William Golding was born and brought up in the early 1900’s in England, where he lead a well educated childhood under the guidance of his scientific and rational parents. But his parent’s influence was often in vain, as the darkness and unknown created a barrier of irrational thoughts.
He then went on to serve the Royal Navy during the Second World War (1939-1945), where he experienced for himself the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis, the dropping of the first atom bomb and the cruelty and brutality of combat.
These memories had obviously touched Golding, who expressed this change by his pessimistic view that “anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.”
After the war, Golding resumed his normal profession of teaching at a boy’s school in Salisbury, after which he wrote and published his first book in 1954- “Lord of the Flies”. This was based on the plot of R.M. Ballantyne’s text “The Coral Island”. The same plot is used by Golding, in which three boys have been shipwrecked on an island, but eventually escape death from vicious cannibals because of their miraculous conversion in Christians.
But Golding wanted to express to the world how real boys would act in these circumstances, thus he wrote this novel, in which he expresses his thoughts that “evil doesn’t come from outside; it is inside all of us.” This narrative is an adventure story about a group of boys who are unfortunately marooned on a deserted island on one level, but can be seen as an allegorical fable at another level, displaying the physical explorations of life created by Hobbs and Rousseau and even using representational characters, locations and events to explore each of theirs and Golding’s ideas.
On one hand, Hobbs believed that mankind would deteriorate unless it were under the influence of rules and punishment, while on the other hand, Rousseau believed that mankind was “the noble savage” and would always act democratically.
As mentioned earlier, each character represented a part of society and also drew on figures of historical and religious importance. Simon, like all of the characters in this narrative, represents a certain complex idea, which with the help of his characteristics, his interaction with others, his reaction to significant events and symbolism is explained to the reader.
At first, Simon is seen to be a curios and timid member of the dictatorial Jack Merridew’s choir, who appear in a discipline fashion, “marching in approximately in step in two parallel lines.” Their uniform is black and they are ordered around by their leader Jack, who sternly gives them orders. This group contain lots of references to Hitler and his Nazis, their “black clothes” being juxtaposed with the “fair hair” of Ralph.
Here Simon flopped face first into the sand, with their cold and cruel leader insisting that “He’s always throwing a faint.” Golding uses physical appearance to highlight the human weakness of judging a person by his looks, as Simon’s physical inertness represents his human vulnerability and importantly highlights the ruthless nature of Jack. Here the reader is made to feel sympathy for him when he is confronted by Merridew’s lack of understanding and concern. Later in the text, Simon is for the first time described as an individual in the text, in a negative fashion as a “skinny little boy”, his weakness explaining his frequent faints, which is juxtaposed with the description of Ralph who is “like a boxer”.
This description of Simon is created when he is picked by Ralph, their elected leader, to join him and Jack for a first exploration of the piece of land they were on. As they begin to end their exploration, they come across a patch of dark, evergreen, aromatic shrubs, to which Simon referred to as “Candle bushes. Candle buds.” His significance as an individual character is first described here, as he produces a very pacifying and mollifying description, which even captivates and intrigues the brutal Jack, who’s attempts to kill a harmless piglet are held back by the developed conscience of his, influenced by the nurture of his parents.
As the narrative progresses, the other characters- Ralph, Piggy and Jack, display their personal qualities and how they are developing to stand for different symbols in their microcosm. Ralph, the book’s protagonist, stands for civilization, morality, and leadership, while Jack, the antagonist, stands for the desire for power, selfishness, and amorality. Piggy represents the scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization, as his glasses-a symbol of rationality and intellect-enable the boys to light fires, both for heat and to attract rescuers.
Despite his usefulness, Piggy is seen to be as a whiny weakling, who’s useful suggestions are often ignored. For example, when Piggy suggests that they find a way to improve their chances of being rescued, the boys ignore him; only when the stronger and more charismatic Ralph suggests the same thing do they agree to make the signal fire. Their disorganisation finally leads to a death of a little boy, which is a foreboding precursor to the careless events to come.
Then in Chapter 3, we realise that the conflict between Ralph and Jack symbolizes the main conflict of the novel, with Ralph representing civilization and the desire for order and Jack representing savagery and the desire for power and self-gratification. In addition to the development of the Ralph/Jack conflict and the continued development of the boys’ island civilization, the emergence of Simon as a symbolic figure is another important development in Chapter 3. Simon’s basic characteristics become clear from his actions in this chapter, firstly he is seen as the only boy who builds the huts along with Ralph in order to gain protection from the elements, and he sacrifices the fun of playing with the others.
This act displays his helpfulness, discipline, and dedication to the common good of the society. He then helps the littluns reach a high branch of fruit, indicating his kindness and sympathy; many of the older boys would rather torment the littluns than help them. This shows his altruism, as he helps the innocent littleuns with no thought to himself. This aura of comfort and security continues to spread wherever Simon walks and nature seems to flourish everywhere around him.
Then he solitarily wanders through the jungle, admiring the natural beauty of the “green candle-like buds” and absorbing the magnificence of the “honey-coloured sunlight”. He eventually sits down in a thick jungle glade, a peaceful open space full of flowers, birds and butterflies. He confirms that he is alone, and sits down marvelling at the abundance and beauty of life surrounding him as the sun sets.
His experience in the jungle is in total contrast to Jack’s experience. He appreciates the beautiful butterflies, the fantastic birds, the scented flowers, and the magnificent plants and trees; he takes it all in without disturbing a thing. Jack, on the other hand, ploughs through the jungle with an eagerness to destroy and kill; he never notices the beauty that surrounds him, is startled by the call of a bird, and is frustrated that he cannot conquer nature. It is not surprising the “savage” Jack would call Simon queer and funny.
Chapter 4 sees yet another conflict being sparked between Ralph and Jack, who has now put a “mask” in front of his face, “behind which he hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.” Ralph suddenly sees a ship approaching as his utter joy makes him freeze to the ground with awe. But when he realizes that the fire wasn’t alight, he fled to the mountain-to, but in vain as the ship slowly disappeared into the horizon. Now Jack’s hunters were looking after the fire, and so Ralph begins to express his anger- “They let the bloody fire out.”
Jack realizes his frustration and humiliation by picking on the scapegoat Piggy, but sensibly and maturely, Ralph supports his wise companion and realizes his value. He also becomes conscious that Jack is manipulating the boys by acting noble and apologising in front of everyone. Again here, Simon’s quality of fore-sight is revealed- “Simon looked now from Ralph to Jack as he looked from Ralph to the horizon, and what he saw seemed to make him afraid.” Here we can see Simon’s power to predict this negative conflict, just like when the ship on the horizon caused an outburst of anger.
As the narrative continues, Simon’s good nature and atuirism seems to unravel more about his character and qualities in this text, as Ralph sternly explains to the group that only him and Simon had actually made the shelters, which were now shabby and falling apart. He restates the importance of the signal fire, as it was their only hope to get back home. Then again the dreaded subject of the beast is brought up by Ralph to be discussed for the first time, and he explains to them that it was all “bogies” and that they should get back to their duties rather than fear it.
But yet again Jack interferes in this discussion, and just highlights how easily he could disturb a democracy and uproot rational thoughts from people’s minds. Firstly he breaks the rules by speaking without holding the conch, when a littleuns, Percival, says that the beast came out of sea which sparks a chaotic argument between him and the rest. Then yet again Jack speaks out of turn, this time pointing a finger at Ralph and questioning his authority. He asks the rest why exactly Ralph was chief, despite the fact that he couldn’t hunt or sing, and then raises excitement and expectation by exclaiming- “Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong…we’ll close in and beat and beat [ the beast ]…” This expression highlights his newly found aggressiveness and his deterioration, as noisy screams and laughter overshadowed sanity, and Jack leaves the assembly accompanied by others, jumping and howling.
The departure of the boys and breaking of the meeting makes the three “sensible ones” ponder over how life would be if adults were around. Piggy claims that the organisation and knowledge of the adults would have certainly never lead to events such as the uncontrollable fire, which resulted in a death of an innocent littleun. Yet again Simon is involved in this rational discussion, as he displays his maturity and quick realisation that life back in England was much more secure and orderly under the supervision of parents, but Ralph realizes that the efforts of these “three blind mice [ Ralph, Piggy and Simon ]” would be in vain.
Just as Ralph had hoped for, a sign slowly descended from the human world, which was now dominated by war and conflict. A dead parachutist, who would have probably been involved in the air battles above, landed near the twins Sam and Eric, who were looking after the fire on the mountain-top. They look at the huddled body of the dead airman, whose body was being moved about by the swift breeze, which mad the twins think that it was the beast and it were alive.
Their mistaken claims that they had seen the beast, sparks even more fear and chaos in the group, but still Jack sticks to his love of bloodlust and refers to their search for the beast as a “real hunt”. He again puts down the value of the conch by stating that it wasn’t needed any more, and by claiming that individuals like Simon and Bill used it to give the group invaluable suggestions and that they ought to leave the deciding to the rest. Just when it seems like he would gain the confidence of the group, Ralph reminds them of the fact that their hopes on being rescued lied on the existence of the fire and therefore distracts them from the hunt.
They leave to explore yet again, this time in a search to find the beast and seek its real identity. Simon walks ahead of the group, and ponders over the actual form of this beast. He “felt a flicker of incredulity”, as from the twins exaggerated description, the beast had claws that scratched, managed to reach atop a mountain, but still wasn’t swift enough to catch the boys. The figure of a human came o mind, proving yet agin that with is deep analysis of the situation and his deep thought, Simon can unravel mysteries of this beast in no time at all.
But then we view another side of Simon, which proclaims that he felt shy to reveal his thoughts to the rest of the group in an assembly, just as other would do so freely and easily, as the pressure of personality and the feeling of speaking to a whole group of people sent butterflies in his stomach. This proves how reserved he is, which is even evident when he solitarily explores the jungle, without revealing to the other the wonderful sights and beauty of it. He tries his utter best to be more like Ralph, who was such an open speaker, but his attempts lead to him bumping into a tree, thinking about how exactly the others managed to speak while avoiding nervousness and without thinking of the effect it would have on their reputations.
The discovery of a new location, created different images in the protagonist and antagonist of the text. Jack believes that the place was ideal for the creation of a fort, in which they could pass their time by playing. But Ralph realizes that their spending too long there wouldn’t be wise, as it lacked the basic needs such as clean, pure water, food and no means of shelter. Their views are juxtaposed by Golding, who highlights the two different opinions and shows Ralph’s progression to a mature and more considerate person when it came to thinking of the good of the whole group.
Ralph sits at the beach, thinking about his physical deterioration, as his nails and hair had out-grown and were filthy and shabby. He realizes that they lacked the basic elements of civilizations, showing how he has become much more reflective over the fact that their being rescued seemed as far away as the “miles wide” ocean. But Simon yet again arose comfort and releases some of the strain from Ralph, by assuring him that atleast his realization and good thoughts would eventually reward him- “You’ll get back home to where you came from.”
This follows yet another hunt, but this time Ralph accompanies the hunters, just to experience for himself what they were getting so excited about. He eventually plays a big part, as he hastily strikes a boar with his peak right in its snout, but the boar fled from the rest and escaped with shrieks of pain. But he still “sunned himself in new respect and felt that hunting wasn’t bad after all.” A grief-full Jack returns, with a wounded forearm, which again Simon help’s to heal by claiming that it was a wound, and that he ought to suck it like Bengaria. This shows how altruistic Simon is, and that he helps even the most wretched of people when they are pain without thinking much of their mistakes in the past.
A huge precursor is presented to the rest of the group, when a little play hunt leads to serious bloodlust taking them over as they begin to dance and chant madly- “Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!” Even the most sensible member of the group- Ralph, gets carried away in this game, and his “desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.” This bit of fun just proves to the reader that if the boys were capable of getting so carried away in their game, their further stay on the island could boost their desires and even lead them to the measures of being cannibals and murdering the rest of the group.
The boys set out on another expedition, and this time they decide to actually visit the mountain-top and view for themselves what the beast was. Ralph firstly picks Simon to pass the message back to Piggy that they would be back after dark. He chooses Simon, just to prove that he is aware of the rational thoughts that arose in Simon, and that he was probably the person who was least affected by the fears and discussions of the beast, therefore travelling across the jungle by himself wouldn’t scare him.
When they are just below the mountain, Ralph’s and the rest of the boys fears take over them, and they suddenly decide to back out of this and retreat back to camp. But Jack sets another challenge to Ralph in front of the rest, by daring him to join him up the mountain and confronting the beast. Ralph overcomes his fears to prove his courage to the group, and agrees on accompanying Jack, as they and the rest climb up the mountain. When they approach the copse, a swift breeze again manipulates it like a “puppet on strings”, and on this occasion makes it sit up to view them with its decayed face like a “great ape”. Yet again, their fears over come them and they flee back to camp to report the sight of the “beast”.
At their return to the camp, Ralph’s claim that Jack’s hunters were just “boys with sticks” and that they would never be able to confront the beast, ignites another great conflict between the two, which would eventually lead to the division of the group. At this claim, Jack seizes the conch and without permission blows it aloud to call an assembly. Here he gives an exaggerated account of their confrontation which further damages their thoughts and he then goes on to accuse Ralph of being like Piggy-a coward himself, in the process manipulating the boys against their faithful and trustworthy leader.
But Ralph hit’s back at Jack, which leads to the savage hunter questioning his authority, and he calls for yet another vote as to who should be leader. But his efforts were hopeless and made him “red in the face”, as none of the group opposed the leadership of Ralph. “humiliating tears” ran from his cheek, as he exposes his dangerous side by claiming that he wouldn’t “play and longer. Not with you [ them ].” He proves that he treated the whole situation as a child’s game, and he stubbornly leaves the assembly and walks into the forest by himself, full of rage and humiliation.
Piggy now reveals his true knowledge, by solving their problems by wisely suggesting that they set the fire down close to them instead of close to the beast, and he spoke now with more assurance as only his “intellectual daring” would suggest such a drastic change. With pleasure he joins the group in setting up their new fire, and the democracy just seems to be forming again, but boys such as Robert, Maurice, bill and Rojer sneak off during this process to form another group with Jack.
Jack meanwhile is “brilliantly happy” to have won his leadership back, and begins to dictate his terms and manipulate the boy to forget the beast and move on with hunting. He decides to lure some of the boys away from the “conch [ democracy ]” by giving a feast. He decided that they would invite the rest and at the same time, steal some of their fire to light up their own feast. They set out on another hunt, and this time they really show their orgy savagery by separating a sow from its family, and then sticking a spear up its anus in jubilation. This rape of nature is juxtaposed with the beautiful location where it takes place, which incidentally is Simon’s special place and he is a silent witness to yet another evidence of the boys decline in sanity.
The boys place the sow’s head on a stick and leave it on that spot, as a sacrifice to the beast so that it wouldn’t attack them, showing that their carrying out of this savage ritual was proving that they really had got carried away amongst the excitement and hunting.
Simon sits down to rest near the decapitated sow’s head which had flies swarming around its blood and filthy- but Simon restrained this and still sat down despite the fact that they were attacking him as well. He begins to communicate with the sow’s head, which designates itself as “The Lord of the Flies”. The voice mocks Simon that he ought to go back to the rest because they might feel that he was “batty”. But Simon still doesn’t fear the head, as it speaks on and continues to taunt him, causing his head to throb and ache. He threatens Simon that if he attempted to inform the rest that the beast didn’t exist, he too would be killed as the beast could be found even “down there”.
Here Golding uses the authorial voice to explain his opinion that evil was in everyone, and wasn’t created by outer forces such as the beast in this text. Simon eventually is terrified’ and troubled by the apparition, and he collapses into a faint. This meeting again is similar to the confrontation between Jesus and the Devil in which Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. This biblical allusion is representational of a battle between good and evil.
Pathetic fallacy is used effectively by Golding in chapter 9, where the thunder and lightening mirrored the struggle of Simon. He finally awakens from his sleep, dreary and weak. He staggered himself through the forest with his weak legs, leaving the “black ball” which was once the “Lord of the Flies”. He slowly approached a humped object, which incidentally was covered by a “dark cloud” of flies, and it was moving slowly in the wind which would then scare them off for a brief moment. Simon examined this decaying corpse, running through its white naval bones and viewing the “colours of corruption”, which were to some extent being held back due to the interference of the parachute.
However, Simon felt pity for this “poor broken thing that sat stinking by his side”, despite the fact that it was causing him some uneasiness too. He expresses his concern for the rest by firstly thinking that he should inform the rest, who had now established themselves away from the mountain in it’s fear and created a new fire, with the good news of this harmless, dead creature. But his weakness held him back, and he could just slowly stumble down the mountain. Rather than thinking about the energy being drained from his frail body, Simon’s altruism makes him use up all the energy left to get back to the camp and inform them that this beast was nothing else but a dead body, which was decaying and moving in the wind.
Meanwhile, Piggy and Ralph decide to join the rest, who had now sneaked off to the feast, and see for themselves how Jack had handled the separation. On their arrival, they viewed for themselves the “painted and garlanded” Jack, who was yet again ordering people about and expressing his power by repeatedly waving his spear [ dictatorship ]. Piggy was the centre of attention again, but this time he was surrounded by laughter as his attempts to be a part of the group led to them all making fun of him and making him the scapegoat, which is yet more evidence about their presence with Jack.
As the feast ends, yet another battle takes place between Ralph and Jack, as the savage hunter asks the rest- “Who is going to join my tribe?” He uses propaganda to express to the rest the benefits, which included protecting them from the beast, something that they all feared. But Ralph counters Jack’s sudden initiative, and points out to him that he had the conch, to which Jack replies that because he didn’t have it with him, his power was hopeless here. Ralph is now “crimson” and running out of ideas, and he breathlessly tries- “I’ll blow the conch, and call an assembly.”
Ralph yet again proves his wit and how he has grown in awareness on the island, as he sneakily reminds them that if it were to rain, where they would go for shelter as they had no other huts to go to. Jack replied rather awkwardly and barbarically to this, and h ordered the group to do their “dance”. Rojer acting as a Pig, hopped around wildly, scaring the littleuns away and the chanting began as they created rings around others and began to dance and giggle. The weather outside represented their dehumanised ritual, as the “dark sky was shattered by a blue-white scar. An instant later the noise was on them like the blow of a gigantic whip.”
Suddenly out of the forest, a crooked figure crawled out, and the boys presuming it were the beast amongst their dance, made a ring around the painful Simon, who tried to pass the message on about the corpse on the hill. But his talk couldn’t be heard by anyone as their dehumanised ritual had now began to become a real one, as the tearing of teeth and claws could be heard” viciously amongst the desperate cries of Simon.
Then the clouds gave way, releasing all the water which it held and let it down the mountain like a waterfall, making the “struggling heap” stagger away from its original landing point, while Simon was now assassinated in the sand, blood stains slowly being created around him. A great wind moved the corpse from the mountain down to the beast, making littleuns shriek with fear on its arrival, but it then slowly set out to sea, and left them.
As night beckoned, Simon’s death was imminent now, as the flies surrounded him this time, and he turned gently in the water and moved slowly out to sea. He was an innocent martyr, who died for a animalistic and religious belief of Jack, amongst which all of their sanity had been demolished and they crazily dug deep into Simon’s body and ripped him. But his silvered cheek and the shape of his shoulder turning into sculptured marble, just highlights how he is made beautiful even after this wretched death, which seems to be like a Halo.
Simon was beginning to seem like a Jesus-like figure, as his helping the innocent littleuns links back to “the feeding of five thousand”, and instead of thinking about himself, he uses the last energy in his frail body to inform the group about his discovery that the beast was of no harm to them, just like a saint would have done. His death justifies the earlier precursor where the boys just played around with Robert, to some extent even getting carried away amongst the poking and pinching. His violent, yet biblical death has been well highlighted towards the end, by the long imagery used by Golding describing the changing weather, and when Simon is actually dead, the “clouds drifted away” and “lamps of stars” filled the sky, which justifies my earlier quote that he had a beautiful death.
As the novel develops, Simon emerges as an important figure to contrast with Ralph and Jack. Where Ralph represents the “good” of civilization and Jack the “evil” of uncivilized instinct, Simon represents a third quality-a kind of natural, uncivilized goodness. Most of the boys seem to have their ideas of goodness and morality imposed on them by the external forces of civilization, so that the longer they are away from human society the more eroded their moral sense becomes. But Simon’s basic goodness and kindness seem to come from within him, tied to his connection with nature.