Lord of the Flies as an Allegory
In Lord of the Flies, Golding has mastered the art of writing a twentieth-century allegory, says C.B. Cox. The novel is a retelling in realistic items of R.M. Ballantyne’s Coral Island. A group of boys, shot down during some kind of atomic war, are marooned on an island somewhere in the Pacific. In contrast to the boys in the Ballantyne story, who after a number of exciting adventures remember their time on the island as an idyllic interlude, the children in Lord of the Flies soon begin to quarrel, and their attempts to create an ordered, just society breaks down. On one level the story shows how intelligence (Piggy) and common sense (Ralph) will always be overthrown in a society by sadism (Roger) and the lure of totalitarianism (Jack).
On another, the growth of savagery in the boys demonstrates the power of original sin. Simon, the Christ figure, who tries to tell the children that their fears of a dead parachutist are illusory, is killed in a terrifying tribal dance. The Lord of the Flies is the head of a pig, which Jack puts up on a stick to placate an illusory Beast. As Simon understands, the only dangerous beast, the true Lord of the Flies, is inside the boys themselves. Lord of the Flies is the Old Testament name for Beelzebub.
Lord of the Flies flashes light on the deeper realities of human mind. The Novel is a parable of life in the latter half of twentieth century, the nuclear age, when society seems to have reached technological maturity while human morality is still prepubescent.
It is said that anti puritan dream is realized in Lord of the Flies. When puritans lost their grip on power, people celebrated their freedom. Later on, this unchecked freedom led society into a state of perversion. This was visible in literature especially literature of restoration period.
Novel takes the form of Religious allegory especially through the character Simon. None of the characters other than Simon functions solely as a part of allegory. The name of the novel can be traced back to the Jewish hierarchy of demons where Beelzebub is referred to as “Lord of the Flies”. The island, beautiful and abundant of tasty food recalls the Garden of Eden in which Adam and Eve once lived happily. When Jack the metaphorical serpent tempts other boys showing meat and turns them against Ralph, the heaven turns to a hell. However redeemer comes in the form of Simon. Simon symbolises the faith.
This faith in the importance of our experiences in this world is reflected in Golding’s vivid, imaginative style. He has a fresh, delightful response to the mystery of Nature, with its weird beauty and fantastic variety. The conch, which Ralph and Piggy discover in the lagoon and use to call the children to assemblies, is not just a symbol of order. From the beginning Golding does justice to the strange attraction of the shell, with its delicate, embossed pattern, and deep harsh note which echoes back from the pink granite of the mountain. When towards the end of the story the conch is smashed, we feel that sadness which comes when any object of exquisite beauty is broken. The symbolic meaning, that this is the end of the beauty of justice and order, is not forced upon us, but is reflected through our emotional reaction to the object itself.
The incident is part of an exciting story, a surprising climax to the murder of Simon; at the same time the dead parachutist is the beast to the children, a symbol of adult evil, which, by their own act of killing, they have shown to be part of themselves. The boys in the mock-hunt mistake him for a beast and kill him in the midst of frantic dance. Christ, the redeemer of mankind too was crucified for preaching the gospel truth. Thus evil walks out with crown by killing reason, intelligence and virtue.
The story is not the tragedy of some boys but tragedy of all humanity, in which grown up ‘ children ‘ flies to cut the throat of his fellow companions. Golding ridicules the civilization of which mankind is proud. It is nothing but a superficial outer cover which covers the real nature in the time of crisis and cause real nature of human manifest itself.
The island itself is boat-shaped, and the children typify all mankind on their journey through life. In the opening scenes the island has the glamour of a new-found paradise…. But soon the terrifying fire transforms the island, and illusion gives way to reality. In nightmares the children begin to be afraid that this is not a good island, they become accustomed to the mirages, “and ignored them, just as they ignored the miraculous, throbbing stars.” The beauty of the earthly paradise grows stale to their eyes. At the end they leave behind them “the burning wreckage of the island” whose loveliness has been degraded by their presence.
Lord of the Flies is an allegory of a bio political or post political society that elevates “security” to the most sacred principle of organization. The two ‘clans’ the boys establish on the island, those led by Ralph and Jack, explicate the two sides of the society .The one led by Ralph stands for institutionalized part of society where people abide by rules and harmony is maintained. The other part shows dark side of the same society in which fantasies of transgression and perversion takes place.
In the backdrop of World War II and the clash is between democratic utopianism versus fascist violence, society versus mob. Ralph the fair leader appeals to reason and order, while Jack a replica or minimized image of fascist leaders. Choir boys symbolizes blind followers.
This creature becomes a part of Ralph’s consciousness, a symbol of a reality he tries to avoid. As the waves creep towards the body of Simon beneath the moonlight, the brilliantly realistic description of the advancing tide typifies all the beauty of the world which promises eternal reward to those who suffer.
For Ralph the sea typifies the insensitivity of the universe, but this is to see it from only one point of view. The multitudinous beauties of the tide promise that creation was not an accident; after our suffering and confusions are over, a healing power of great beauty will solve all problems. The intricate beauty of the waves is not merely a pleasing arrangement of light and matter, but an incredible manifestation of the wonder of creation, with a valid life in our consciousness. As Simon’s body moves out to open sea under the delicate yet firm lifting of the tide, it seems impossible that his sacrifice has had no ultimate meaning.
The island, the sea and the sacrifice of Simon all show Ralph the truth of the human situation. His mind finds the burden of responsibility too great, and he begins to lose his power to think coherently: “He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one’s waking life was spent watching one’s feet.” Jack’s return to savagery, taking all the children with him, is portrayed with frightening realism.
Only the intelligence of Piggy is not tempted by the tribal dances, and his character is presented with great compassion. His fat, asthmatic body is a natural butt for children, and continual mockery has taught him to be humble and to enjoy being noticed even only as a joke. But he has a powerful belief in the importance of civilized order, and gradually Ralph learns to appreciate his value. His death is a poignant reminder of the unjust and cruel treatment given by society to so many good men.
Simon is perhaps the one weakness in the book. We see his friendship for Ralph, when he touches his hand as they explore the island, and his love of all people when he ministers to the dead body of the parachutist, but alone among the characters his actions at times appear to be motivated not by the dramatic action, but by the symbolic implications of the story. At the beginning, when he withdraws at night from the other children, his motives are left uncertain. But the scene where he confronts the lord of the flies is most convincing. In this pig’s head covered with flies, he sees “the infinite cynicism of adult life.” He has the courage to face the power of evil, and, knowing that the beast is in all of them, he climbs the hill to find out the truth about the dead parachutist.
As an allegorical novel, the Story is presented ultimately as the conflict between civilization and barbarism, in depth it is about clash between id (Jack) pleasure principle, which stands against ego (Ralph) reality principle and super egov(Simon) morality principles. Their drama and conflict typify the inevitable overthrow of all attempts to impose a permanent civilization on the instincts of man.