Literary Qualities

Critics often refer to Golding’s novels as religious myths or parables, stories written to illustrate a moral point. Lord of the Flies symbolically relates Golding’s idea of what happens when human beings refuse to deal with the destructive forces in their own nature. Golding defines the Characters just enough to explain their various responses to the threat of the “Lord of the Flies.” Within this group are fairly typical representatives of an English school of the time; that they have no personal characteristics beyond the ordinary serves to emphasize Golding’s point that the evil infecting the boys could manifest itself in any normal human being. Yet the novel is not merely a moral fable but a gripping adventure story. Golding skillfully leads the reader through the steps of the developing situation, from the ominous fear of the “littlun” who dreams of “The Beast,” to the formation of a savage tribe headed by Jack, to the hunt to find and kill Ralph. Although the transformation of the innocent schoolboys is shocking, it develops so gradually that the situation is believable.

Particularly effective is the eerie and threatening manner in which the evil spirit of the “Lord of the Flies” comes to life. By the time Simon meets “The Beast” for himself, the reader is thoroughly convinced that it is real and more horrifying than any of the boys has imagined. The crucial scene in which the killing of a sow unleashes the savage force within the schoolboy tribe is also persuasive. Golding keeps the language simple and direct, and the dialogue accurately reflects the language of schoolboys at that time.

Some readers might think the novel ends rather abruptly with the arrival of the naval officer who rescues the boys. His response to the evidence of two murders and a group of schoolchildren turned into violent savages seems too calm. Perhaps Golding wishes to create a sense of irony through this depiction of a warrior lecturing the schoolboys on their inability to behave like proper Englishmen.

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