Unveiling the Shadows: The Symbolism of the Beast in ‘Lord of the Flies’

Table of Content

William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” stands as a formidable exploration of human nature and the inherent darkness that lurks within. One of the novel’s most elusive and debated symbols is the “beast.” While initially perceived as a tangible threat lurking on the island, the beast’s true nature unravels as the narrative progresses. This essay aims to dissect the symbolism of the beast, highlighting its role as a mirror reflecting the deepest fears and intrinsic savagery of the stranded boys.

External Fear and the Unknown

  • In the early chapters, the beast manifests as the children’s collective fear of the unknown. Their unfamiliarity with the island and its nocturnal sounds give birth to tales of a lurking creature, a manifestation of the unknown dangers they perceive in their new environment.
  • Inherent Human Savagery: As tensions rise and civility unravels, the beast evolves from an external menace to a representation of the boys’ inner darkness. Golding suggests that the true beast isn’t an external force but the inherent primal instincts and savagery present within each individual. The chant “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” becomes a chilling testament to their descent into barbarity.
  • The Loss of Innocence: The boys’ belief in and fear of the beast symbolizes the loss of innocence. As they grapple with the idea of the beast, they are, in essence, confronting the cruel realities of the world, realizing that the safety nets of society are mere constructs that can easily disintegrate.

The Lord of the Flies and the Beast Within

  • The climax of the beast’s symbolism appears with the introduction of the “Lord of the Flies,” a severed pig’s head impaled on a stake. As it “speaks” to Simon, it confirms that the beast is not an external entity but a part of each boy. “I’m part of you,” it whispers, solidifying the notion that every individual harbors the potential for evil.
  • The Paralysis of Fear: The beast not only symbolizes darkness but also the paralysis that fear can induce. Characters like Piggy and Ralph grapple with their fears, affecting their decision-making and ability to maintain order. It underscores the idea that fear, when left unchecked, can cripple societies and lead to chaos.


The beast in “Lord of the Flies” is a masterful construct, serving as a multi-faceted symbol that brings to light the novel’s grim message about human nature. While it begins as a phantom of external threats, it eventually morphs into a haunting realization of man’s intrinsic capacity for cruelty and chaos. Golding’s narrative serves as a stark reminder that civilization is but a fragile veil, and beneath it lies the ever-present beast of our primal instincts. In recognizing and confronting this beast, one perhaps finds the first step towards truly understanding the human psyche.

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  1. Golding, W. “Lord of the Flies”, Faber & Faber, 1954.
  2. Baker, J. R. “The Theme of ‘Lord of the Flies'”, in “Readings on Lord of the Flies”, Greenhaven Press, 1997.
  3. Kinkead-Weekes, M., and Gregor, I. “William Golding: A Critical Study”, Faber & Faber, 1967.

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Unveiling the Shadows: The Symbolism of the Beast in ‘Lord of the Flies’. (2023, Aug 09). Retrieved from


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