“Lord of the Flies”–Themes, Motifs, and Symbolism

Theme #1 –Civilization vs. Savagery1. The conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. 2. Instinct of civilization–associated with good, instinct of savagery–associated with evil
Theme #2 –Loss of Innocence1. As the boys on the island progress from well-behaved, orderly children longing for rescue to cruel, bloodthirsty hunters who have no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence that they possessed at the beginning of the novel. 2. Example: all of the boys besides Ralph become painted savages who have hunted, tortured, ad killed animals and human being
Motif #1 –Biblical parallels (see “Read as a religious allegory” Quizlet)
Motif #2 –Good vs. evil1. Good is mostly represented by Ralph, Piggy, and Simon, who value civilization and being rescued (especially Ralph and Piggy)2. Evil is mostly represented by Jack, who is a representative of the hunters
Symbolism–The Conch Shell –Becomes a powerful symbol of civilization and order in the novel. –Effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak.–As the island civilization erodes and the boys descend into savagery, the conch shell loses its power and influence among them.
Symbolism–Piggy’s Glasses –Piggy is the most intelligent, rational boy in the group–His glasses represent the power of science and intellectual endeavor in society.
Symbolism–The Signal Fire –The signal fire burns on the mountain, and later on the beach, to attract the notice of passing ships that might be able to rescue the boys–it becomes a barometer of the boys’ connection to civilization. –Functions as a kind of measurement of the strength of the civilized instinct remaining on the island.
Symbolism–The Beast –The imaginary beast that frightens all the boys stands for the primal instinct of savagery that exists within all human beings. –The boys’ behavior is what brings the beast into existence, so the more savagely the boys act, the more real the beast seems to become.
Symbolism–The Lord of the Flies –The bloody, severed sow’s head that Jack impales on a stake in the forest glade as an offering to the beast. –Simon confronts the sow’s head in the glade and it seems to speak to him, telling him that evil lies within every human heart and promising to have some “fun” with him.–It becomes both a physical manifestation of the beast, a symbol of the power of evil, and a kind of Satan figure who evokes the beast within each human being.

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