William Goldings Lord of the Flies can be viewed as a political allegory with characters representing world leaders during World War II. It can also be seen as symbolic, with many different objects representing other things or ideas. On the island, Ralph wants democracy, Jack wants dictatorship, and Roger is the sadistic one who provides evil. In The Lord of the Flies things such as the conch, the fire, and the beast each provide their own symbolic meaning.
The story seems to be a political allegory when examining the main characters. According to literary critic Diane Andrews Henningfeld, Ralph , for example, stands for the good hearted but not entirely effective leader of a democratic state, a ruler who wants to rule by law derived from the common consent (188). Ralph feels he needs to establish rules in order to ensure order and stability. The only way for this to be sustained is if these rules are not broken. This idea of rules being made supports a democratic society. Being the oldest boy, Ralph was chosen to be chief and he continues to tell the others what they need to do in order to survive. However most boys disagree and think of Ralph as demanding, bossy, and an ineffective leader.
Piggy is another boy stranded on the island who helps and gives advice to support Ralph. Henningfeld adds, Piggy is his advisor, someone who is unable to rule because of his own social and physical shortcomings, but he is who is able to offer sound advice to the political leader (188). Piggy helps Ralph in every way he can and tries to prevent Ralph from giving up his democratic rule. Toward the end of the novel, some of the boys decide to join Jacks tribe and abandon Ralph. This wipes out the democratic rule on the island, just like several European countries were wiped out during World War II. Henningfeld stated, In the early 1950s, the world appeared to be divided into two camps: the so called Free World of Western Europe and the United States, and the so called Iron Curtain World of Communist Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (188). The island itself had two groups separated: Ralphs group of democracy and Jacks group ruled by dictatorship.
Jack did not feel as if the rules applied to him but rather he wanted to hunt and be a savage not caring as much about the fire or being rescued. It was the followers of Jack who gave him power and let him stay as the dictator on the island. Diane Andrews Henningfeld said, Jack represents a totalitarian dictator, a ruler who appeals to the emotional responses of his followers (188). He and his tribe go out several times to hunt pigs and be savages, not realizing what is important to survive. In Jacks eyes he just wants to rule everyone and have them do things his way. According to literary critic Paul Slayton, Jack, the antagonist, is developed as the forceful villain. Outgoing, cocky, and confident, Jack marches his choir boys in military formation up the beach to answer the call of the conch (191). He feels more powerful then anyone else and has put his mind to being a hunter and a savage ruling by charisma and hysteria on an island full of choir boys.
In the end of the story, Jack tries to kill Ralph but is interrupted by a British naval officer who prevents Ralph from joining Piggy in death. Henningfeld states, Roger, the boy who takes the most joy in the slaughter of the pigs and who hurls the rock that kills Piggy, represents the henchman necessary for such a totalitarian ruler to stay in power (188). Roger was a quiet choir boy once he reached the island, but after being on a political island where there is a struggle for power, he turns evil. He was seen as a sadistic boy who provides evil to the dictator in power. Roger gets pleasure out of torturing the littluns in any way he can and throwing rocks at Sam and Eric. Diane Andrews Henningfeld explains how Piggy was killed by the sadistic Roger. The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea (189). On a political island taken over by dictatorship Roger easily killed Piggy after turning evil and providing it to others.
Symbolism also plays a major role in The Lord of the Flies. Things such as the conch, the fire, and the beastie all had a symbolic meaning and an effect on the boys. When Ralph and Piggy had just landed on the island they found a shell called a conch. Ralph used one hand as a fulcrum and pressed down with the other till the shell rose, dripping, and Piggy could make a grab. Now the shell was no longer a thing seen but not to be touched, Ralph became too excited (LOF 16). The conch was used by Ralph in order to call meetings. After he found the conch he blew it in order to gather up any other boys who were on the island. We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. Theyll come when they hear us (LOF 16). Piggy suggested that blowing the conch would get other boys to come because of the loud sound it made. It symbolized leadership and democracy on the island giving order and stability. If you wanted to talk when there was a meeting, you would hold the conch giving you the chance to express yourself without interruption. This idea of holding the conch helped many littluns talk without being interrupted by other boys. Diane Andrews Henningfeld states, The rock struck Piggy, a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist (189). Henningfeld explains that the conch is broken wiping out leadership and democracy showing that once the conch is gone it is never to come back again.
The fire was symbolic in many ways. It was used to make a smoke signal to get the attention of any ships passing by. The fire also symbolized the boys being rescued and going back home to their normal lives. Piggys glasses were used in order to start the fire which upset him because he felt that he was being taken advantage of. His specs-use them as burning glasses! Piggy was surrounded before he could back away. Here-let me go! His voice rose to a shriek of terror as Jack snatched the glasses of his face (LOF 40). Jack at first cared about being rescued, but once he formed his own group he and his hunters did not care about the fire and smoke signalat all. Since Jack and his tribe did care about the fire they decided to raid Ralphs camp and steal Piggys glasses preventing Ralph and his group from being able to make the fire and be rescued. Theyve got our fire. Rage filled his voice. They stole it! Thats them said Piggy (LOF 169). Ralph expresses his anger about the fire being stolen saying that Jack took it purposely. Once the fire was taken by Jack and his tribe there was no way for Ralph and his group to be rescued.
The beast was brought up at the first meeting by a littlun with a birthmark. Paul Slayton states, Vines hanging from trees become snake things in the imaginings of the little uns. A nightmare amidst fretful sleep, causing one of the boys to cry out in the night, conjures up fearful beasties for the others (190) Slayton shows the reader that the littlun most likely did not see a beastie and was imagining it. This causes extreme fear for many of the boys except for Ralph and Piggy who do not believe in the snake. Simon thinks that there is most likely no snake but thinks it could be possible. Literary critic Carl Niemeyer says, Simon, who understands that there may indeed be a beast, even if not a palpable one-maybe its only us (193). Niemeyer explains that Simon thinks there may or may not be a snake but is willing to prove it. This is seen from when Simon talks to the sows head on a stake which is the lord of the flies.
William Goldings Lord of the Flies is indeed seen as a political allegory with characters representing world leaders during World War II. It was also seen as symbolic, with many different objects representing other things or ideas. The Lord of the Flies was a political allegory because Ralph was the democratic ruler, Jack was the dictator, and Roger was sadistic and provided evil. Both Ralph and Jack turned the island into a political allegory as soon as they arrived by choosing a chief as they both struggled for power. The conch, the fire, and the beast each had its own symbolic meaning. The conch represented leadership and democracy when the fire made a smoke signal to possibly rescue the boys. The beast was in the boys minds but it really didnt exist, rather they created it themselves and believed it existed and caused them chaos.