In his novel “Lord of the Flies”, William Golding explores the violence theme. According to his believes each individual has a potential to bring his or her inherent evil. And each human is imperfect by nature. Therefore he wrote his novel to emphasize human sickness after he spent his time in a war. His novel “Lord of the Flies” represents the violent helpless breakdown challenging ‘Coral Island’ by Ballantyne, showing devolution of the civilization on the island by using biblical references, metaphorical imagery, and authoritative symbolism to reference the loss of humanity in conditions of a corrupt regime.
In his novel, he is using island setting to show how utopia changes because of different actions and decisions. He depicts pleasant environment which contrasts with dark traits of the island to show the atmosphere and it change underlying the violence in his novel. The symbolism of plane crash in the island which Golding describes as “scar” is employed by the author as a first permanent damage of untouched by a human being paradise.
By using word ‘scar,’ Golding underlines the fact that boys found themselves in a damaging situation, and even if, at first glance, the plane crash seemed to be a rescue from the war and death, the effect of the description is opposite. Additionally, the author underlines possible violence of the island describing its features, using symbols like “decaying” or “skull-like.” Moreover, the “witch-like cry” is aimed to symbolize the evil and creates opposite effect from a previous optimistic picture of the island. He shows readers that this island may not be magical as it expected at first.
The theme of violence is also shown in the relations of boys. Golding describes to main oppositions: savagery versus civilization. He shows how kids have divided into two groups which represent different types of society. Piggy, Ralph, and Simon represent civilized society. They are using conch to display that they are organized. Opposite to them is Jack who becomes the leader of hunters calling them a tribe and he represents savagery. Of course, in the beginning, they are working together to survive, but after disagreements their relationships changing toward dehumanized actions. The main opposition is shown in Jack and Ralph relationships which start from “shy liking” and ends up with Jack’s try to kill his opponent. The peak of such relations is shown during the period of hunger when Piggy and Ralph joined tribe because they were striving and were not able to fight against starvation.
Golding Shows the height of the violence in this small society by Simon’s death and depicts how boys let the evil in and followed this destructive path. Simon has an allegorical function in the novel. His character has a biblical background, “…and was covered with a coat of pearls…” these cues are aimed to emphasize present violence using the contrast with Christ-like qualities of Simon, who was mercilessly murdered by savages. Following this event, they broke conch and Piggy’s glasses, soon after the death of fire, and Golding uses these events to underline the destruction of the civilization.
Hereafter, Ralph is forced to face the savages alone. All these events underscore Golding’s ideas that each human being has an evil inside and the inner beast takes the control over the person if he or she allows a temptation to come out on the top. Another opposition Golding uses the democracy versus dictatorship. It helps him to describe the violence across his novel. When the conch had been broken any sense of justice in their society was lost.
Deaths of Simon and Piggy are the main events representing the violence in the novel. Before murdering Simon, boys chanted “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” This phrase shows the rottenness and violence of the tribal. The actions of boys depicted as horrible, even animalistic since they are following the behavior of beasts:
“At once, the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, scream, struck, bit and tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.”
Golding shows that boys have lost touch with their human sides and are not making any difference between good and bad, and act like uncivilized, primitive society. Golding demonstrates the violence which eats into boys’ minds and the death of Simon portraits it. He underlines that Simon’s death was the best way for him to rescue, he says “dead body moved out towards the open sea” emphasizing the fact that he will finally find the piece there.
It is essential to note that Piggy’s death contrasts with Simon’s. “Piggy’s arms and legs twitched, like a pig’s after it has been killed,” this description also underlines violence of boys on the island. Piggy’s death had been hinted from the beginning of the novel, be the actions and events. Like Jack’s violent actions when he killed the pig at the start of the story.
Towards the end of the story, author brought us back and reminded that these violent savages are just a “group of painted boys.” And of course, it is another way to underline violence theme because of horrible actions they performed against each other, even being at the beginning just a group of innocent children. Golding shows how violence and inherent evil changed them. For example, well-educated Percival who receded his name at the beginning of the story and has forgotten how to speak at the end. And at the end when the boys were rescued Golding underlines the irony of violence actions they perform. Officer asks “what have you been doing? Having a war or something?”
emphasizing that their actions were actually a war they had been trying to rescue from at the beginning.
Carter, R. & Macrae, J.(2001), The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland, Routledge, London
Golding, W. (n.d.). Lord of the flies. Stuttgart: Klett.
Olsen, K. (2000), Understanding Lord of the Flies: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.