William Golding used a lot of symbolism when writing his book The Lord of the Flies, and the most interesting symbols used are masks. These masks come in many different forms, and by careful study of events throughout Golding’s novel, one discovers their significance. Physical masks are used by many characters such as Jack and Piggy, and they are perhaps the least ambiguous forms found in the book. The idea of a mask encompasses more than just these literal interpretations, however. Metaphorical masks are used in abundance throughout the book. Much can be revealed about the characters based on how or if they chose to wear their masks, and the major theme of the book is tied closely to their significance as well.
One of the most significant forms of a mask is that of darkness. When the sun is down, people feel more vulnerable and fearful. This may empower others and drive them to either take advantage of this fear or protect their integrity with bravery. In the case of this book, Jack can often be seen using fear to take advantage of the other boys. This is because they show signs of being scared of a beast at night. The older boys become so accustomed to the screaming lilluns during their nightmares that they are even able to sleep through it. Jack knows this, and gains support and fame by putting forth an effort to kill, appease, and provide protection from the beast. This mixed reaction of dealing with the beast demonstrates Jack’s ability to morph this mask to set the stage for effective manipulation. The success of this tactic is gradual as the boys slowly loosen their grasp on reasonable thinking, and nearly everyone succumbs to it in the end.
Baring the mask of darkness can be humiliating and shameful as well. Ralph does not take his role as Chief lightly, and he knows, based on the fact that the boys are becoming more savage with time, that showing fear would hurt his image. When he finally believes there is a beast, he attempts to show no outward signs of fear towards it. Furthermore, being labelled a coward is unfavourable regardless of one’s role in a group for social reasons. Hiding insecurities like these-- presented by the mask of darkness-- with bravery is an expedient way of dealing with the fear this mask presents.
Not all masks are metaphorical, however. Golding uses several physical masks that carry with them much symbolism and importance. Jack creates a mask early on in the novel by painting his face with clay. Immediately after the application of this paint, he breaks out into a dance. This mask allows him to truly break free from his ties to civilized society by providing his mind a clean tablet of clay. His outer thoughts, now unshielded by his true identity, stray into the exciting forbidden territory of primal savagery and become impressed upon the slate. He then takes up this persona as his primary identity and with it accelerates...