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Lord of the Flies
An Introduction to "Lord of the Flies"
An Introduction to "Lord of the Flies"
Arthur p. ziegler, jr.
The Coral Island
1.Golding's recorded interest in Anglo-Saxon makes it unlikely that he
2.Frank Kermode and William Golding, "The Meaning of It All," Books and
3.Carl Niemeyer, "The Coral Island Revisited," College English, 22
4. The reader, of course, will wish to weigh any artist's view in the
James r. baker
The Coral Island
The Cord Island
1. Copyright 1964 by James R. Baker.
2.A longer discussion of Golding's use of Ballantyne appears in Carl
4. Quoted by E. L. Epstein in his "Notes on Lord of the Flies." See
Уильям Голдинг. Повелитель мух (engl)
TEXT, NOTES & CRITICISM
LORD OF THE FLIES
James R. Baker
Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr.
A PERIGEE BOOK
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or
are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events or locales
is entirely coincidental.
A Perigee Book
Published by The Berkley Publishing Group
A division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
Copyright (c) 1954 by William Golding
Purdue Interview copyright (c) 1964 by James Keating &
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof,
may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Published simultaneously in Canada by General Publishing Co.
First Perigee edition: September 1988
Fourteen previous printings by G. P. Putnam's Sons
The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is
Printed in the United States of America
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
A casebook edition of any work of literature is necessarily the result
of work and good will by numerous people. We are deeply indebted to the
writers who contributed the original materials contained in this volume.
We also wish to thank the authors, editors, and publishers who so
kindly granted permissions for use of the previously published materials
collected in this volume. Full acknowledgment for their valuable aid is
printed in the headnote for each of the articles as well as original sources
The editors gratefully acknowledge the special courtesies of William
Golding, J. T. C. Golding, Frank Kermode, Donald R. Spangler, Bruce P.
Woodford, A. C. Willers and James Keating. The Introduction to this book
originally appeared in the ^ It is reprinted here (revised)
by permission of the editor, Albert F. Gegenheimer.
For her expert aid in preparing the manuscript, our thanks to Mrs. Paul
V. Anderson, and our special gratitude to Miss Helen Davidson, who not only
performed routine secretarial duties but offered advice and kept spirits
buoyant with her penetrating wit.
Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr.
James R. Baker
James Keating-William Golding
Frank Kermode-William Golding
The Meaning of It All
The Novels of William Golding
E. M. Forster
Donald R. Spangler
The Coral Island Revisited
J. T. C. Golding
A World of Violence and Small Boys
The Fables of William Golding
Ian Gregor & Mark Kinkead-Weekes
William R. Mueller
An Old Story Well Told
Thomas M. Coskren
Is Golding Calvinistic?
Men of a Smaller Growth
E. L. Epstein
Notes on "Lord of the Flies"
Lord of the Campus
A Checklist of Publications
Relevant to "Lord of the Flies'
It is most astonishing and lamentable that a book as widely read and
frequently used in the classroom as William Gelding's Lord of the Flies has
received so little analytical attention from the critics. True, it has not
been neglected; this volume attests to that. But despite the profusion of
essays by a number of well-known and worthy critics, few close analyses of
Golding's technique can be found among them, few explications of the
workings of the novel will be discovered.
Indeed, despite a running controversy over the meaning of the novel,
critical articles fall largely into a pattern of plot summary and applause
for the arrangement of the novel's materials followed by observations on
Golding's view of human nature, often embellished with the critic's response
to that view.
There are exceptions - they will be found among the essays in this book
- like Claire Rosenfield's psychological study of meaning, Carl Niemeyer's
comparative study of the novel and its antipathetic predecessor ^
Island, Donald R. Spangler's penetrating study of the function of Simon, and
William Mueller's discussion of the use of the various hunts.
Further explorations are needed in many areas, however, among them a
careful scrutiny of the opening descriptions of Ralph and Jack in Chapter
One. It is useful, but perhaps not very subtle, to point out that the former
is immediately declared the "fair boy," that he, like the angel Gabriel,
sounds a horn that announces good news - that of survival - that Jack with
his angular frame, black cloak and cap, and red hair is Lucifer-like.
More Biblical parallels must be developed - the paradisiacal setting,
the symbolic nakedness or near nakedness of all the boys except Jack and his
followers - but most especially needed is a study that explains items that
do not comply with the original Biblical pattern but that perhaps serve as
tip-offs to the theme and the ironies that Golding employs without fully
delineating until the last page, for instance the "response" of the paradise
to the boys- first from the heat, then a bird with an echoed "witch-like
cry," then the entangling creepers (more like the Eden of Milton than
Genesis)-together with the important information that Ralph, not Jack, has a
snake-clasp belt, that Jack wears a golden badge. We have implications very
early that Golding's view is not simple, traditionally Christian, or
predictable in spite of the title, that it is a complex rebuttal to the
ever-present faith in man's potential for regeneration and redemption. Here
is a fruitful area of research: do all these elements of the novel, some
seemingly inconsistent, even extraneous, operate in unified support of
Symbolism is one of the most puzzling aspects of this book. The names
of the four major characters are a perplexing illustration. Simon, the
mystic of the group, has a name clearly linked with an Apostle of Christ,
the one, strange to say, who denied Him three times. (Simon does deny the
objective existence of the beast, but is this a parallel?) Jack also has
such a name, since his first name is a nickname for John, the announcer of
Christ, also a follower of Christ, arid his last name is Merridew, an echo
at least of Mary. Ralph's name, oddly enough, is unrelated to the New
Testament and in fact is said to be akin to the Anglo-Saxon Raedwulf,
"wolf-council." Piggy's nickname appears even more incongruous because it is
Simon rather than Piggy who is slain as a substitute pig. The only instance
in which a name seems incontestably appropriate is that of Roger, where
etymology directs us to the Anglo-Saxon Hrothgar, "spear-fame." 1
In ^ the three protagonists are named Jack, Ralph, and
Peterkin Gay. Golding claims that he changed the latter name to Simon to
emphasize his priestly qualities2-implying some intention on his
part to make at least one name symbolic-while another critic insists that
Peterkin is altered not to Simon but to Piggy.3 But that is
beside the point. The central question is, "To what extent do the names
function symbolically?" Do we just select Simon and Roger and, because
inconvenient, forget the others? Or is there another more subtle solution?
should be unaware of this etymology. See E. L. Epstein, "Notes on Lord of
the Flies" below, p. 277.
We are also mystified by the relationship between Lord of the Flies and
The Coral Island. Before undertaking a study of Golding's book, must one
study Ballantyne's? To what degree do details in the former depend upon the
latter, and, more confusing, to what degree do both books contain the same
details because of similarity of setting?
No one has produced a full-scale synthesis of the symbols of the novel
either, nor has anyone prepared a fully adequate study of characterization.
Ralph himself is an enigma. Does he represent the idealist and Piggy the
pragmatist? Or the reverse? Why are Piggy and Jack foes from the start, but
Ralph and Jack friends for a considerable length of time? Is it important
that Ralph disdains Piggy for so long? Why does Ralph the leader have such
difficulties controlling the littluns even though they instantly recognize
him as chief rather than Jack? Why doesn't Ralph establish a closer bond
with Simon? Why does Golding-have Ralph enjoy drawing blood? As one examines
the novel closely, he may find himself confronted with a highly ambiguous
protagonist, and for what purpose? Do these complications help or hinder the
operation of the novel? These are vital matters in evaluating it.
One could add to this list of needed studies indefinitely: a detailed
look at the use of war and fighting (they are important from the first page
to the last), a discussion of the relationship of nature descriptions and
events, a look at the historical predecessors of the mountain, and how they
bear on the novel (Calvary, Sinai, Ararat, Olympus, to name a few
possibilities), the cause of the evil (Is it really "original sin"?), and so
Bookmen, 5 (October 1959) p. 10. See below in this volume p. 199. Note
Golding's statement that the novel was worked out "very carefully in every
(January 1961), p. 242. See below in this volume, p. 219.
Yet in spite of the gaps in the criticism, some commendable studies
have been undertaken, and we have tried to assemble the most useful of them
in this book. Supplementing them are two interviews with Golding in which he
discusses both his own conception of the novel and related
Through our arrangement of and notes to the articles, we have tried to
reflect the intricate texture of the novel as illustrated by the critics and
to point up areas of perplexity and disagreement. The bibliography at the
close of the volume indicates possibilities for further reading and study.
light of the continuing critical dialogue surrounding the "intentional
fallacy." Frank Kermode calls Golding's views in question in "The Novels of
William Golding," International Literary Annual, p. 19. See p. 206 below.
Lord of the Flies offers a variation upon the ever-popular tale of
island adventure, and it holds all of the excitements common to that long
tradition. Golding's castaways are faced with the usual struggle for
survival, the terrors of isolation, and a desperate out finally successful
effort to signal a passing ship which will return them to the world they
have lost. This time, however, the story is told against the background of
an atomic war. A plane carrying some English boys, aged six to twelve, from
the center of conflict is shot down by the enemy and the youths are left
without adult company on an unpopulated Pacific island. The environment in
which they find themselves actually presents no serious challenge: the
island is a paradise of flowers and fruit, fresh water flows from the
mountain, and the climate is gentle. In spite of these unusual natural
advantages, the children fail miserably and the adventure ends in a reversal
of their (and the reader's) expectations. Within a short time the rule of
reason is overthrown and the survivors regress to savagery.
During the first days on the island there is little forewarning of this
eventual collapse of order. The boys are delighted with the prospect of some
real fun before the adults come to fetch them. With innocent enthusiasm they
recall the storybook romances they have read and now expect to enjoy in
reality. Among these is ^ Robert Michael Ballantyne's
heavily moralistic idyll of castaway boys, written in 1858 yet still, in our
atomic age, a popular adolescent classic in England. In Ballantyne's tale
everything comes off in exemplary style. For Ralph, Jack, and Peterkin (his
charming young imperialists), mastery of the natural environment is an
elementary exercise in Anglo-Saxon ingenuity. The fierce pirates who invade
the island are defeated by sheer moral force, and the tribe of cannibalistic
savages is easily converted and reformed by the example of Christian conduct
afforded them. ^ is again mentioned by the naval officer who
comes to rescue Golding's boys from the nightmare they have created, and so
the adventure of these enfants terribles is ironically juxtaposed with the
spectacular success of the Victorian darlings.2 The effect is to
hold before us two radically different pictures of human nature and society.
Ballantyne, no less than Golding, is a fabulist 3 who asks us to
believe that the evolution of affairs on his coral island models or reflects
the adult world, a world in which men are unfailingly reasonable,
cooperative, loving and lovable. We are hardly prepared to accept these
optimistic exaggerations, though Ballantyne's story suggests essentially the
same flattering image of civilized man found in so many familiar island
fables. In choosing to parody and invert this image Golding posits a reality
the tradition has generally denied.
The character of this reality is to be seen in the final episode of
Lord of the Flies. When the cruiser appears offshore, the boy Ralph is the
one remaining advocate of reason, but he has no more status than the wild
pigs of the forest and is being hunted down for the kill. Shocked by their
filth, their disorder, and the revelation that there have been real
casualties, the officer (with appropriate fatherly indignation) expresses
his disappointment in this "pack of British boys." There is no basis for his
surprise, for life on the island has only imitated the larger tragedy in
which the adults of the outside world attempted to govern themselves
reasonably but ended in the same game of hunt and kill. Thus, according to
Golding, the aim of the narrative is "to trace the defects of society back
to the defects of human nature"; the moral illustrated is that "the shape of
society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any
political system however apparently logical or respectable."4 And
since the lost children are the inheritors of the same defects of nature
which doomed their fathers, the tragedy on the island is bound to repeat the
actual pattern of human history.
Niemeyer's "The Coral Island Revisited." See pp. 217-223 in this volume.
3.See John Peter's "The Fables of William Golding" on pp. 229-234 of
this volume. A less simplistic view is offered by Ian Gregor and Mark
Kinkead-Weekes in their Introduction to Faber's School Edition of Lord of
the Flies reprinted on pp. 235-243 in this volume.
The central fact in that pattern is one which we, like the fatuous
naval officer, are virtually incapable of perceiving: first, because it is
one that constitutes an affront to our ego; second, because it controverts
the carefully and elaborately rationalized record of history which sustains
the ego of "rational" man. The fact is that regardless of the intelligence
we possess-an intelligence which drives us in a tireless effort to impose an
order upon our affairs-we are defeated with monotonous regularity by our own
irrationality. "History," said Joyce's Dedalus, is a nightmare from which I
am trying to awake." 5 But we do not awake. Though we constantly
make a heroic attempt to rise to a level ethically superior to nature, our
own nature, again and again we suffer a fall-brought low by some outburst of
madness because of the limiting defects inherent in our species.
If there is any literary precedent for the image of man contained in
Gelding's fable, it is obviously not to be found within the framework of a
tradition that embraces ^ and Swiss Family
Robinson6 and includes also those island episodes in Conrad's
novels in which the self-defeating skepticism of a Heyst or a Decoud serves
only to illustrate the value of illusions.7 All of these offer
some version of the rationalist orthodoxy we so readily accept, even though
the text may not be so boldly simple as Ballantyne's sermon for innocent
Victorians. Quite removed from this tradition, which Golding invariably
satirizes, is the directly acknowledged influence of classical Creek
literature. Within this designation, though Golding's critics have ignored
it, is an obvious admiration for Euripides.8 Among the plays of
Euripides it is, ^ that Golding, like Mamillius of The Brass
Butterfly, knows by heart The tragedy is a bitter allegory on the
degeneration of society, and it contains the basic parable which informs so
much of Golding's work. Most of all, Lord of the Flies, for here the point
of view is similar to that of the aging Euripides after he was driven into
exile from Athens. Before his departure the tragedian brought down upon
himself the mockery and disfavor of a mediocre regime like the one which
later condemned Socrates. ^ however, is more than an expression
of disillusionment with the failing democracy. Its aim is precisely what
Golding has declared to be his own: "to trace the defects of society back to
the defects of human nature," and so account for the failure of reason and
the inevitable, blind ritual-hunt in which we seek to kill the "beast"
within our own being.
below, p. 277.
5. Ulysses (New York: The Modem Library, 1961), p.34.
6.See Golding's remarks on these novels and Treasure Island in his
review called "Islands," Spectator, 204 (June 10, 1960), 844-46.
unsuccessful. See Golding's remarks on Conrad (and Richard Hughes's High
Wind in Jamaica) in the interview by James Keating on p. 194 in this volume.
See also William R. Mueller's essay, p. 251.
The Bacchae is based on a legend of Dionysus wherein the god (a son of
Zeus and the mortal Semele, daughter of Cadmus) descends upon Thebes in
great wrath, determined to take revenge upon the young king, Pentheus, who
has denied him recognition and prohibited his worship. Dionysus wins as
devotees the daughters of Cadmus and through his power of enchantment
decrees that Agave, mother of Pentheus, shall lead the band in frenzied
celebrations. Pentheus bluntly opposes the god and tries by every means to
preserve order against the rising tide of madness in his kingdom. The folly
of his proud resistance' is shown in the defeat of all that Pentheus
represents: the bacchantes trample on his edicts and in wild marches through
the land wreck everything in their path. Thus prepared for his vengeance,
Dionysus casts a spell over Pentheus. With his judgment weakened and his
identity obscured in the dress of a woman, the defeated prince sets out to
spy upon the orgies. In the excitement of their rituals the bacchantes live
in illusion, and all that falls in their way undergoes a metamorphosis which
brings it into accord with the natural images of their worship. When
Pentheus is seen he is taken for a lion9 and, led by Agave, the
blind victims of the god tear him limb from limb. The final humiliation of
those who deny the godhead is to render them conscious of their crimes and
to cast them out from their homeland as guilt-stricken exiles and wanderers
upon the earth.
Greek literature and history during the past twenty years.
For most modern readers the chief obstacle in the way of proper
understanding of The Bacchae, and therefore Golding's use of it, is the
popular notion that Dionysus is nothing more than a charming god of wine.
This image descends from "the Alexandrines, and above all the Romans- with
their tidy functionalism and their cheerful obtuseness in all matters of the
spirit-who departmentalized Dionysus as 'jolly Bacchus' . . . with his
riotous crew of nymphs and satyrs. As such he was taken over from the Romans
by Renaissance painters and poets; and it was they in turn who shaped the
image in which the modern world pictures him." In reality the god was more
important and "much more dangerous": he was "the principle of animal life .
. . the hunted and the hunter-the unrestrained potency which man envies in
the beasts and seeks to assimilate." Thus the intention and chief effect of
the bacchanal was "to liberate the instinctive life in man from the bondage
imposed upon it by reason and social custom. ..." In his play Euripides also
suggests "a further effect, a merging of the individual consciousness in a
group consciousness' so that the participant is "at one not only with the
Master of Life but his fellow-worshipers . . . and with the life of the
earth."10 Dionysus was worshiped in various animal incarnations
(snake, bull, lion, boar), whatever form was appropriate to place; and all
of these were incarnations of the impulses he evoked in his worshipers. In
^ a leader of the bacchanal summons him with the incantation, "O
God, Beast, Mystery, come!" 11 Agave's attack upon the lion" (her
own son) conforms to the codes of Dionysic ritual: like other gods, this one
is slain and devoured, his devotees sustained by his flesh and blood. The
terrible error of the bacchantes is a punishment brought upon the land by
the lord of beasts: "To resist Dionysus is to repress the elemental in one's
own nature; the punishment is the sudden collapse of the inward dykes when
the elemental breaks through perforce and civilization
10. E. R. Dodds, Euripides Bacchae, Second Edition (Oxford: The
Clarendon Press, 1960), p. xii and p. xx. Dodds also finds evidence that
some Dionysian rites called for human sacrifice.
This same humiliation falls upon the innocents of Lord of the Flies. In
their childish pride they attempt to impose an order or pattern upon the
vital chaos of their own nature, and so they commit the error and "sin" of
Pentheus, the "man of many sorrows." The penalties, as in the play, are
bloodshed, guilt, utter defeat of reason. Finally, they stand before the
officer, "a semicircle of little boys, their bodies streaked with colored
clay, sharp sticks in their hands."13 Facing that purblind
commander (with his revolver and peaked cap), Ralph cries "for the end of
innocence, the darkness of man's heart" (186-87); and the tribe of vicious
hunters joins him in spontaneous choral lament But even Ralph could not
trace the arc of their descent, could not explain why it's no go, why things
are as they are; for in the course of events he was at times among the
hunters, one of them, and he grieves in part for the appalling ambiguities
he has discovered in his own nature. He remembers those strange, interims of
blindness and despair when a "shutter" clicked down over his mind and left
him at the mercy of his own dark heart. In Ralph's experience, then, the
essence of the fable is spelled out: he suffers the dialectic we must all
endure, and his failure to resolve it as we would wish demonstrates the
limitations which have always plagued the species.
In the first hours on the island Ralph sports untroubled in the
twilight of childhood and innocence, but after he sounds the conch he must
confront the forces he has summoned to the granite platform beside the sunny
lagoon. During that first assembly he seems to arbitrate with the grace of a
young god (his natural bearing is dignified, princely) and, for the time
being, a balance is maintained. The difficulties begin with the
dream-revelation of the child distinguished by the birthmark. The boy tells
of a snakelike monster prowling the woods by night, and at this moment the
seed of fear is planted. Out of it will grow the mythic beast destined to
become lord of the island. Rumors of his presence grow. There is a plague of
haunting dreams-the first symptom of the irrational fear which is "mankind's
13. Lord of the Flies, p. 185. All quotations are taken from the
edition contained in this volume. Subsequent page references will appear in
In the chapter called "Beast from Water" the parliamentary debate
becomes a blatant allegory in which each spokesman caricatures the position
he defends. Piggy (the voice of reason) leads with the statement that life
is scientific," adds the usual Utopian promises ("when the war's over
they'll be traveling to Mars and back"), and his assurance that such things
will come to pass if only we control the senseless conflicts that impede
progress. He is met with laughter and jeers (the crude multitude), and at
this juncture a littlun interrupts to declare that the beast (ubiquitous
evil) comes out of the sea. Maurice interjects to voice the doubt which
curses them all: "I don't believe in the beast of course. As Piggy says,
life's scientific, but we don't know, do we? Not certainly . . ." (81). Then
Simon (the inarticulate seer) rises to utter the truth in garbled,
ineffective phrases: there is a beast, but "it's only us." As always, his
saving words are misunderstood, and the prophet shrinks away in confusion.
Amid speculation that he means some kind of ghost, there is a silent show of
hands for ghosts as Piggy breaks in with angry rhetorical questions: "What
are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?" (84). Taking his cue, Jack
(savagery in excelsis) leaps to his feet and leads all but the "three blind
mice" (Ralph, Piggy, Simon) into a mad jig of release down the darkening
beach. The parliamentarians naively contrast their failure with the supposed
efficiency of adults, and Ralph, in despair, asks for a sign from that
In "Beast from Air" the sign, a dead man in a parachute, is sent down
from the grownups, and the collapse foreshadowed in the allegorical
parliament comes on with surprising speed. Ralph himself looks into the face
of the enthroned tyrant on the mountain, and from that moment his young
intelligence is crippled by fear. He confirms the reality of the beast and
his confession of weakness insures Jack's spectacular rise to power. Yet the
ease with which Jack establishes his Dionysian order is hardly
unaccountable. In its very first appearance the black-caped choir, vaguely
evil in its military esprit, emerged ominously from a mirage and marched
down upon the minority forces assembled on the platform. Except for Simon,
pressed into service and out of step with the common rhythm, the choir is
composed of servitors bound by the ritual and mystery of group
consciousness. They share in that communion, and there is no real
"conversion" or transfer of allegiance from good to evil when the chorus,
ostensibly Christian, becomes the tribe of hunters. The lord they serve
inhabits their own being. If they turn with relief from the burdens of the
platform, it is because they cannot transcend the limitations of their own
nature. Even the parliamentary pool of intelligence must fail in the attempt
to explain all that manifests itself in our turbulent hearts, and the
assertion that life is ordered, "scientific," often appears mere bravado. It
embodies tile sin of pride and, inevitably, evokes in some form the great
god it has denied.
It is Simon who witnesses his coming and hears his words of wrath. In
the thick undergrowth of the forest the boy discovers a refuge from the war
of words. His shelter of leaves is a place of contemplation, a sequestered
temple, scented and lighted by the white flowers of the night-blooming
candlenut tree, where, in secret, he meditates on the lucid but somehow
over-simple logic of Piggy and Ralph and the venal emotion of Jack's
challenges: There, in the infernal glare of the afternoon sun, he sees the
killing of the sow by the hunters and the erection of the pig's head on the
sharpened stick. These acts signify not only the release from the blood
taboo but also obeisance to the mystery and god who has come to be lord of
the island-world. In the hours of one powerfully symbolic afternoon Simon
sees the perennial fall which is the central reality of our history: me
defeat of reason and the release of Dionysian madness in souls wounded by
Awed by the hideousness of the dripping head (an image of the hunter's
own nature) the apprentice bacchantes suddenly run away, but Simon's gaze is
"held by that ancient, inescapable recognition" (128)-an incarnation of the
beast or devil bom again and again out of the human heart. Before he loses
consciousness the epileptic visionary "hears" the truth which is
inaccessible to the illusion-bound rationalist and the unconscious or
irrational man alike: " 'Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could
hunt and kill!' said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the
other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. 'You
knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why
it's no go? Why things are as they are?' " (133). When Simon recovers from
this trauma of revelation he finds on the mountain top that the "beast" is
only a man. Like the pig itself, the dead man in the chute is fly-blown,
corrupt, an obscene image of the evil that has triumphed in the adult world
as well. Tenderly, the boy releases the lines so that the body can descend
to earth, but the fallen man does not die. After Simon's death, when the
truth is once more lost, the figure rises, moves over the terrified tribe on
the beach, and finally out to sea -a tyrannous ghost (history itself) which
haunts and curses every social order.
In his martyrdom Simon meets the fate of all saints. The truth he
brings would set us free from the repetitious nightmare of history, but we
are, by nature, incapable of receiving that truth. Demented by fears our
intelligence cannot control, we are at once "heroic and sick" (96),
ingenious and ingenuous at the same time. Inevitably we gather in tribal
union to hunt the molesting "beast," and always the intolerable frustration
of the hunt ends as it must: within the enchanted circle formed by the
searchers, the beast materializes in the only form he can possibly assume,
the very image of his creator; and once he is visible, projected (once the
hunted has become the hunter), the circle closes in an agony of relief.
Simon, call him prophet, seer or saint, is blessed and cursed by those
intuitions which threaten the ritual of the tribe. In whatever culture the
saint appears, he is doomed by his unique insights. There is a vital, if
obvious, irony to be observed in the fact that the lost children of
Golding's fable are of Christian heritage, but when they blindly kill their
savior they re-enact an ancient tragedy, universal because it has its true
source in the defects of the species.
The beast, too, is as old as his maker and has assumed many names,
though of course his character must remain quite consistent The particular
beast who speaks to Simon is much like his namesake, Beelzebub. A prince of
demons of Assyrian or Hebrew descent, but later appropriated by Christians,
he is a lord of the flies, an idol for unclean beings. He is what all devils
are: an embodiment of the lusts and cruelties which possess his worshipers
and of peculiar power among the Philistines, the unenlightened, fearful
herd. He shares some kinship with Dionysus, for his powers and effects are
much the same. In ^ Dionysus is shown "as the source of ecstasies
and disasters, as the enemy of intellect and the defense of man against his
isolation, as a power that can make him feel like a god while acting like a
beast. ..." As such, he is "a god whom all can recognize." 14
Nor is it difficult to recognize the island on which Golding's
innocents are set down as a natural paradise, an un-corrupted Eden offering
all the lush abundance of the primal earth. But it is lost with the first
rumors of the "snake-thing," because he is the ancient, inescapable presence
who insures a repetition of the fall. If this fall from grace is indeed the
"perennial myth" that Golding explores in all his work,15 it does
not seem that he has found in Genesis a metaphor capable of illuminating the
full range of his theme. In ^ Golding the classicist found another
version of the fall of man, and it is clearly more useful to him than its
Biblical counterpart. For one thing, it makes it possible to avoid the
comparatively narrow moral connotations most of us are inclined to read into
the warfare between Satan (unqualifiedly evil) and God (unqualifiedly good).
Satan is a fallen angel seeking vengeance on the godhead, and we therefore
think of him as an autonomous entity, a being in his own right and prince of
his own domain. Dionysus, on the other hand, is a son of God (Zeus) and thus
a manifestation or agent of the godhead or mystery with whom man seeks
communion, or, perverse in his pride, denies at his own peril. To resist
Dionysus is to resist nature itself, and this attempt to transcend the laws
of creation brings down upon us the punishment of the god. Further, the
ritual-hunt of ^ provides something else not found in the Biblical
account. The hunt on Golding's island emerges spontaneously out of childish
play, but it comes to serve as a key to psychology underlying human conflict
and, of course, an effective symbol for the bloody game we have played
throughout our history. This is not to say that Biblical metaphor is
unimportant in ^ or in the later works, but it forms only a
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