodiment of a hero, but, like any hero, he has his imperfections. While usually acting on the morally right ideas, he, too, acts on evil.

While Ralph and Roger both illustrate older, mature boys acting on evil, in Lord of the Flies, there are examples of the young acting on evil. Little Henry is only a child, yet he can clearly be seen enjoying his ability to dominate over weaker things. Golding writes:

"He poked about with a bit of stick . . . and tried to control the motions of the scavengers. He made little runnels that the tide filled and tried to crowd them with creatures. He became absorbed beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things. He talked to them, urging them, ordering them. Driven back by the tide, his footprints became bays in which they were trapped and gave him the illusion of mastery." (Golding 61)

While Little Henry is only a small, weak child with little power, he still uses the little power that he has to dominate over something weaker then him. Little Henry is the embodiment of a child; even as an innocent young boy, he still has the craving and lust to dominate, to hurt, and to destroy.

These three characters would show that inside every human there is a beast: a willingness to act on personal desires to hurt and dominate the weak. But, there is Simon; he is the exception. He is what shows that not all humans act on these evils. Throughout Lord of the Flies, he is never seen hurting, dominating or destroying weaker things. He does not let this beast escape from within. Samuel Hynes writes, "Simon understands that man must seek out the meaning of evil . . . " (65). Simon never gives into the temptation of evil; in fact, he works to destroy the source of evil. This is seen when he goes to confront the two beasts, the pigs head and the dead pilot. Simon is seen throughout the novel helping the littluns where the other characters seek to dominate them. He is the hope for mankind in Lord of the Flies. Through Simon Golding shows that humans do not have to fall to temptation; one can resist the urge to dominate and destroy weaker things.

Uncle Ben, one of the characters in the comic and film Spiderman, remarks that "with great power comes great responsibility." While Spiderman may not bear much weight in the literary community, the insight in Uncle Ben's words does. Power is not a right, yet it is not a gift. It is a responsibility that should only be given to those capable of wielding it for good. Power is abused by almost all people when they act on their desires to dominate, to hurt, and to destroy the weak. This main theme is proved in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies by the actions of Roger, Ralph, Little Henry, and Simon. The feeling Golding gives is best summed up by the late musician Jimi Hendrix: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."



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Works Cited

Golding William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1954.

Hynes, Samuel. "Several Interpretations of Lord of the Flies." Readings on Lord of the Flies. Ed. Clairice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1997. 56-64.

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