Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

To pick an object of symbolism in the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a relatively easy task considering that there are quite a number of objects, places, and ideas in the book that could be classified as containing symbolism. I feel that a relatively easy and understandable depiction of symbolism is the dead parachutist. The dead parachutist symbolizes the “beast”, death, paranoia, fear, danger, the evil residing within everyone, and the dark side of human nature.

The first time the parachutist comes into the book is near the middle of the story where the plot is reaching its high point. Important and horrific events begin to occur soon afterward. While the boys are asleep, an aerial battle occurs above the island, yet none of the boys see the explosions or the flashes in the clouds. Samneric, who were supposed to be tending to the all-important signal fire, have fallen asleep. A dead parachutist drifts down from the sky onto the island, and his chute becomes tangled in some rocks and flaps in the wind. His shape casts fearful shadows on the ground near the sleeping boys. When Samneric awake, they mistake the figure of the dead parachutist for the “beast” and become scared, rushing back to the camp, claiming that the awful “beast” attacked them (p. 89). This section showed that the “beast” from its introduction onward was perceived as an evil, scary being. On another level, it shows that man can do horrible things to himself, like initiate war.

When all the boys become curious and wary of this “beast” that Samneric claim to have encountered, Ralph, Roger, and Jack climb the mountain to disprove the existence of such a creature and end it at that. Ralph and Roger let Jack climb alone to the top. When Jack returns, he claims to have seen the monster, too. Ralph and Roger climb all the way up to look because Jack has now disproved their previous unbelief. They see a terrifying specter: a large, shadowy form, with the shape of a giant humped thing, making a strange flapping noise. Horrified, the boys hurry down the mountainside (p. 110). This second encounter with the “beast” is important in that now Roger, Ralph, and Jack all have seen this creature, too. They have no choice but to believe the stories as well. This part touches on the aspects of paranoia and fear, showing that all the boys, even the older and more respected ones, are afraid of this “thing.”

A turning point in the beast’s role occurs when Simon crawls up the hill and, in the dim light, sees the dead pilot with his flapping parachute. He untangles the lines and stumbles down toward the distant light of the fire at Jack's feast to tell the other boys what he has seen (p. 133). This part shows that even though some people form opinions without much evidence because of a popular belief, a select few chose to set aside those ideas, and form their own, often being correct. Simon did this by ignoring his fears and going up to see for himself.

Next, the book portrays how man can be inherently evil towards himself and be very destructive in the process because of the “dark side” hidden within himself. Simon comes down from the mountain with important news of the beast to tell the other boys. The boys at the feast see a shadowy figure crawl out of the forest. Not recognizing him, they start shouting that he is the beast, and in their fear, the boys descend upon Simon and tear him apart with their bare hands and teeth (p. 139). This obviously was the end for Simon simply because a few boys thought he was what he certainly was not; his young life was ended without a second glance from anyone.

The beast is gone forever with the next occurrence in the book. Wind and waves wash Simon's beaten corpse into the ocean, where it drifts away. At the same time, the body of the parachutist is blown by the wind out into the lagoon, never to be seen again. The other boys will never know the truth of the