William Golding’s use of setting provides a very strong influence on the actions and attitudes of characters in the lord of the flies. We can tell something about the difference in characters from their response to the island’s natural life. The imagery and meaning behind the settings emphasized symbolism and created a powerful image in the minds of readers.
The major setting is that of the island, a tropical “paradise” separated from the rest of the world by a vast sea, which works as a cleanser. Although the island is described as beautiful by Golding at the very beginning, some of the words he uses suggest a darker side of the island “…stood there among the skull like coconuts” (Golding pg 15). The island is like a little world itself, a microcosm, which reflects what is happening in the real world outside. The island is very remote, isolated from the rest of the world “…They stood on the top, and could see a circular horizon of water” (Golding pg 37). Golding brings up the fact that they are no where near the complex society that they were brought up with and therefore hints that there may be character conflict. In normal circumstances when two people are not able to get along, it’s relatively easy to avoid them, but in this society on this island, within such close proximity of only a few people, it is not easy to escape people with different ideals to your own.
The mysteries of the island have a huge impact on the actions of the boys. Because the island and Britain are two totally different environments there was not much known to the boys about the unfamiliar surrounding possessed by the island. The vines that draped from the trees caused the ‘littluns’ to have nightmares because they reminded them of snakes, or “beasties”. The unfamiliarity’s of the island are used by Golding to place insight into the readers mind.
Golding describes the island as somewhat boat shaped “It was roughly boat shaped” (Golding pg 38) and states that it was like they were “…moving steadily astern” (Golding pg 38). Golding uses the shape of the island as an allegory, symbolising a deeper moral meaning. The meaning behind the island looking like it was physically moving backwards, indicates that the human society on the island will become more primitive and uncivilised, like moving backwards in time.
The island’s abundance of fruit, vegetation and unspoiled wildlife, along with its quickly changing hostile environment is almost similar to that of the Garden of Eden. Like the Garden of Eden all things begin to function perfectly, with nature still largely unspoiled, only to quickly change once corrupted by evil, this is most evident towards the end of the novel when the inner evil of most of the boys makes its way out and ultimately sets this garden of Eden ablaze “…a shelter burst into flames and the fire flapped at his right shoulder” (Golding, pg 246). Thus illustrating the loss of paradise and innocence.
One could sense that this island wouldn’t be the paradise once thought out to be at the beginning when the fruit gives diarrhoea and stomach cramps and accusations are made about a serpent being the beastie. The serpent is yet another reference to the Garden of Eden. Also every time the boys venture inside the jungle it is mentioned that everything is dark and covered over. The jungle might look beautiful from afar but once penetrated, is dense with vegetation, which absorbs and eats up any light. The island is constantly battered, through fires, removal of the fruit trees and human waste. Golding uses this to say that humanity often finds a tranquil place only to ruin it.
The description of Simons’s secret place creates a strong sense of the island’s vibrant colours and rich smells “The whole space was walled with dark aromatic bushes, and was a bowl of heat and light” (Golding, pg 71) and emphasises the Garden of Eden theme. Simon is at home within all the nature and wildlife of the island because he displays a goodness and kindness that does not seem to have been forced or imposed upon him by civilization. Instead, Simon’s goodness seems to be innate or to flow from his connection to nature.
When we first see the description of Simon’s place it is a major contrast to the next time we see it. On the first occasion we can sense tranquillity as Simon makes his way to his space, surrounded by butterflies and sunlight. Golding references it again to the garden of Eden placing the flora and fauna in harmony with each other “Flower and fruit grew together on the same tree and everywhere was a scent of ripeness and the booking of million bees at pasture” (Golding pg 71). The reader is able to feel that this place is harmonic, tranquil and is filled with goodness. Suggesting the atmosphere of a church, a place where Simon can get in touch spiritually. This is Simon on his first occasion inside the den, when things are still relatively civilised and Simon has not been influenced by savage means.
This differs the second time Simon retreats to his secret place. On the second occasion Golding creates a different atmosphere, and the use of language creates a threat of aggression “Up there, for once, were clouds, great bulging towers that sprouted away over the island…The clouds were sitting on the land; they squeezed, produced moment by moment, this close tormenting heat.” (Golding, pg 170). The butterflies a symbol of delicate perfection in the air are replaced by another insect life, flies, a symbol of corruption. This comes at a point in the novel when savagery has taken over everyone and even Simon is on the brinks of letting his inner evil out, he has come to the point where he is conversing with the devil inside him, which is persuading him to be like the rest of the boys and let the evil inside of him take control, but Simon resists the urge. This is why Simon is in a state of self denial as he walks into the den, because he feels that he is becoming evil. Golding illustrates this in the way Simon lowers his head “Simon lowered his head; carefully keeping his eyes shut, then sheltered them with his hand” (Golding, pg 171).
The platform is the islands seat of authority, a symbol of verbal communication and thoughtful debate. When the platform is first described by Golding he makes it sound like the most dominant feature on the beach “Here the beach was interrupted abruptly by the square motif of the landscape; a great platform of pink granite thrust up uncompromisingly through forest and terrace and sand and lagoon…” (Golding pg 17). The platform has a sense of authority because it is an attempt by the boys to attempt at a democratically organized form of government and decision making. It is used by Ralph as a meeting place or assembly where future decisions can be made democratically. The islands society can be kept civilized by the platform because everyone is given a say on the platform via the conch, without any barbaric means being used. For Ralph the platform proves the perfect point to assert his authority as leader.
The platform as a centre of authority begins well; with much thoughtful decisions and rules made. For instance the decision to make a fire was made on the platform “A fire! Make a fire!” (pg 49), but the presence of two natural leaders fighting for the one job as chief causes a split in the power structure and Jack looses some of his followers along with the platform as a symbol of authority. The attempt to organize a democratic society where each member has a say slowly crumbles as the regime of Jack emerges as a dictatorship and finally comes to a chaotic crash once the conch is smashed, with it smashing the civilised society.
When the group splits into two, Jacks tribe and Ralph’s tribe, Ralph’s tribe are still content on staying near the platform while Jack’s group has made the move to castle rock. Golding uses different imagery to contrast between the two locations. The platform during the day is always described as bright and there is little or no conflict, this contrasts with the other side of the island, where Jack’s group has created a fort. On the other side the words used are much darker “the filmy enchantments of mirage could not endure the cold ocean water and the horizon was hard, clipped blue” (Golding, pg 136). Golding is giving an insight into what might happen hear at castle rock, he hints that this side will be more dangerous “…but here, faced by the brute obtuseness of the ocean, the miles of division, one was clamped down, one was helpless”. Golding, in essence states that there is no hope of society flourishing on the other side because there is no sense of authority
In conclusion the settings created by the island, Simons place and the platform in the lord of the flies, provided a lasting image through the use of Golding’s language. The settings greatly influenced the development of the characters and had a major effect on the final impact of the novel.