Goldings explores the theme of violence in his novel ‘Lord of the Flies’, drawing on his belief that every person is capable of evil and that human nature is inherently flawed. This belief is derived from his own experiences in war, leading him to challenge Ballantyne’s book ‘Coral Island’ by presenting his own perspective on the darkness within humanity.
The theme of violence in the novel is rooted in the rapid breakdown of civilization on the island. This breakdown creates an ideal setting for violence and reveals the inherently evil nature of humans, resulting in conflicts that foster acts of violence. Initially, the island appears to be a utopian paradise for the boys, with its shimmering water and evident beauty. However, darker aspects of the island gradually emerge, represented by the metaphor of a “scar” caused by the plane crash. This exploration of violence becomes a central theme in Golding’s novel.
The presence of the scar on the island suggests that it was once a pristine and untouched paradise, but now it has been immediately marred by the arrival of the outside world. The use of the word ‘scar’ could also imply that the plane came from a war-torn area, highlighting the devastation of their home. This revelation also hints at the reason for the boys’ arrival on the island – they were evacuated due to the war. Although they are yet to experience the horrors of the island, this irony introduces the notion of barbaric actions in their former society.
In further illustrating the darkness on the island, Golding portrays the ‘skull-like coconuts’. By contrasting the usual image of coconuts found in tropical islands with a description that emphasizes their resemblance to skulls, Golding symbolizes death. This foreshadows the impending death and devastation that will occur on the island. Likewise, the heat demonstrates how the island’s peaceful beauty can be disturbed and turned into a dystopian setting. The phrase ‘The heat hit them’ implies that instead of being an appealing aspect, the sun becomes a negative and oppressive force.
The term ‘hit’ implies an act of violence, suggesting that the island is already hostile towards the characters due to the aggressive imagery portrayed. In the introduction of Jack and his choir boys in the novel, they are depicted as a ‘black bat-like creature’, using dark animal symbolism to foreshadow the potential manifestation of humanity’s evil nature later on. By referring to Jack as a ‘creature’, Golding suggests that his destructive impact on the island is still unknown.
The quote ‘black bat-like creature’ suggests that the choir boys and Jack are almost inseparable. It implies that these boys will stay together. Additionally, Jack’s description of his physical appearance continues with ‘his hair red beneath his black cap’. The color red is typically associated with anger and danger, indicating Jack’s fiery and potentially quick temper, as well as his propensity for violence. In the early chapters of the novel, Golding depicts the boys’ strong desire for civilization and value, suggesting their initial innocence on the island.
The boys seek to recreate the rules and society of their chaotic home life, which ironically reflects Golding’s concept of humanity’s inherent sickness. Upon the arrival of the conch on the island, many of the boys passionately embrace the notion of order. One such example is Piggy, who cradles the conch, symbolizing its high importance and value as a representation of authority. The conch is further described as glistening, suggesting its association with brightness and emphasizing its significance.
The initial act of destruction on the island, which aligns with the concept of diseases and corrupt human nature, involves the pushing of a boulder. Upon noticing the boulder, three boys elect to embrace the challenge and successfully accomplish it. The fact that they do not need to displace the boulder from its original place highlights the necessity for even the smallest things that catch the boys’ attention to be eradicated in some way. This demonstrates the temptation that the island is driving them towards, as they become fixated on destruction at this early point.
According to Golding’s theories, the act of pushing the rock signifies the inherently destructive instincts of children that disrupt the peaceful atmosphere of the island, leading to the loss of innocence. The island’s response to this event is depicted as the forest shaking as if an enraged monster were passing through. Golding’s choice of the word “monster” implies that the boys have unleashed a metaphorical beast upon the island, revealing their inherent evil and their descent into darkness.
In addition, the text depicts the conflict between humanity, affected by disease, and the island succumbing to corruption. However, there is a contrasting moment when Jack encounters a pig, which he intends to kill as the designated hunter. Surprisingly, Jack is unable to carry out the act of murder. Golding describes Jack’s hesitation as being caused by “the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh because of the unbearable blood.” This suggests that Jack was unable to commit such a savage and violent act, emphasizing his remaining childlike traits.
This act indicates that he is still influenced by his civilization, and his actions are a reflection of this. Golding uses the word ‘enormity’ to portray the significant impact the pig’s murder would have had, as it is seen as an extremely savage act by the young boys. Jack begins to recognize his embarrassment in being unable to kill the animal, so he states “next time-“, suggesting that he will be able to kill in the future to avoid appearing weak to the others.
Moreover, the quote abruptly ends to suggest that he is engrossed in his thoughts pondering the violence he can inflict. The disarray and disintegration of order and the emergence of his ‘illness’ become evident after the initial slaughter of the pig. Following their triumphant first kill, Jack and his hunters return and recount their actions ‘with pride, yet an involuntary spasm’. The term ‘spasm’ unveils the former selves of Jack and the other hunters, when they adhered to societal norms, as it implies their nervousness while discussing their deeds.
Upon noticing the blood-stained hands, Jack’s reaction was one of disgust, revealing his dissatisfaction with the consequences of the murder. It seemed as though he disapprovingly gazed at his hands, expressing remorse for his actions. In contrast, the hunters adopted a different approach by boasting about the quantity of blood and laughing while doing so. This behavior implies that they were deviating from their previously civilized demeanor since finding amusement in the killing of a pig is undoubtedly an act of savagery. Nevertheless, the inclusion of “shuddering” suggests that the boys were also attempting to distance themselves from the horror associated with this action, acknowledging its moral reprehensibility.
The utilization of an oxymoron in the passage implies that the hunters are straying from moral distinctions. This is apparent as conflicting thoughts arise within them. Golding portrays the boys’ delight in their brutal action by depicting the pig’s existence being drained as a “long satisfying drink.” By doing this, Golding intends to demonstrate that the boys now feel empowered following their kill and that their craving for blood has been satiated. In order to illustrate their diminishing understanding of what is right and wrong, Golding employs imagery of symbolic violation when describing the slaughter of the sow.
The intentional utilization of sexual imagery suggests the loss of innocence and abandonment of societal norms. As time elapses, the boys become increasingly fixated on the brutal killing of the sow, becoming fully satisfied in their violent actions as they are “wedded to her in her lust”. This choice of words illustrates the irrevocable commitment to their disturbance-inducing act, leaving no possibility for reversal.
Golding utilizes this act to underscore the central theme of his novel, highlighting that even young boys are capable of committing such a monstrous act, thus illustrating the potential for anyone to succumb to evil. Furthermore, the sow is initially depicted with her offspring, evident in the description of her belly adorned with a row of piglets. This imagery could symbolize the innocent families being slaughtered back home. It is ironic, given that the boys long for their return home, yet both locations have become indistinguishable due to the absence of civilization.
Simon’s presence during the savage act causes the butterflies to dance, while the sow collapses. This juxtaposition depicts the contrast between Simon’s peaceful nature and the boys’ brutal violence. It signifies that the killing of the sow has destroyed the peaceful environment and disrupted the harmony on the island. The increasingly violent dance throughout the novel reflects the emergence of illness.
The dances, which were performed to re-enact the pig’s killings, started incorporating the participation of a young child, making the dances more frequent. This suggests that the “dances,” simulated acts of killing, have transformed into a leisurely activity, implying that their desire for killing will not be satisfied until they murder a human. The death of Simon originated from the concept of a “dance.” Throughout the chapter, Golding employs weather and the literary device of pathetic fallacy to illustrate the mounting tension on the island, which ultimately dissipates after the completion of the murder.
The weather’s violent behavior may symbolize the punishment the island is inflicting on the boys for their mistreatment of it. As the weather becomes increasingly chaotic, it mirrors the escalating violence exhibited by the boys. The description of a “build up of clouds” foreshadows the growth of the boys’ evil and savagery. Prior to the murder, the boys are depicted as “demented,” indicating their extreme madness and lack of control, allowing their savage instincts to dominate.
According to Golding, the boys are unable to escape the terror as they are constrained by the chant. He further describes their actions as a song and dance that resembles the pulsation and stamping of a single entity. The term “throb” suggests that they are causing harm, with the pain intensifying as the violence escalates. By referring to them as a “single organism,” Golding illustrates how the boys, through their collective dance, have merged into one entity, losing their individual identities.
They are all unified because they share the same savage traits and the dance’s beat is beginning to control them. Golding describes the sky as ‘shattered’, suggesting the breakdown of values and their knowledge of civilization. The use of onomatopoeia enhances the meaning of a society breaking down with a harsh sound. Golding also employs hell imagery, such as ‘the sulphurous explosion’, referencing the sulphur pits in hell to depict the experience as hell-like. Furthermore, the boys are portrayed as devils forever tormented by ‘mankind’s illness’ in an environment resembling hell. Golding uses animal imagery, with descriptions like ‘screamed, struck, bit, tore’, illustrating complete regression as they behave like animals and resemble predators. Additionally, Simon is portrayed as animal-like with ‘no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws’, positioning the reader as the boys who believe they are killing the beast.
During the murder, Simon is referred to as various dehumanizing names like ‘a thing’ and ‘it’, causing confusion among the boys. However, they eventually realize what they are doing and who they are murdering, yet they choose to continue. This shows that the boys have lost their conscience as the power of the chant has taken over them. After Simon’s death, Golding uses the imagery of the sky and water to depict innocence, as “the clear water mirrored the clear sky”, creating a sense of the sky ‘opening up’.
The text explains that the opening of the sky is expanding the boys’ understanding of their actions. Golding uses a funeral motif to symbolize beauty and emphasize Simon’s significance. The phrases “Sculptured marble” and “silvered cheek” create imagery associated with funerals, suggesting that Simon’s goodness caused nature to reclaim him in this manner. Additionally, precious imagery, like “pearls” and “silver,” conveys Simon’s value to humanity, resulting in his peaceful and respected death.
The portrayal of Simon as a Christ-like figure is evident in his role as someone who planned to “spread the word” and ultimately died for what he believed in, similar to Christ. The use of the term “body” suggests that his soul has been lifted while only his physical body remains. The boys’ reaction to the killing is depicted as “figures staggered away”, implying that Golding intentionally avoids specifically identifying those involved, merging them into a collective representation of society responsible for Simon’s murder.
Furthermore, the boys’ use of the term ‘staggered’ suggests that they are in a state of confusion about their actions and withdraw with a realization of what they have done. In conclusion, Golding’s portrayal of the escalating violence on the island teaches us about the collapse of civilization and the inherent sickness within humanity. The boys transition from being civilized children longing for rescue to becoming violent hunters who reject authority.
The loss of innocence occurs naturally in individuals as they are exposed to the inherent evil and savagery within themselves. The rescue, despite saving Ralph from certain death, is not a moment of pure joy. Instead, Ralph comes to a realization that he will never be the same again, as he now understands the presence of evil within all humans. Golding uses Ralph’s despair to highlight the existence of hidden evil instincts in mankind, even in the presence of authority. This emphasizes that while civilization can temporarily suppress evil, violence will always emerge in human nature.