Silent Observer Noticing
Lord of the flies starts off with some really important symbolisms. Piggy and Ralph spot a conch and decide to use it to call a meeting. All right! Island society is off to a good start. The boys impose a "rule of the conch" on themselves, deciding that no one can speak unless he's holding the conch. As a representative of law and order, the conch helps Ralph get elected: "The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart". Even Jack respects the conch. After he fails to stage a coup, he "laid the conch with great care in the grass at his feet".He doesn't throw it or smash it; he sets it down carefully. He may not want to play by the rules, but he still respects the rules. At the same time the conch reminds us that the tools of power are all fake. From the very beginning of the novel, Ralph is determined to keep a signal fire going, in case a ship passes near to the island. That's all well and good, until the first signal fire the boys light begins burning out of control, and at least one boy is missing . As Piggy tells Jack, "You got your small fire all right" The fire thus becomes a symbol, paradoxically, of both hope of rescue and of destruction.
While the boys on the island are busy stripping naked to hunt pigs with sharpened sticks, there's still one symbol of advancement, innovation, and discovery: Piggy's glasses. On the one hand, the glasses are a pretty simple symbol. They're intended for looking through, and looking = vision; vision = sight, and sight = a metaphor for knowledge. Piggy knows things the other boys don't, like how to use the conch, and the necessity for laws and order. When the boys take his glasses, he can't see anything. "Seeing" is Piggy's greatest attribute. It's the one reason the boys don't ostracize him completely; it's the one way he's useful. Without his glasses, he's useless—and the world he represents is useless, too. This pighunt—and the other ones—symbolize man's capacity for destruction and violence. In their bloodlust, these nice British boys become vicious monsters. It's not about having meat to eat—it's about exerting power over the helpless animal. Many critics describe this as a rape scene, with the excitement coming partly from the blood and partly from their newly emerging feelings of sexuality.Also, the pig is a nursing female—so it's almost as if the boys are killing their own mothers. Later, the boys act out this pighunt over and over, in a sort of play-acting ritual that takes a horrifying turn when Simon is beaten to death by a mob of excited boys. If you ask us, these hunts might be a little too real to be just a symbol. Lord of the flies also has a very interesting setting. When the boys can finally see the whole island, they notice on the far side "another island; a rock, almost detached, standing like a fort, facing them."A reef encloses one side of the island, about a mile away from and parallel to "their beach."That's right, "their" beach. Already they've started taking possession of the island. The boys have taken advantage of the naturally occurring structures on the island (reefs, mountains, platforms) and imposed their own system on it. Eventually they impose another human legacy on it: fire. The boys move seamlessly from working in harmony with the island to accidentally kind of, you know, burning it up. By the end of the story, the island isn't a deserted Eden; it's a populated dystopia—just like, we think Golding is saying, every beautiful, natural place that man settles. Lord of the flies also has a really important tone that shapes the whole book and movie. Golding takes a look at the worst, darkest side of human nature and reports back, with exaggeration and poetical bits thrown in for good measure. But that doesn't mean it's all doom-and-gloom. In Simon's death, for example, the tone is at first that of a silent observer noticing that "the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore" (9.99). All those simple words like "rock," "beast," and "bit" describe the murder without any flinching (that's what makes it "unflinching"). By the end of the chapter, though, the narrator has shifted into musing speculation:From the brutal killing of a boy to the surprisingly accurate description of the moon's effect on the tides—this is a narrator who can do it all. He can even make a dead body floating out to sea sound beautiful.