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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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In the second scene the boys assemble logs and leaves atop the mountain, only to realize they have no means of starting a fire. Jack snatches Piggy's glasses from his face, leaving him howling with fear, for Piggy is almost blind without his glasses. Recall that Piggy is the book's representative of civilization; when he loses his glasses, the link to a rational world is momentarily severed.

NOTE: SIGHT, BLINDNESS, FIRE, AND THE MOUNTAIN

Being able to see and being blind have always been important themes in literature. In Piggy's case, his glasses imply that he sees or knows more than most of the other boys. He is more concerned with maintaining a civilized and orderly life on the island. He "sees" what will happen if they aren't able to do this.

The glasses symbolize the link to civilization, but at the same time they show Piggy's impaired ability. While Piggy knows or sees more than Ralph, he does not see the total situation on the island. In addition to his real visual problems, Piggy's vision of what the jungle represents is impaired. He will come to blame his and the boys' troubles on Jack, and he will never fully recognize the true situation. Thus Piggy can have the ability to see or understand more than most people and at the same time not be able to see his immediate situation clearly. Often in literature the inability of a character to see clearly around himself enables him to see the future. This usually marks him as a fool to the people around him and subjects him to the ridicule of those less perceptive than he.


Fire on a mountain is a complex symbol in literature. The mountain represents a place where man has gone to pray; fire represents humanity's hope. By lighting a fire on the mountain, primitive man was telling his gods: We're scared to be alone. You must be out there; tell us what to do. This is what the boys are saying, symbolically, when they light the fire.

The boys cheer as the fire grows. "The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings." The fire is described as a wild beast. The boys fall "silent, feeling the beginnings of awe at the power set free."

Piggy peers "nervously into hell" and says, "him with the mark on his face.... Him that talked about the snakes. He was down there-"

"Tall swathes of creepers rose for a moment into view, agonized, and went down again." The little boys scream, "Snakes! Snakes!" The boy with the mulberry birthmark has apparently been killed by the fire, the beast he feared in the creepers has taken him.

The concept of feared things becoming the enemy is one you'll want to keep in mind. It has a great deal to do with the ultimate meaning of the story.

What began as paradise has somehow turned into hell. Something is wrong. There are snakes in paradise, and Ralph's having a snake-clasp on his belt suggests that the boys have brought the snakes with them. This wasn't in any of the adventure books the boys read. Golding is giving us fair warning that the theory of man's natural goodness may have serious flaws.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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