A Concept of Innocence Lost in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
The loss of innocents among the boys in the novel Lord of the flies Medi Jones
At the beginning of the novel, the plane carrying the boys crash lands onto a remote tropical island leaving a massive ‘scar’ in the once pristine and untouched wilderness. This foreshadows the boys’ devastating transformation from civilized schoolboys to vicious barbarians. Just as the crashing plane left destruction amongst nature, likewise the boys’ actions leave a permanent scar on their souls and mental state, ultimately ending their innocence.
The reader first recognizes the downfall of the boys’ innocents during the fourth chapter as the tribe initially kill during a hunt and see blood for the first time. Instead of being horrified at the blood and the animals’ death, they were exhilarated and proud of their success. As the boys’ chant simultaneously ‘Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.’ it illustrates a transformation in the children as they are elated and captivated by their violent deed. The horribly graphic nature of the chant emphasises that killing has become something to be proud of. Before, as they were part of a civilized society, they would have seen public slaughter of animals as thing of the past. However, after wilfully cutting the pigs throat and spilling its blood, they now celebrate it.
The boys are so overwhelmed and proud of what they have done that each of them have to express his role in the slaughter of the pig.
“Look! We’ve killed a pig – we stole up on them – we got in a circle”
Voices broke in from the hunters.
“We got in a circle – “
“We crept up – “
“The pig squealed – “
Nothing else matters to the boys. No notice has been taken towards the dying fire and the fact that a possible rescue has been missed. The boys relish in the talk about the hunt and have discovered an atrocity within them that would henceforth dominate their actions. Their savage priorities represent the deterioration of the boys into possessing malignant desires.
The boys’ savagery and thirst for blood emphasizes Golding’s beliefs towards children as a result of his experiences as a teacher. In a book called Coral Island by RM Ballantyne, published in 1857, 100 years before Golding’s book, three young British boys are shipwrecked on a desert island and have to survive without any adults. Brave and resourceful, they thoroughly enjoy their experience and there is never a hint of trouble. Golding knew that the idyllic life of Coral Island could never exist in real life. Through out his novel, Golding conveys his ideology that we cannot escape our savage, violent tendencies and shows through the boys’ abandonment that with out social order we devolve into a state of chaos.
Each character loses their innocence’s in different ways. We first see this in Jack when he is unable to kill the pig. His hesitation shows that at this point in the novel he is not completely bloodthirsty as the thought of killing an animal is unbearable for him. However, ‘Jack’s white face under his freckles’ suggests that the shame of not showing brutality was worse. This humiliation unleashes a determination in Jack to spill blood. In the eighth chapter, Jack feels a rush and adornment towards the death of the sow and together with his hunters ‘place the head on a sharpened stick as it dripped blood’. The scene is significant as is symbolizes the boys’ frustration with living ‘motherless’ on the island. It’s known as a ‘rape scene’ where the boys have gone past the point of no return as no sin is worse than destroying ‘maternal bliss’. They lose their innocence in the kill and lust of it all.
Jack’s obsession with hunting symbolizes life in 1950s Britain as food rationing meant that children grew up without having a range wide of food readily available. The lack of food in Britain throughout the war and even into the early post-war years was a major influence on people’s lives. Although people had enough food to survive, meat in any quantity and imported fruit such as oranges and bananas became luxuries. At home, these foods would be an enormous treat for Jack and his family. His depravation of such things means that he greatly values these items which leads to his fixation towards hunting.
Additionally, Golding portrays the loss of Jack’s innocence through the symbolism of paint. Jack originally creates the paint as a mask or camouflage for hunting, but when he tries it for the first time, he feels an almost delirious sense of abandonment: ‘the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness’. Wearing the paint transforms Jack into a wild savage, and as the other boys begin to wear the paint, they too share in his loss of innocence as they feel free to abandon their old morals and lifestyle. The paint that the tribe wears represents the Nazi organization, Schutzsaffel, who were fiercely loyal to the German leader Adolf Hitler. The boys wear the paint to symbolize their devotion to Jack, who portrays Hitler on the island.
However, Simon loses his innocence in a manner that is far less violent. When Simon states “What I mean is . . . maybe it’s only us” he’s proposing that perhaps the beast is only the boys themselves. Simon’s words are central to Golding’s point that innate human evil exists. Simon’s realization represents Golding’s war experience. During the Second World War, Golding served in the British Navy, on several different ships, and was in charge of specially adapted landing craft for the D-day landings in Normandy, so he witnessed at first hand the horrors of war. As a result of his cruel experiences, Golding came to the conclusion that human beings are not naturally kind and that even children are capable of incredible cruelty if the circumstances demand or even simply allow it.
Simon’s death also represents a loss of innocence among the boys on the island. He’s killed on a dark and stormy night after he has discovered the truth about the beast. Simon wants to share his discovery with the others which is that the beast is in all of them, is a part of them. Simon’s murder closely resembled a hunt as he’s killed in a fever of excitement as the boys’ chant their barbaric words that symbolizes their lust for blood: ‘Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!’. Simon’s death shows that the boys have lost all sense of reason. His slaughter can hardly be seen as an accident and shows that the boys have been brutalized and have lost the feeling of guilt towards causing death.
Simon’s abuse mirrors the horrors that the Jewish community face in Nazi Germany. In the same way as Ralph’s supporters on the island were tormented by Jack, Jewish individuals in Germany were blamed for the economic problems of the world during the 1930’s. As a result of this, the government imposed new restrictions on Jews remaining in Germany. An example of his was the strict curfew that was placed upon Jewish individuals and prohibited Jews from entering designated areas in many German cities. However, Hitler’s biggest sin was placing the Jews in concentration camps in Auschwitz in order to murder them like worthless animals with dreadful gas. Jack’s cruelty on the island represents Hitler’s power and dictatorship over Germany during the Second World War.
Golding presents Ralph’s loss of innocence through his middle class background. As the writer describes Ralph’s dreams in which he’s reminiscing about the comfort and civilization of his home, the reader is suddenly brought back to the cruel reality of the dark island as the twins’ wake Ralph when they babble nervously about the beast. The following quotation, “Even the sounds of nightmare from the other shelters no longer reached him, for he was back to where came from, feeding the ponies with sugar over the garden wall.”, shows how the boys on the island had been forced to grow up quickly and fend for themselves. Their childhood had been ended abruptly in order to ensure their survival as they’d witnessed the true horrors of mankind and the war. During the 1950’s the middle classes made their money through business or the professions. Such people would want their children to have a good start in life, and would often imitate the upper-class practice of sending their children, particularly boys, to public schools. The boys in Lord of the Flies are typical examples of middle-class children of the 1950s. There is no evidence that their families are particularly wealthy as Ralph’s father is in the Navy and Piggy doesn’t mention his auntie obtaining a job.
Roger’s enjoyment towards hurting others can first be witnessed when he throws rocks at an unsuspecting littlun, Henry, but he throws them so that they miss, surrounded as Henry is by “the protection of parents and school and policeman and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by . . . civilization.” Here, Roger understands the morals of life but the temptation to cause pain is deep with in him. However, when Roger murders Piggy by releasing a boulder with ‘delirious abandonment’ he becomes the least innocent character in the entire novel.
Throughout the book, not only does Piggy represent civilization and rational thought on the island, but also loyalty as he always stays true to Ralph. When he’s brutally smashed by the boulder, it symbolizes the end of any possibility of civilization and the boys’ total regression and acceptance of savagery. They are no longer the polite, middle class boys who owned morals, instead, they come as a pack and resemble wild, vicious animals.
Piggy’s death illustrates the effect of the Cold War on Britain. Following the Second World War, Britain’s former ally, the Soviet Union, became the potential enemy of the West. The major nuclear powers were the USA and the Soviet Union. Throughout the 1950s, people in Britain feared the threat of Soviet nuclear attack. The Allied nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War brought home to people what nuclear war meant. Similarly, Piggy’s death follows Simon’s murder and represents a loss of innocence in the boys’ as they have failed to regain sense and prevent further death.
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