How The Environment Is Symbolically Reflected In The Ethical Nature Of The Characters In "Lord Of The Flies"

1211 words - 5 pages

In Lord of the Flies Golding uses symbolism to tell us that environment, actual of perceived, controls behavior. The white conch is symbolic of government structure and power. The Lord of the Flies represents the evil in human nature and the characters reveal the way they either are controlled by or control the beast. Golding states that his theme is "Society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable"(204). The environment of the island on which the characters are morooned reflects symbolically the ethical nature of the individuals since there are no adults or governmental controls. For most of the boys this results in a progression towards impulsive behavior and a deterioration in moral responsibility from a civilized organized society to a savage primitive mob. In the beginning of the novel, the system of government appears to be working. The boys are working together to make life on the island better, and they have a logical plan of action. '"We'll have rules...lots of rules!"' Ralph exclaims (33). From the very beginning, the boys set up a hierarchical class structure and everyone has a task to perform. The boys all wear uniforms and each is supposed to contribute to the welfare of the whole. This is in sharp contrast to the end of the novel when the boys are naked with war paint and spears hunting down a human being to kill.The boys are controlled by their environment instead of by the organizing system of the conch. Even Ralph succumbs to the environment by taking off all his clothes and swimming naked because there are no adults, and thus no rules on the island. "He undid the snake-clasp of his belt, lugged off his shorts and pants, and stood there naked looking at the dazzling beach and the water'(10). This symbolizes the shedding of laws and organized society, and the concentration on the surrounding environment. In the Garden of Eden the first temptation to do evil was made by the snake who appealed to individual desire and impulse.Another example of the emphasis on individual satisfaction over the good of society and the deleterious effect of the environment is when the boys, Piggy and Ralph are all on the beach dancing and Simon comes out of the woods. The boys are so wrapped up in their dancing and chanting that they think he is the beast. The environment here is a jungle with boys dressed like savages with war paint on their faces so that they become anonymous and thus are able to act with mob mentality rather than as individuals. They are hunters with spears and spits cooking a wild pig with blood flowing and flies creating the symbol of moral corruption. In existential terms the individual ceases to take responsibility for his own actions. Their chant which resonates throughout the book is " Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"(152). Even though the boys know better, they revert back to a monkey see, monkey do mentality, and they don't...

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