– The importance of the part Simon plays in the plot
– How Simon is different from the other boy’s
– What Simon might represent
– The ways the writer uses Simon to convey his ideas.
‘Then one of the boys flopped on his face in the sand and the line broke up.’
Even at this point, the very first mention of Simon in The Lord of the Flies, Simon is marked out as something different. Throughout the book, he is the outsider. Inhabiting the ‘dubious region’ between biguns and littluns – he is singled out for his faints, as Jack says, ‘In Gib.; and Addis; and at matins over the precentor,’ and, like Piggy, is often the subject of group ridicule. For example, when on page 92 he admits to being out at night, his mumbled excuses are put down with Jack’s dismissive ‘he was taken short’ – and he is crushed by ‘the derisive laughter that rose.’ He also seeks solitude, not companionship – but somehow is never afraid, unlike the other boys – who are all afraid at one time or another.
In due course, as the story progresses, he seems to become even more of a social recluse – even Ralph, who Simon generally seems to support, confides to Jack that ‘He’s queer. He’s funny.’ And this is without the one important, most drastic difference between Simon and the others – which only the reader finds out about – Simon’s epilepsy.
All in all, to the other boys – and it is possible even to readers who do not comprehend Golding’s possible deeper meanings in the novel – Simon is seen as ‘batty’, – as a strange boy who never fits in, but is always helpful – and is then killed in unfortunate circumstances as he is somehow mistaken for the beast. However, it seems clear to me that he means so much more than this.
In my opinion, Simon is one of the most important characters in the novel. Even if he does not, perhaps, contribute particularly often or in the way that Ralph or Jack do to the basic plot on its first level, his importance is due to what he represents – how he relates as a character on the microcosm of the island, to the rest of humanity.
The most common interpretation of the character of Simon seems to me to be as an embodiment of the intrinsic good of humanity. The facet of us that will do good just because we believe in the inherent value and rightness of classically ‘good’ deeds, not for self-gain, or out of shame, or for a reward. This balances out that which I believe Roger represents – the ability to cause pain, suffering and destruction simply for the sadistic enjoyment of doing so, with no other kind of justification.
Moreover, when looked at from a religious point of view, this embodiment of two very basic human fascinations might be interpreted as Simon representing God, or Christ – and Roger, not Jack, representing the Devil. In my opinion, this may well have been what Golding was aiming at when he wrote The Lord of the Flies. Simon certainly has many christlike qualities – Roger we hear less of, though what we do hear is chilling: ‘”You don’t know Roger. He’s a terror.”‘
Still, whether he is seen as the flip side of Roger or not – there are strong links between Simon and God, or Jesus. He is often a solitary figure – going off on his own into the jungle, the reason for which we later learn is his epilepsy. Moreover, there he seems to enjoy nature and find it beautiful (‘”Like candles. Candle bushes. Candle buds”‘) and be at one with it; he is very peaceful, and does not damage the environment he is in: For example, the way he ‘dropped the screen of leaves back into place’ when coming out of the mat of creepers that he goes to.
In addition, he is helpful (‘Simon. He helps.’) He is caring and patient toward the littluns – for example on page 57 he ‘found for them the fruit they could not reach, pulled the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless outstretched hands.’ (Interestingly, I find this scene also contains resonances of the Feeding of the Five Thousand – yet another link between Simon and Jesus.) And he is comforting. On page 121, Ralph seems to lose hope of ever being rescued, as he says, ‘It’s so big. I mean-‘
Simon replies to this, ‘All the same. You’ll get back all right. I think so, anyway.’ And Ralph finds that ‘some of the strain had gone from [his] body.’ He has perhaps been ‘healed’ or at least relaxed by Simon’s presence. Moreover, after this, Simon’s insistence that ‘[He] just thinks [Ralph will] get back alright’ reads oddly. It is almost as if he knows what is going to happen, and indeed what he foretells does come true. If this is read with knowledge of Simon’s death it becomes even more of a revelation – why would he say ‘you,’ not ‘we,’ unless he knew that he himself would not survive.
A final factor concerning Simon’s importance in the novel is his relationship with the ‘beast.’ He is the one boy who really understands what the beast is – he does not try to pretend it is a physical thing, he accepts the reality of the situation. He tries to tell the others this: ‘maybe it’s only us?’ However, the first time, they do not believe him – dismissing his ideas because they scare them, I don’t believe any of the boys actually see themselves as evil. Then, on page 157 – Simon’s very vivid, personal encounter with the Beast takes place. The Beast basically tries to persuade him into forgetting what he knows – to not attempt to enlighten the other boys, and just ‘have fun.’ In my opinion, this experience could well be related to the story of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the devil. Simon’s hallucination would almost certainly have been tempting, but still – after he recovers his first action is to venture up the mountain to see what was there and then down to tell the other boys that there is no beast. Ironically, he is mistaken for the beast and killed by the people he is trying to save – once again, much like Jesus.
I believe Golding uses the character of Simon in his novel to get across his idea that, as there is innate human savagery, there is also innate human goodness. However, the fact the Simon was eventually overcome and killed by the Beast’s side of the boys nature – the book rather depressingly hints at the scarcity of goodness in the face of evil, and how in the end – it may be overcome.