In the book Lord of the flies, there are many symbols used by the author, William Golding, to represent and compare facts with the world external to the desert island. I have selected a few of these symbols from chapters one and two plus have annotated them to illustrate the correlation between the symbols and their actual meanings.
An example of these symbols is the tropical island the boys are marooned on. The island is a microcosm of Earth and represents all the concepts and problems that occur in everyday life, such as arguments and discrimination. There are many displays of differences among the boys throughout the book and in chapter 1 this becomes apparent when the other boys find that one overweight child is called Piggy and start teasing him;
“He’s not fatty,” cried Ralph, “his real name’s Piggy!”
This shows that already there is bullying on the island just like the outside world. Also there is the beginning of a democracy in the community as they decide to elect a boss of the group and hold meetings, with the conch symbolizing the right to speak; “Let’s have a vote, vote for a chief!” This is a form of democracy; similar to what happens when MP’s are elected to be prime ministers. In addition these things contribute to the fact that the island is a symbol, or microcosm, of the Earth.
Another symbol used by Golding is the fire that the boys start on the peak of the mountain; I feel this represents the hope that the boys have of being found and escaping off the island back to their families. ‘Whole limbs yielded passionately to the yellow flames that poured upwards and shook a great beard of flame’ the fact they put a lot of effort into building the fire on the summit of the mountain emphasises their eagerness to be discovered. ‘Came up the mountain with armfuls of dried leaves and dumped them against the pile’
Later on in the book a ship sails past and the boys are ecstatic but the fire is let to go out and the ship goes, not noticing. The group become devastated and their hope is demolished; “They let the bloody fire out!” to prove the fire is a symbol of hope of the group, the fire is in unison with the hope for example, when they light the fire they all have hope, when the fire is gone, so is their hope of escaping.
When the plane that the boys were flying in crashed, it caused an indent in the surrounding jungle the boys call this “the scar”. ‘ A gash visible in the trees; there were the splintered trunks and then the drag,’ the scar is also a symbol. I feel the scar is used by William Golding to symbolize the destruction the boys’ presence will wreak on the tropical island. A scar is a mark of damage to something that is usually long lasting, so is an appropriate word to use. “You been and set the whole island on fire.”
The boys also begin to hunt the pigs in the jungle adding even more damage to the island’s ecosystem. “We’re going to hunt pigs and get meat for everybody.” This shows they are affecting the island and the scar is a symbol of destruction to the island by the boy’s inhabitancy.
In lord of the flies, Jack is symbolized as a typical macho male, who enjoys hunting and slaughtering, not especially because he has to, but for fun. ‘Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked round challengingly.’ This shows that Jack is quite aggressive and is willing to pick a fight with anyone. Jack is also prepared to keep his reputation as a strong, dominant male with the rest of the gang prominent. ” Before I could kill it – but – next time!” This was said when he missed the pig with his spear, when hunting. He feels embarrassed and so has to explain and promote himself to his fellow followers so they forget the incident and still see him as mighty.
In addition Jack wants to be the leader of the group but grudgingly was beaten in election by Ralph; ‘the freckles on Jack’s face disappeared under a blush of mortification.’ As Jack could not be leader of the group he swiftly begins an army himself – the hunters! After Ralph’s appointment as leader, jack soon asks for a group of hunters to join him and catch meat for food. “All the same you need an army – for hunting.” He uses this to help him become dominant and in charge again it also takes some of the leadership that he wants, away from Ralph.
Chief Ralph embodies authority as he keeps everyone in line and tells them what they need to do to maintain a sense of humanity. Ralph was elected as he is the most sensible and has the most innovative ideas out of the group. When they find the conch Ralph suggests; “We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us-” this emphasises Ralph’s authority and leadership right from the beginning. Ralph is an important, dominant character throughout Lord of the flies, being the first character to appear in chapter 1 and taking an important role there on. ‘Ralph counted.’ “I’m chief then.” His authority becomes increasingly apparent here, when he tells them he is chief.
Ralph’s authoritive role often coincides with the other dominant boy, Jack. Although the two are quite similar in ways such as their natural influential ability, the boys often have contrasting opinions, “you and your hunting! We might have gone home” ‘the two boys faced each other’ the incident where the fire was let out, released the growing tension between Jack and Ralph.
All of these quotes and extracts display Ralph’s symbol of authority by William Golding.