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Headscratchers / Lord of the Flies

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  • Another thing: The ending. This book is meant as a Deconstruction of the typical island novel, subverting all the typical tropes it could. The world around the island is at war and Ralph even says several times that they're never going to be rescued. With that in mind, WHY THE *** DOES THE BOOK END WITH THEIR RESCUE BY THE BRITISH NAVY?!?! Deus ex Machina doesn't even begin to cover it.
    • Because the alternative is a Downer Ending too dark for even the book?
    • My 10th grade English class concluded that the ending's blatant incongruity was a Take That! to the numerous "bunch of kids having fun on a deserted island" stories that the book itself was meant to deconstruct.
      • Seconded here. "Who saves them? A man with a gun." They're going back to a "civilization" that is just as violent and chaotic and just about as uncivilized as the situation on the island. This book came out amidst the bleak cynicism of the post-WWII, Cold War era, and it shows the general morale of the time.
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    • My 10th grade English teacher gave broad hints to get his class to reach the conclusion that the rescue by a military ship was Golding saying that adults were no less savage than the children had become on the island.
    • As Ralph theorized, a fire would draw the attention of adults who have the provisions to pull the boys off the island. It turns out he was right. The huge fire Jack started to scare Ralph out of hiding is what pulled in the navy.
    • Because if anything, this may just have been a supervised military simulation similar to Battle Royale. A test to sort out the soldiers from the weaklings. People like Jack will be sent to the frontlines while people like Ralph needs another training regimen.
      • But there are choir boys, references to living at home with parents, and every indication that the rescue was unplanned. If it were training, there needn't be a downed plane, and the boys would all be expecting to join the military.
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    • I've always figured that it's too show how quickly the boys become ashamed of their actions as soon as someone is watching. Notice how Jack won't identify himself as the one in charge despite having recently sat on a throne.
      • In addition to this, it shows that they're still boys and therefore very sensitive to the presence of an authority figure.
    • Me was always under the impression that it's a social commentary. The boys on the island split into two groups. Ralph and his followers believe and practice a form of law-based government, while Jack and his gang are perfectly content to indulge the more violent sides of their natures. Ralph and company have the hope (perhaps unspoken; it's been years since I read the book) that this is a temporary situation, that in an adult world it's the rule of law that is triumphant, and that the barbarism of Jack's faction is not tolerated. Then they get bailed out by the Navy, and it becomes apparent that while Ralph's side seems to support the way the world ought to be run, Jack's way (war, violence, etc.) is typically how things end up after all. This point would be difficult to make with quite the same impact unless the rescue occurred.
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    • While the boys have been rescued from the island and the evils it brought out in them, they are now on board a military ship, in the middle of a war, the Adults on the ship they are now on is going to be chasing down their enemies with intent to kill much like the Boys were doing to Ralph just moments before. But this time there will be no one to save the Adults from their evil.
    • The book ends with an image of a cruiser in the distance. The cruiser is a weapon, designed to kill things, much like a spear. It represents the fact that, while Ralph's law-based government is how he sees Britain and such (or saw), that cruiser is going to hunt and kill whoever it's at war with, just like Jack and his tribe were hunting Ralph.
    • I always saw the naval officer's appearance as a stunning turnabout from the air of the novel up till that point. As soon as civilization returns in the form of an adult we see them stop being the ruthless savages that they seem to be and instead we finally see what they really are: irresponsible little boys in need of a firm guiding hand.
    • William Golding may have done it in purpose to show how fast the society children have built falls before true authority.
    • Maybe I'm getting confused with the Film of the Book, but they did set fire to the island to drive Ralph out of the forest. As such, that was one hell of a signal fire - maybe the naval officer thought it was a sinking ship/crashed plane and went to investigate - ironically, the fire meant to kill Ralph ends up saving him.
    • Given that Ralph survives, it could be that the whole thing is a survivor story. There are some details that Ralph could not have possibly known about (the man with the parachute, what Simon thought when he saw the pig's head) but Ralph could have made those up to fill in the gaps. Having this be a story told by a survivor, with the narrator idealising and demonising various parts is actually quite chilling.
    • Another explanation is that the characters have to live the rest of their lives with the knowledge of the horrors they experienced (and in some cases inflicted) very much like survivors of WWII or the holocaust had to do at the time.
      • Well it wouldn't make much sense for the story to continue once the ship arrives, would it?
    • Given that a plane crashed on the island, and then a second plane got shot down over it, it's not all that surprising. They're clearly on the periphery of a war zone and the island-wide fire was a big distress signal.
    • Not only does the appearance of the naval officer count as a Deus ex Machina that deconstructs the "island adventure" endings, but it also has a few other effects. For starters, the arrival immediately highlights the contrast between Jack's tribe and the society they left — and how far the boys have regressed (one can't even remember his own name!). Then we have the fact that modern militaries are some of the most disciplined, well-organized (in short, the most "civilized") institutions in the world — nothing could be further from the tribe. And yet, that "civilized" military is doing exactly what Jack is doing — going out and killing people. Not only that, but remember that in the early parts of the book, the boys talk about how adults would just be wiser and smarter than they are. The fact that there is a war, and that the supposedly better adults are no better than the boys, demonstrates that even modern society might be little more than a more complex conch shell.

  • Why didn't Simon take anything off the parachutist's body? Surely, there could've been SOME equipment on that corpse he could have recovered (i.e. a flare gun, a first aid kit, a gun, a flashlight). And what did he go for? A piece of fabric off the parachute! Also, why the hell didn't he detach the parachute from the pilot? What's the point of untangling the parachute if you're not even going to take it off the poor soul's body?
    • Perhaps he forgot the supplies on him were there or didn't have the foresight. Or, maybe some superstition. They were starting to go mad from being on the island, so his cognitive function wouldn't be the best.
    • Also, Nausea Fuel. Simon's still a fairly sensitive boy, and that's a decaying human body that's moving. Takes a strong stomach just to get close to it.
    • Because you don't rob a corpse. Unless you're a trauma surgeon, a homicide detective or a hardened killer, even touching a dead body goes against everything in you. A British schoolboy isn't going to be desensitized enough to rifle through a dead man's pockets.
      • Sure, just like how he wasn't desensitized enough to think that a pig's head on a stick was telling him that it was Satan.
      • Well, he was the least "beastly" of the boys.
      • Nuts to you guys. This isn't Stand by Me. If I was stranded on an island for God-knows-how-long, I'd do anything that could potentially get me and everyone else off the island as quickly as possible. And if it meant looting a dead guy just to acquire something that could better prove that everyone's paranoid fears about "The Beast" was a load of bullcrap so that they could focus more on getting off the island, I'd freaking do it.
      • You're an adult with knowledge of survival necessities, not a kid.
      • Because "the Beast" had always been mostly unfounded, an embodiment of the primal fear that there is something else out there. It was a vaguely existential threat, one that "society" couldn't immediately clear away, thus allowing for the rise of Jack and the tribe. But by the time Simon found the parachutist, the nature of "the Beast" didn't matter anymore — the greatest threat to the boys was now their slide into barbarism and the decay of their society as a response to "the Beast", as represented by the pig's head — and the Lord of the Flies says that even if Simon goes back to the camp, he will still be there.
      • Simon is an epileptic young boy who is incredibly perceptive about human nature but fairly useless when it comes to physical activities and is also shown to be incredibly sensitive. The likelihood of a boy like that choosing to poke around and fiddle with a decomposing dead body in the hope of finding something potentially useful is slim to none at best. The mere sight of the pig's head on a stick was enough to send him into a fit, after all.

  • This one has always confused me: is the navy officer American or British?
    • The fact that he says "Jolly good show" tells me he's British.

  • I may just be reading too much into this, but Samneric have to be symbolic for something. They're twins, they finish each other's sentences, they share the same name and are always thought of as one person, and they are the only ones besides Piggy to stay loyal to Ralph. What are they meant to represent? Any ideas?
    • Perhaps the large amount of symbolism inside the story is implying they have a value deeper than a simple character, but I have never heard of a good idea for what the two represent.
    • It's possible that Samneric represent some sort of balance; there are two of them, and they are very close— this closeness could have given both of them something to check themselves against, representing the role of family and duality in stability. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this.
    • I was told Sam and Eric represent conformity and how people eventually are swayed into the masses no matter how hard they try. The more and more mindless they become in the book, the more and more their names are crushed together. Eventually, their sense of belonging and wishes to remain individuals with their own decisions are override and they join Jack, and thus, they become Samneric. Though they were becoming Samneric when they were tempted by Jack and the like.
    • I recall reading an essay in an academic copy of the novel that mentions Samneric as a parody of the political lockstep of Britain and France during the inter- and post-war period.
    • Me saw Samneric as just another source of frustration for Ralph. They are a great help to him, even after they join the tribe, but they could be twice as useful if only they could act alone.

  • The Lord of the Flies itself. Why is it that the Pig's head on the stick was the icon of "the Beast", but not the dead parachutist that everybody thought was the Beast? I mean, this was the offering to the Beast, not its shrine! A dead parachutist would invoke a "Lord of the Flies" image, since if you think about it, a fighter pilot with an open parachute potentially looks like a giant fly-like monster, and thus, the Lord of the Flies, which is of course, Satan, and "the Beast" that everyone fears. Maybe I'm a bit Literal-Minded on this, but I think it would have been much more symbolic if Simon's confrontation with the "Lord of the Flies" occurred with the dead parachutist instead of the pig's head. Not to mention, it would make this cover of the book seem a little less...misleading.
    • Well, that would undermine Golding's point that the perceived "beast" was actually harmless. The pig's head was actually placed there by the hunters; the parachuter just ended up landing on the island and the kids turned it into a beast. Golding was trying to say that we are the beast, so making an innocent parachuter the stand-in for Satan wouldn't work quite as well.
    • And the pig is more than just an offering to "the Beast" — it represents just how far gone Jack and his tribe are, and by extension the decay of the society Piggy tried to create. The offering is also made irrationally, to satiate fears of the Beast and act as a symbol of the tribe, just as the conch is the symbol of Piggy's society. If the dead paratrooper were the "Lord of the Flies", it would have been a more rational threat — something everyone could both see and fear, as opposed to the unfounded idea of a spooky monster — and one of the driving themes of the story is that an irrational fear can lead to people descending to acts they never would do under normal circumstances. Thus the symbol of how uncivilized we can be, the pig's head, is the "Lord of the Flies".
    • The parachutist is a scapegoat. We focus our attention on something outside our society that looks big and scary - the Other - and say "The evil is out there. As long as we keep That far away from us, we will be safe." That way, we ignore the evil that is within ourselves. Many real-world autocrats have used the same technique that Jack uses, blaming any bad consequences from their actions on the scapegoat and accusing any critics of helping it, which only makes the people support them more.
    • There's also the fact that, to the boys, the Beast was something that was inherently "of the island". The first story of it comes on the very first day they all spend as a group, while the parachutist doesn't appear until the boys have spent at least a couple of days there. Thus, it makes sense that the symbol Simon chooses to represent the Beast to himself is also something native to the island rather than something that was, to the boys, a representation of the "civilised" world they'd come from. Then there's also the fact that Simon was the only one perceptive enough to understand that the Beast wasn't a physical thing at all, but it was instead something within the boys themselves - they hadn't caused the parachutist's death nor had they caused the body to become stuck on the island. They had killed the pig and left her head on a stick. The pig's head was, ultimately, a greater symbol for the true nature of the Beast in terms of how it related to the boys more than the dead parachutist was - the other boys saw the parachutist as the physical representation of the Beast because (a) it was a more gruesome and shocking sight to them than the pig's head which several of them had been present to witness being cut off and placed there, and (b) they couldn't account for its presence on the island.

  • Critical Research Failure : Piggy is myopic/nearsighted, so his lenses would be divergent and therefore worse than nothing for starting fires. The kids would have had to learn one of the other methods for starting fires that they discussed, but that would break the plot.
    • And in a fairly large group of children it's rather implausible that Piggy is apparently the only one that wears glasses.
      • Unless he was the only one smart enough to survive the initial plane crash. There could have been all sorts of hazards that you could miss with poor vision, or not being able to see out of the corner of one's eye. Piggy was smart enough to take things very slowly in dangerous situations.
      • Didn't ophthalmologists prescribe glasses like that if you were nearsighted back then (the book was written in the fifties)? I usually hand waved it as that, either that or, rather, I figured he was so severely nearsighted he needed thick glasses (which isn't really uncommon when you think about it).
    • If it's any consolation, several editions of the book specifically mark this out as a mistake on Golding's part in footnotes and such. I think we just have to chalk this up to Golding not being an ophthalmologist and the need for a link between the fire and Piggy's glasses as a crucial plot point.

  • Before the dead paratrooper falls onto the island, there is a beast mentioned several times. I know that the point of the beast was to say that the boys were the beast all along, but what was that original beast that the first littlun cried about going through the creepers. And what happened to that little boy? Did he die in the fire?
    • The little boy's "beast" was actually just him waking up from a really bad nightmare, stumbling around and coming across Simon, who was, to quote Ralph, "mucking around in the dark." It's just meant to show how ingrained our primordial fears are, and to kick-start the notion of a beast. And yes, Piggy makes a point of mentioning that the boy is never seen again after the fire, implying that he died in it.
    • The first littlun's beast is not really identified, it's the second one they believe to have been Simon. Golding's book by way of the Lord of the Flies scene attempts to just wrap it all up as in the boy's imagination, but in the same way never definitely answers the question, so with no factual answer go ahead and assume the real beast ate up the littlun that never appeared again after the fire, or that he imagined it and died in the fire. Whichever strikes your fancy.


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