Lord of the Flies a Microcosm to Our Society

Essay by Tina16Junior High, 9th gradeD-, May 2008

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William Golding ’s novel Lord of the Flies significantly symbolizes characters, objects and the setting to represent our world as a whole. Golding uses those symbols to make the island similar to society and to show the difference between living in a civilised society and savagery. The novel takes place on an island during World War II, this is significant since the isolation forms a sort of civilization and community, a sort of microcosm to the real world and to human civilization.

Lord of the Flies island is similar to our society in many ways. There are certain objects that link the island and our society. Firstly William Golding portrays the conch as a symbol for power, order and authority. This is because whoever holds it becomes the only one with the authority to speak. That rule is official when Ralph says, “And another thing. We can’t have everybody talking at once.

We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school…then I’ll give him the conch.” (Golding 31) This is much like standing at the podium or holding a microphone in our civilized society or raising one’s hand in school. The conch also represents the organization found in a democratic Government. Since the conch was discovered it has created order and rules and brought the boys together as a society. Jack says “we’ll have rules!’ he cried excitedly. ‘Lots of rules! Then anyone who breaks ’em- ” (Golding 32) As the conch starts to lose it’s power the tribe splits into two groups, just as the community would have if the government would no longer have control. The rise and fall of the conch symbolized the rise and fall of a system of rules, regulations and order in a society. It provided a parallel universe showing how important the rules and regulations are to a successful society. Therefore the conch is a symbol of human civilization thus making Lord of the Flies a smaller version of society.

Another symbol of civilization are the glasses belonging to piggy. It symbolized knowledge and insight. They represent society’s reliance upon technology and the weakness of human beings. They were created to make piggy’ s life better, without them he can hardly see. When Jack snatches the glasses off piggy’ s face, Piggy replies “Mind out! Give em’ back! I can hardly see!” (Golding 40) The glasses are symbolic to technology which makes one’s life more convenient or improves their quality of life. Without the glasses the boys would have not been able to start a fire since no one else knew another way to do so. After asking around for matches Jack points suddenly at Piggy and says “His specs-use them as burning glasses!” (Golding 40) The concept that the boys would be helpless without the glasses symbolizes how helpless people become when they don’t have technology to aid them . Also the clothes are a symbolic link to the survival of civilization and a symbol of conflict in society. In our society today, the clothing someone wears tells a lot about them. People are judged to be rich or poor, intelligent or unintelligent, or even neat or messy just by the clothing they have on. The boys arrive with clothes, but gradually they all wear less and less. This is symbolic of their becoming more savage and less in touch with their former civilization. One who does not wear pants in our society would be arrested and considered to be uncivilized. Another use of symbolism in clothing is that Jack and his group all dress alike and act alike makes them into a separate group from the rest of the boys. They carry out different jobs and have a different ideology. This conflict of a separate group in the society which Ralph try’s to organize eventually leads to the break up of the boys into completely separate groups. This is symbolic of the different cultures we have in our society today.

As the novel is an allegory, each character signifies an important idea or theme. Each character is symbolized clearly as someone in our society. Piggy is the scientific and intellectual aspect of society. He is a thinker, philosopher and someone who always advises for good. He was also like Albert Einstein, people did not care that he thought the atomic bomb was a bad weapon just like no one cared about what piggy said or did. While Piggy was trying to explain himself to Ralph, “Jack turned on him. ‘You shut up!”, he yelled. (Golding 46) Another main character Ralph is like Franklin Roosevelt , who could not stop the World war two from breaking out. He is the allegory of the confused that are always confused in the recognition between good and evil. He also represents democracy and is responsible. He is the politician who relies on social order and government, and his political failures show that he cannot control the evil within the other boys. Jack was a symbol of Adolph Hitler. He was a crazy leader who killed many people because he wanted power, “No one moved. Jack shouted angrily. ‘I said “grab them”!” (Golding 198) Like Hitler, Jack was a dictator and ignorant. Jack is the hunter, protector and the Soldier who is consumed by his own fear and the greater force of his own capacity for evil. Roger is even worse than Jack, even though he isn’t like that from the beginning. He’s similar to Satan or even Dr. Mengele who was Hitler’ s worker and did very bad operations on people. Roger is so cruel and has gone far beyond from being a savage when Roger purposely “with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever”, resulting in Piggy’ s death. (Golding 200) Simon is a Christ like figure who discovered the truth but unlike Christ he is sacrificed before he can deliver it to the others. The impulses and the behaviour of the boys are those of adults. The struggle between Ralph and Jack is symbolic of the struggle between the forces of civilization and anarchy, or the struggle between moral conscience and his heart of darkness and also world war 2. The tussle between Jack and Ralph for leadership is the allegory of our political leaders who always fight and kill for the sake of power. The way the boys are being seduced by Jack, the leaders of our world exploit the masses. Our world is very fertile like the island, but in their ambition to get the power the leaders destroy this world just like the boys who burn the whole island to ashes without realizing that they are destroying their own means of survival. The division of the boys in litluns and big'uns is the allegory of the classes in our world. Litluns symbolize the common people, while the big'uns are the allegory of the ruling, powerful and political classes. The island on which the boys find themselves is allegorically our world in miniature.

Since the island is a microcosm, Golding uses it to reflect our world and give comments on it and his view of human nature. In order to achieve this symbolism, Golding uses objects that have symbolic value as references to ideas, characters that symbolize important historical and religious people, and the setting which frames the conflicts on the island, all have parallels in the real world. They show that what happened in the story is just not a story. They help prove the author’s belief that humankind is savage and evil is under civilization. Thus the Lord of the Flies is a microcosm, a smaller version of society and human civilization.

BIBLEOGRAPHY: Lord of the Flies, William Golding