Loss of Innocence: ‘Lord of the Flies’

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Throughout history, children are often used in literature and movies to represent innocence, but what happens when that innocence is lost? William Golding adequately writes about this topic in the book, Lord of the Flies. This piece is about a group of English schoolboys whose plane gets shot down while they are fleeing from a war. They land on a deserted island and must cooperate to survive; unfortunately, things turn for the worst when the young students turn against each other. Golding’s inspiration for this tale about human nature came from his days as an officer of the Royal Navy. He says, “World War II was the turning point for me. I began to see what people were capable of doing.” (Personality Spotlight;NEWLN:William). Golding was born on the nineteenth of September, in 1911, and lived until the nineteenth of June, 1993. He was a Nobel-Prize winning novelist and was knighted in 1988 (United Press International). His most famous writings were about exploring and understanding humanity. However, Golding’s most known book is Lord of the Flies, which deeply dives into how people, even children, would react in a place with no regulations. In this novel, a group of children are struggling to survive and describing the deprivation of purity. The loss of innocence in Lord of the Flies is evidently shown by the children, their actions, and the island’s imagery.

The idea of a person becoming impure is exemplified through the experiences the children face while deserted on the island. For instance, the British boys are those of a private school; so, they must be clean and proper. However, by the end of the series, they have outgrown hair in front of their eyes, are covered in dirt, and wear scraggly clothes. Their outgrown hair illustrates the descent they are taking into barbaric ways; they are becoming “blinded.” Subsequently, this proves that even the most refined people can break down into their primal instincts. In the beginning chapters, reasonably, the kids decide they need to hunt for food and eventually, they hunt other kids (Gerson). This is another example of the start of savagery, for there was plenty of fruit on the island to sustain the children. It shows that when innocence is lost, people are capable of doing things they wouldn’t even consider originally. In this case, the main characters are children that are only held back by the eyes of adults. When the adults are no longer in the picture, the system of their old life vanishes, and they become primal. After the groups are split, the male children murder for the first time because they are afraid; then, they murder again because it has become second nature to them (Bedell).

Furthermore, a heartbreaking scene happens at the end of Lord of the Flies; in which, a marine officer encounters Ralph at his most desperate state. Finally, realizing the evil that humankind’s heart possesses; Ralph loses his innocence (Cott). This presents the idea that when exposed to the evil and mercilessness that humans are capable of, it will forever change a person, let alone a child. On the other hand, Golding defines this as a part of growing up. He characterizes Ralph when he “…wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy,” which furthers the point that purity is lost when opened to the cruel truth of reality (Bedell).

Later in the story, Jack and his followers wear clay-paint masks on themselves, which symbolizes them not wanting to be associated with their actions (Golding). The “masks” are both used literally and figuratively, for the boys start to display evil behavior; they are capable of doing so because they choose to not identify with their actions, and it allows them to indulge in their “animalistic” urges. The boys display inhumanity, which gives a glimpse of the idea that every human, no matter what, has what it takes to accomplish heinous deeds in order to gain power, knowledge, and anything else he or she desires. The fall of the children’s civilization is caused by human fallibility when it comes to giving someone the reigns and the jealousy that the followers can’t help but develop (Gerson). Through the whole of the book, there are many examples of how human nature can be the source of one’s own mistake; hence, losing innocence in the process.

A person develops their personality as they grow up. They also learn the general gist of what’s right and what’s wrong, according to their laws. Since the boys in Lord of the Flies range from about six years old to almost adolescence, they didn’t have a large amount of time to establish a moral compass. For example, Roger, the boy who represents evil, grew up learning that he shouldn’t do wrong because he would be punished. Now, on the island, there are no consequences. “Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins,” this statement refers to the fact that Roger is starting to realize he can do what he wants, which he will do evil (Golding). Golding states that the “theme of the book is an attempt to trace the defect of society back to the defect of human nature.” (Mazie). However, Simon, the boy who represents good, is a reserved boy who is looked to as a saint. For example, he reaches for and gives fruit to the “littleuns” when he enters the forest. In addition, when Jack hits Piggy and knocks him down, Simon rushes to his aid. “Passions beat about Simon on the mountain-top with awful wings,” this gives another Christ-like imagery to Simon and how he is the only one who truly understands what’s happening on the island.

Not only does personality play a factor in your moral compass, so does your relationships. For example, Piggy is such an easy target for Jack because Piggy doesn’t fight back. This will encourage Jack, even more so, to bully Piggy. However, Jack doesn’t physically try to mess with Ralph in the beginning of Lord of the Flies, because Ralph was seen as strong and was the proclaimed leader. How does humankind continue to construct the obligations of now and wish of tomorrow if they are intelligent, yet prone to make mistakes? Man is constantly reminded that any civilization needs a constructive government (Mazie). Another instance is where Jack breaks away from the original group and starts his own. With many of the other boys following, he became more confident as people were supporting him. If no one came to his “party,” then he wouldn’t be able to do all the damage he has done towards the end of the novel. On the other hand, Samneric, even though they were surrounded by evil, continued to try and help Ralph when they were captured (Golding). This proves that, sometimes, you will instinctually feel to do the right thing.

One’s situation is just as important as his/her relationship. Of course, all the boys are stuck on an island in the middle of an ocean, with no means of communication. The situation here is that they need to be rescued and that there are no adults around. Ralph automatically becomes leader because he holds the conch, and gives off the demeanor of someone in charge. Ralph’s first course of action is to start a signal fire, which is one of many orders that he gives to try and better the situation. Nowhere in the novel does he abuse his power, he is naturally good. The best example is where Ralph meets the Lord of the Flies. Even though he doesn’t quite understand the Beast, he becomes angry at it because it felt wrong. Ralph then knocks it over and breaks it into two (Golding). He perfectly demonstrates a person’s natural ability to be good and abolish evil. On the other hand, Jack is the opposite. He constantly belittles other boys and has an unbelievable blood lust. He, also, constantly tries to pry power from Ralph, given that Ralph gave him absolute power over the choir, which is now the hunters. Jack uses everyone’s fear to his advantage and says that he can “protect” them. His struggle to gain power ends up in the death of Simon and Piggy. Jack is proof that a person will do evil just to put himself at a higher advantage. Golding delves deeper into this theme when he describes the Beast provoking Simon by saying, “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close!” (Gerson). This insinuates that “beasts’ are inside all humans, and that is the source of the cruelty in mankind’s heart.

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Loss Of Innocence: 'Lord Of The Flies'. (2021, Jun 30). Retrieved April 24, 2024 , from

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