The Role of Fear in Lord of the Flies

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Have you ever feared being stranded on an island while your constantly worrying about being rescued and even being killed? Probably not, but this group of young boys experience this in the book Lord of the Flies written by William Golding. Golding tells a story about a group of young boys whose plane crashes on a deserted island with no grown ups and no idea what they’re doing. On the island, the boys attempt to make a functioning society with leaders and rules, but inevitably fail. This results in the boys turning on each other while savagery and evil consumes them. Along with the fear of never being rescued and believing that there is a beast who is accompanying them on the island and hungry for blood. Fear is a definite ongoing theme within the book Lord of the Flies and the boys would have never thought that their fear and what will become of it will be the most dangerous beast on the island.

The disturbing idea of being stuck on the island is a lingering thought in the boys minds. This is an obvious fear factor and they handle it in very different ways. In the beginning the boys claim their main focus is to be rescued. They try to accomplish this by building and upkeeping a fire on the top of the mountain for a smoke signal. But not all the boys follow through with the idea throughout their time on the island. Jack and his hunters left the fire to go kill a pig and it goes out. While their gone Ralph spots a ship on the horizon and he finds out that their smoke signal wasn’t present. “'There was a ship--' One of the smaller hunters began to wail. The dismal truth was filtering through to everybody.” (Golding 54). Everyone is already worrying about not being rescued but once this happens they all are hit with the horrifying reality. Jack is worried about hunting and being a strong leader more than keeping the fire going. On the other hand Ralph's main concern is having a fire and leaving the island. The power of fear is now influencing their actions but in very different ways. For example, Ralph is trying to be efficient with his fire and the idea of a ship seeing their smoke. He is trying to get rid of his fear and at the same time trying to be optimistic about being rescued. While Jack is afraid of the thought of being perceived as weak. So he wants to prove himself, of course, by hunting and killing a pig. Soon these concerns will be diminished by a much greater fear that will eventually be too powerful to handle.

A mysterious creature is brought to light when a littlun claims he saw a “beastie” in the forest. “'Well. They're frightened.'. . .'I mean the way things are. They dream. You can hear 'em. Have you been awake at night?' Jack shook his head. 'They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if—''As if it wasn't a good island.'. . .'As if,' said Simon, 'the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing, was real. Remember?'” (Golding 40). The beast is an mysterious creature posing a unknown threat to everyone even if they don’t admit it. Fear of the beast is the main source of chaos on the island. And it begins with the rejection and denial of its existence. The boys try their best to say that there is no beast but they all know there is something posing a threat, either real or imaginary. They have an assembly about the beast and the boys are obviously still afraid of it. Ralph is still trying to convince everyone that there isn’t a beast. Jack eventually lashes out at Ralph after constant argument and claims that if there is a beast and that he’ll hunt it and kill it. This convinces a majority of the boys to tag along with Jack as he strates away from the others. This is an important scene becuse Jack has now implanted more fear into the boys by implying that there is a beast. He says, “We're strong--we hunt! If there's a beast, we'll hunt it down! We'll close in and beat and beat and beat--!'”(Golding 70). Jack accomplishes his desire for power into using the fear of the beast as bait for the boys into following him. He himself is still afraid but he dekises it by making himself look strong and that he will provide the boys who join him with safety. Jack's obsession with power and hunting is mostly caused by the fear of being weak, vulnerable and of course the threat of the beast. During the meeting Simon says something really important but it is unfortunately ignored, 'Maybe,' he said hesitantly, “'maybe there is a beast.'. . .'What I mean is . . . maybe it's only us.'” (Golding 68). However this concept is definitely not forgotten.

Now the boys are separated into two groups. The savages, whose leader is Jack. And Ralph’s no mane group which contains Piggy, Simon, Samneric and a few littluns. The savages hunt a pig and leave its head on a stick in the middle of the forest. Simon often wonders around the forest and soon encounters this horrifying image. At this moment everything Simon believed came true. “'Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!' said the head. . . '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 what they are?'”(Golding 111). The truth was out, only Simon knows now, but he knew all along. The beasts words are speaking the dark reality and that reality is that the only thing the boys should be scared of is what’s become of them. This idea of a beast in the forest has only consumed them and now is truly a part of every boy on the island. And this fear that is controlling them has taken over their thoughts to make them do what they do. Even the beast says it himself, “'--Or else,' said the Lord of the Flies, 'we shall do you? See? Jack and Roger and Maurice and Robert and Bill and Piggy and Ralph. Do you. See?'”(Golding 112). Again the beast is saying that the boys have been taken over by their fear and now who knows what they’ll do with it. Simon decides to climb the mountain to only find a dead rotting pilot tangled in his parachute which has been perceived as the beast described by Samneric earlier in the story. Simon decides to find the others and tell them his new discovery. Down at the beach all the boys are gathered by the fire and are enjoying their pork. They soon break out into a chant “...Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!...”. This ritual is happening when Simon finally reaches the beach. The boys are so caught up in their idea of killing the beast that when they see this figure run out of the woods they unconsciously decide Simon is the beast and end up murdering him. This is a prime example of the boys being blinded by fear. They’re actions are going through without any thought or consideration, it just happens just like that without them having to think twice. The boys have now become the beast and now the only thing to be afraid of is each other. This becomes even more true when Roger ends up killing Piggy also when Ralph is being hunted by Jack and his hunters.

Fear can cause so many things to happen even if we don’t realise it. This shows greatly in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It is clear that fear is the source of all evil doing on the island. It drastically alters these poor boys minds and their actions in every way possible. Fear had lead the boys into leaving their organized ways and into savagery and destruction. The boys fear grows from worrying about being rescued then the beast and eventually the realization that the terrifying evil that they think the beast is only themselves. Fear can be the most effective influencer when it comes to people's thoughts and actions. 

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The Role of Fear in Lord of the Flies. (2021, Apr 18). Retrieved June 24, 2024 , from

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