The Symbolic Use of Color in Lord of the Flies
In Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the symbolic use of color conveys the innocence and the evil on the island, as well as each of the boys’ personalities. The contrasting light and dark colors in the book symbolize the goodness and evil, the lighter colors symbolizing the boys’ innocence and morals, the darker colors representing the darkness on the island and in the boys’ minds and hearts. The color of the boy’s skin and hair also symbolizes their different personalities; Ralph’s fair hair represented his calm personality, while Jack’s bright red hair represented his fiery and bloodthirsty personality.
Throughout the novel, there are many examples of light colors representing innocence and goodness among the boys. When Ralph and Piggy first discover the conch, it is described as being light in color: “In color the shell was deep cream, touched here and there with fading pink” (p. 11). The conch brought order and civilization by calling the boys together (p. 12), and by allowing the boy holding it a chance to speak without interruption (p. 31). This civility brought rules and order which the boys abided by, and allowed them to demonstrate the goodness and morals that they had before they crashed on the island. The naturally occurring lightness of the island also represented innocence and goodness, in particular the yellow sun and white sand. When the sun was up, the boys lost their fear, as they believed that the beast disappeared in the daylight: “He says in the morning it turned into them things like ropes in the trees and hung in the branches” (p. 35). The pale colors represent the goodness of the island, allowing the boys to feel relief and security when they were showing. Another example of this revolves around the chapter Beast from Water, as the white sand was what protected the boys from the water and the darkness. “The tide was coming in and there was only a narrow strip of firm beach between the water and the white, stumbling stuff near the palm terrace” (p. 81). This shows that as the fear and darkness of night neared, the white sand disappeared, taking with it the boys’ goodness and innocence.
The theme of savagery, evil, and darkness is a reoccurring element of Lord of the Flies, and are symbolized through the use of dark colors. The dark, blackness of each night brought fear to each of the boys, as they believed the night was when the beast came. “He says the beastie came in the dark” (p. 35). When the darkness of night was diminished by the lightness of the morning, the boy’s lost this fear. The change of colors that came with the change of weather also symbolized the darkness and savagery that each of the boys possessed. The beginning of the chapter that Simon was murdered in began with “Over the island the build-up of clouds continued” (p. 160). It then said “Colors drained from water and trees and pink surfaces of rock, and the white and brown clouds brooded” (p. 160). This shows that the lighter colors like blue, green and pink were drained, and that the darker colors such as brown began to form, which symbolizes the decrease of innocence and increase of savagery that was associated with the act that the boys were about to commit. As the time got closer to the murder, the weather darkened and became blacker as a storm approached; “There was a blink of bright light beyond the forest and the thunder exploded again so that a littlun began to whine” (p. 167). Finally, the contrast between the white colored smoke of the boys rescue symbol and the black smoke that was designed to kill Ralph is an example of the boy’s change from innocence to evil. When the boys made their fire that was designed to be a rescue signal, it was said that “A billow of white and yellow smoke reeked up” (p. 179). At the deepest moment of the boys’ descent to savagery, they designed a fire to murder Ralph. This fire was different, and was described as black: “His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island…” (p. 224). The darkening of color symbolizes the darkening of each of the boys’ hearts.
The different colors of each boy’s hair represented their different attributes and personalities. In the first line of the book, Ralph is described as having fair hair: “The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock…” (p. 1). This is very similar to his personality, as he proved himself to be fair, as he came up with the suggestion of using the conch to allow every single boy the chance to speak (p. 31), innocent, as he showed many thoughts and attributes that proved he was only a young (p. 6), and possibly had the most goodness out of all of the boys, as he ended up being the only boy on the island who wasn’t a savage. Jack, on the other hand, had bright red hair; “Inside the floating cloak he was tall, thin and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap” (p. 16). Red is also the color of blood, therefore symbolizing the bloodthirstiness of Jack, which can especially be seen when he becomes obsessed with hunting (p. 74). It is also the color of anger, and Jack proves himself to be very angry to the point where he became violent and hit Piggy (p. 75). Finally, Roger had black hair, and although it was not as obvious as Jack, he possessed the same evil and darkness. This can be proved when he intentionally killed Piggy by pulling the lever that released the bolder (p. 200), and by murdering Piggy, he proved himself to be the darkest of all of the boys on the island.
The different colors in Lord of the Flies are symbolic to the different personalities and attributes of each of the boys, and the different shades of color represent the contrast of the goodness and darkness of the island and the boys. The dark colors represent the evilness of the boys, and is seen through the darkness of the night sky, the bad weather, and the black smoke, and the light colors represent the goodness of the boys and the island, and is demonstrated through the creamy-white conch, the golden sun and the white sands that protected the boys from the fear of the beast. Color, for all these reasons, proves to be an important and reoccurring theme in Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
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