In Lord of the Flies, the story’s setting on an island holds great significance to the plot. The seclusion or detachment of the island from the rest of the world signifies their detachment from civilization. Suddenly, they are left alone with only wild nature, and their own human nature which Golding expresses is based on “original sin.” They are cut off completely from the nurture of civilization and democracy, and the ideas previously instilled by society very soon wear off and the true nature of man is revealed.
On the island, there are at least four main settings that are emphasized in the story: The Mountain, the Beach, Castle Rock and the forest Simon visited near the start of the book. The landscape of each of these settings is uniquely significant to the story.
• The mountain is used as a viewing point from the outside world in, as it is the highest point on the island. They put the fire here, and rely on it to send out a signal so they can be saved. “If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make some smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire.”P.37
• It’s a sacred place that holds the hope of being saved. Keeping the fire going is first priority, and since fire is only allowed on the mountain this makes this place very important. “The fire is the most important thing on the island…We ought to die before we let the fire out… We won’t have fire anywhere but on the mountain.”Pp.86-87
• The fact that the mountain takes a while to reach, when going to the top comes into play when they see the smoke of another boat along the horizon. “Ralph started to run, splashing through the shallow end of the bathing-pool, across the white hot sand…battling with the complex undergrowth that was already engulfing the scar…by the time he had reached the landward end of the scar he was using precious breath.”This allows them to remain stranded because they couldn’t reach the fire in time to reignite it.
• The beast takes over the mountain and it becomes the feared place. Going from a place of hope, to a place where all boys fear. “Couldn’t we- kind of- stay here? Maybe the beast won’t come near us.”P.110. This allows the plot to advance because they can no longer keep a fire up there, so now there is the issue of not being able to draw enough attention to the island to be rescued.
• The beach, all throughout the book, is an area where discipline and order are recognised. It is also the only place which retains civilization right up until the end of the book.
• One important thing to note is the conch, which represents democracy and civilization, was found by Piggy on the beach. This, in a sense, shows that the conch lives on the beach, therefore it is a place where democracy and civilization belongs.
• The beach is also a home to the kids, before they devolve into animals. Ralph and Jack even agree on that point. While building the shelters on the beach, they say: “ ‘So, we need the shelters as a sort of- ’ ‘Home’” They choose to build the shelters on the beach because that is where they feel safest, since it is the representation of civilization on the island.
• Even Jack, who alone brings chaos onto the island, subconsciously realizes the importance of the beach. While on the beach during the meetings, Jack would always respect the rule that anyone with the conch has the right to speak. Sometimes he would shout out, but would quite down whenever Ralph told him to. Even when he tried to take over, he obeyed the rule of the conch. “He laid the conch with great care in the grass at his feet.”
• One thing to note is the beach, as a place of civilization, contrasts directly with the Castle Rock, which represents chaos. Ralph and Piggy, the only civilized and rational thinkers before the end of the book, always stayed on the beach. Jack, the one who started chaos, started it on the Castle rock.
• The beach is also where the boys are finally saved by the end, untouched by the destroying fire, and where the naval officer appears.
• When Simon first enters the forest, the forest is bright and cheerful, and gradually, it darkens until the sun is completely set. Here the sun seems to symbolize order and civility and foreshadows the gradual loss of order among the children. When he first enters the forest, “fruit and flower grew together on the same tree and everywhere was the scent of ripeness…”p.57 As he continues walking: “soon high jungle closed in. Tall trunks bore unexpected pale flowers all the way up the dark canopy.”
P.57 A little while later, “the slope of the bars of honey-coloured sunlight decreased…and darkness thickened under the trees” pg. 58. Finally, all that remains is darkness. “Now the sunlight had lifted clear of the open space and withdrawn from the sky. Darkness poured out, submerging the ways between the trees until they were dim and strange as the bottom of the sea.” P.59. The light might also be representing nurture to foreshadow how, by the end of the story, the effects of civilization have completely faded away.
• In reference to that last quote, where darkness is all that remains, I believe that, metaphorically, the children are the trees. At the end of the book, when the children’s natures have taken complete control over them, they are unrecognizable from the ordered and civilized British children they were when they first set foot on the island.
• On page 58, Simon finds a nearly fallen tree in a sunlit clearing. “A great tree, fallen across on corner, leaned against the trees that still stood…” This could represent one two things. First, using the idea of the trees representing the children, if you assume that the “great” tree is Ralph as leader, this foreshadows Ralph’s loss of power over the children. While the tree is still being held up by other trees, it is only a matter of time before the great tree falls. The tree could also represent the precarious position of the attempted civilization or democracy among the kids on the island, it was only a matter of time until it failed completely.
• The reclusiveness of the forest develops Simon’s character as an outsider. Also, Simon hides in a ‘cabin’ of leaves until the sun has set completely. The leaves could be seen almost as protection from the fading civility among the children, which is represented by the sun, foreshadowing that he will never turn savage like the rest of the boys.
• With its closed and easily defendable entrance, Castle Rock intimidates any who approach it. This could be an explanation for why it is the last place they explore, and why this was the first place they went looking for the beast.
• Its jagged edges and hardness are perfect matches for Jack’s personality, the hunter, and is a perfect stronghold for him and his crew. The fact that the hunters have their own stronghold gives them the confidence to capture and torture Sam and Eric, effectively forcing them to become hunters as well.
• When Piggy, Ralph and the twins go up to Castle Rock to reclaim Piggy’s glasses, the final blows are dealt to the side of civilization. The hunters of Castle Rock had already taken Piggy’s glasses from him at the beach, and are now about to take the last piece of order, the conch. Piggy is killed by a rock pushed off of the cliff by Roger, smashing the conch on the rocks below. This silences both Piggy and the conch, two of the main sources of reason. This ends any sort of truce between the hunters and Ralph, and they throw their spears to kill.