THEMES

1. archetypal journey from innocence to experience

– the innocent stage: a group of young boys (children represent innocence and purity); the island at first seems like a beautiful paradise/Garden of Eden.

– the experienced stage: what they go through (“the fall from grace”) and the devastating, irrevocable changes that result.

2. civilisation vs. savagery

– the boys are still at the “civilised” stage, which is why Jack can’t kill the piglet when he has the opportunity; the societal rules and ideas of right and wrong still very much influence him as he is afraid of blood and killing (relate microcosm/macrocosm).

3. conflict

– between a) man and nature, b) man and other men, and c) man and himself.  While readers only get hints of these in Ch.1, all become central themes as the novel progresses.

CHARACTERS

Piggy:  pragmatic intelligence – rational, hopeful, optimistic, he represents science and the thought processes on which civilisation depends but which is also short-sighted; his physical weakness, naivety and sheltered existence result in his being unable to truly understand neither the horror of World Wars nor what Jack comes to represent: “We got to forget this.” (Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”).

Ralph:  protagonist – democracy, an elected leader; decisive and responsible, readers see much of the novel through his eyes and share his feelings.

Jack : antagonist – dictator, military type leader who exercises strict authority over the boys and expects to be obeyed; the violent one who most clearly demonstrates that “the beast” is within.

Simon: shy, quiet, emotional, reflective, introverted;  the sensitive, poetic insight that is necessarily alienated and sacrificed in a violent, chaotic society.

SYMBOLISM

– the conch shell is a symbol of order and control; it is a sign, at the beginning of the novel, that the boys want to establish the same structure they had at home, where there were rules and people in authority.

FIRE is an ambiguous symbol; while it is initially used for good (a signal, the hope of rescue, cooking, warmth, etc), its function changes dramatically.

FORESHADOWING

– Ralph’s “machine-gunning” Piggy indicates the state of war in England the boys have left and how the actions of war have become part of the way kids play.

– the physical SCAR on the land suggests the emotional/psychological scarring that is to come.

METAPHOR

– the story is meant, on one level, to reflect “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart,” and the fundamental battle between good and evil.  In fact, the entire story is a metaphor; as Golding states, “Lord of the Flies is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects in human nature.” Central to this idea is the meanings and manifestations of FEAR and how they change from external to internal.

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