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A Literary Analysis of Lord of the Flies

Updated on June 15, 2015

I am going to take the road less traveled in this literary criticism on the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Examining the life of William Golding, how he lived and what was happening in the world will give insight into his characters and the masterful plot of this novel. A look at his life will allow us to go deeper into the depth of the messages Golding was sending. We will also explore his characters.

William Golding was born in 1911, in England to a father who worked as a schoolmaster and a politically active mother. He attended schools where his father taught. When he was 12 he attempted to write a novel but did not complete it. He did complete his education and went on to college. We will get back to his life shortly, but let’s take a look at the characters in the Lord of the Flies.


Jack was one of the main characters in the Lord of the Flies. Jack was "headboy" at his school. Jack is ugly. He's "tall, thin, and bony: “ “His face was crumpled and freckled.” “Out of this face stared two light blue eyes...ready to turn, to anger.” Is this perhaps how William Golding would describe himself? We know as an older adult, he looked like a bedraggled Einstein! We also know Jack did not like to look weak. The first time he could not kill a pig, he became embarrassed and then he turned aggressive. He becomes an "idol" with an "ape" sitting on his shoulder. Power corrupted him.


Ralph was an attractive, civilized boy. He was a good kid who knew right from wrong and other kids liked him. As civilization as Ralph knows it, begins to deteriorate so did Ralph. As wars caused civilization to crumble, Golding crumbled into his own world. He spent his life waging wars with inner demons. Ralph was discovering that intellect, reason, good sense and empathy are tools for holding evil at bay. Did Golding draw the same conclusions in his own life?


When Simon is introduced it’s easy to see he doesn’t look like he has it all together! The reader finds out though he is a compassionate, giving animal lover! He likes to do good and he meditates. He is full of wisdom and understanding. His name, Simon, and his Christ like qualities draw parallels to Simon Peter in the Bible. Golding's, English upbringing in a Judeo-Christian heritage planted seeds that good comes from God; here we find Golding planting the same seeds in his novel.


Percival. Poor Percival! He cried and cried and just wanted to hide. How often do human beings feel like that? When things in life don't go well, you just wish to remain innocent and hide from the world! Loss of innocence is something to cry about! Golding was crying thru Percival.


Roger is the bratty kid. Sam and Eric in the story knew it too. Remember their exchange? "You don't know Roger. He's a terror." I have to wonder if Golding is again referring to himself here.


Sam and Eric are two individuals; twins who lose their individual identities. They were often referred to as "Samneric." Golding was married for years when he wrote this novel. Did he feel like he lost his identity because of marriage? Or did he marry the one who could finish his sentences? Double meaning perhaps?


Piggy. What was Golding saying to us through the words of Piggy? Piggy was overweight, had asthma, wore glasses and had brains! Golding gave power to the glasses and Piggy had the glasses at the beginning of the novel. He is clearly the most intelligent in the group, and his glasses represent the power of science and knowledge. When Jack’s savages get hold of the glasses to make fire, the power of the glasses is transferred. Jack's savage group now has the power. Is Golding trying to warn his readers that we need to be careful with scientific advances? Maybe he was trying to warn us that power can fall into the wrong hands, then all hell breaks lose.

William Golding

The characters William Golding writes about are as complex as he was. I wrote a little bit about the early years of Golding's life at the beginning of this Hub. His education is clear and he is highly articulate in his writing. He grew up with law and order and so did the characters in his novel.

He was a self-proclaimed childhood brat, what a parallel to Roger!

Golding was afraid of the dark as a child, wonder if he thought a beast was hiding under his bed?

His father was anti-religious. In the Lord of the Flies we see religious parallels. Simon in particular brings these parallels to light. We also see the strong use of symbolism of promoting intellectualism and science in the glasses. Golding himself studied science in college following his father's hopes and dreams for him. In his third year of college he switched to literature, following his own dreams. Could his connection with his father partially be represented by the twins and not just his marriage? We do know he fought to keep his own identity.

Golding wrote a lot of poetry in his early years, which he himself dismissed as, "juvenile." Those poems give us clues to his thinking at the time. He had more and more distrust of "rationalism" and his father's point of view.

He also hid a dark side of himself that he admitted to later on. While in college, he tried to rape a 15 year old girl. Sounds like Golding in his character, Jack as well. Jack, the savage! Remember, the "Ape" on Jack's shoulder? Golding said the girl was Ape like! Maybe, Golding felt guilty and carried weight on his shoulders, in this instance the "ape."

In 1935, he graduated from Oxford University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a diploma in education. Ah, Piggy again? He could see clearly with his glasses and being an intellectual was important! He went on to teach for a time after graduating. Again, he would disclose how he would get students to be antagonizing of each other. Sounds like the entire theme of Lord of the Flies, Ralph's group, versus Jack's group!

His wartime years were an influence, as would be expected. He recalled his experience later with this quote, "man produces evil, as a bee produces honey." I am sure he wanted to hide at times, or did in a fox hole. Percival and him both! Percival, the name of the knight. Did Golding ever feel like a Knight, fighting against the evil Hitler and the savages who followed him? Golding was trying to do good, but was losing faith in civilization. Where have we heard that before? Remember Ralph's statement? "Don't we love meetings?" Coincidence? I don't think so. Golding became an alcoholic, struggling with a drinking problem throughout his marriage. The demon inside. Many believed him to be homosexual, which he must have fought to suppress as well.

In spite of all this, he became an award winning novelist who remained married for over fifty years. He had two children. As Golding grew and went through life, his characters grew and went through life. He lived through his characters and his characters lived inside of him. They married on paper making him a true literary genius.

Copyright O'Rourke - All Rights Reserved



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