Lord Of The Flies: Symbolism In A Novel
Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding that follows a moderately large group of British boys as they make their attempt to survive a formerly deserted island while contending with dangers both natural and very human. While Golding never specifically states the book’s Abrahamic connections, it is not difficult for many to draw out motifs of allegorical religious symbolism throughout the story. Even the very title of the book is an example of this. It is an allusion to the ancient god Beelzebub, meaning the lord of flies, who used to be worshipped in Ekron, one of the 5 major cities of the Philistine Pentapolis in what is now Israel. Upon the increasingly broad spread of Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, many gods and spirits from other faiths became seen as demons or incarnations of the Devil itself. It can be observed and stated that the content of the novel reflects the themes of good versus evil, circumstantial corruption, evil in superstition, and the loss of innocence.
The island setting of the story is quite often considered by many as an allusion or parallel to the Garden of Eden as written in the Bible. Simon’s lush, verdant meadow in the middle of the forest is thought of as highly similar to the biblical location. It was originally a beautiful haven until evil’s corrupting influence had been introduced to it. Simon himself has his own subtle parallels to Jesus of Nazareth. Before his untimely demise, he believed in the intrinsic worth of morality, and he treated the other children with kindness. Simon had a metaphorical aura of spiritual purity in his connection to nature and was the island’s absolute paragon of goodness and truth until he was killed in a seemingly sacrificial and brutally ritualistic manner, not unlike the death of Christ.
On the opposite of the moral spectrum is Jack Merridew, who embodies the primal savagery and lust for power that Golding believes lurks deep within all of humanity. If Simon is a parallel to Jesus, then Jack has the traits of an antichrist guided by Satan itself. Jack killed Simon because the latter realized that the beast that had been terrorizing the children was actually all in their heads; a symbol of how fear corrupts the souls of the innocent. Jack wanted to keep the rest of the children under the shadow of fear, so he and his brainwashed lackeys murdered Simon in cold blood to appease their fake deity. He learned how to use the idea of the beast to manipulate the wills and actions of the children on the island. This serves to show how superstition can be used for evil by authoritarian false leaders.
Despite the reasons listed above, there are a few limits to the perception that the novel is a definitive religious allegory. Unlike Jesus, Simon lacks the supernatural powers given by God. He does accurately predict events from the future on two separate occasions, but this can easily be dismissed as a simple talent regarding his good intuition. Also, Simon is killed before he could reveal the truth about the beast, as opposed to Jesus, who was executed by the Romans after his philosophical and political messages had spread far and wide. Therefore, it can be said that although Christian motifs persist throughout the novel’s plot, they aren’t necessary to understand its themes.
Although religious symbolism is not the main subject matter, it can and does amplify some of the messages that the main themes provide, such as the seemingly endless war between moral order and senseless savagery, how superstition can be used to transform the innocent into the bloodthirsty, and the fight to build and establish a civilized society free from the wicked and contemptible actions of evil found in the hearts of every living person. Not one of these themes is overlooked in the texts of the Torah, Bible, or Qur’an. Overall, Lord of the Flies is a novel whose content is absolutely filled to the brim with symbolism, whether it is religious or otherwise. Its themes attempt to encourage the readers to ask questions about society, authority, human nature, superstition, fear, and kinship.