Lord of the Flies as an allegory

William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is considered as one of the greatest novels of all time in English literature for its exceptional plot and relevant societal subjects. The story revolves around a group of schoolboys who are stranded on a tropical island and their useless endeavor to form a civilized society.  As the time goes, their inherent evil and wicked nature become apparent and they nearly end up demolishing the island and each other. The story of the novel is not only moving and captivating but it also works as an allegory. 

What is an allegory?

An allegory is a fictional story that imparts a meaning not clearly described in the narrative. An allegory incorporates persons, settings, situations that can be explained to act for hidden meaning with moral or political significance. William Golding’s famous novel “Lord of the Flies” is best known as an allegorical novel because it describes the authentic conditions of a group of schoolboys stranded on a tropical island to personify symbolic ideas related to mankind’s innate viciousness and the risk of mob mentality and authoritarian leadership. Generally an allegorical novel uses certain images, persons and places to show abstract concepts for instance a character by the name of The Lover symbolizing the idea of romantic love. 

Backdrop of World War:

In his famous novel “Lord of the Flies” William Golding builds a backdrop of World War for a story about schoolboys trying to create a human society adopting the imagined demolition of civilization. Characters in the novel personify distinct positive and negative sides of mankind. For example, Piggy symbolizes rationality and intelligence, and Jack symbolizes cruelty, evil, and authoritarianism. Objects on the tropical island also act as allegorical purpose; particularly, the conch symbolizes communication, civilization and order. “Lord of the Flies” as an allegorical novel urges readers to raise questions on the ideas that control human interaction and investigates the manners the larger powers affect human lives. By narrating the tale of an isolated group of schoolboys trying to remodel society, the novel questions whether the disruption of societies into war is imminent, and what forces inside us lead us towards self-demolition. 

Lord of the Flies as a societal allegory:

We can read Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” both as a societal allegory and biblical allegory. By interpreting it as a societal allegory, we can say that Ralph symbolizes democracy and civility, keeping the status of leader, and finding the conch, which is itself an emblem of cultured democratic discourse. On the other hand, Piggy, who turns into Ralph’s counselor, symbolizes rationality and intelligence, the keystone of an effective society.  Piggy and Ralph operate as two sections of a totality, with no one of two capable of productively leading without the other. Their association represents the necessity of rationality and intelligence in democracy along with the necessity of leadership capability for the purpose of logic and intelligence to be executed productively. On the contrary, Jack symbolizes both autocratic leadership and a more barbaric instinct approaching disorder. Golding makes use of conflicts of the schoolboys to demonstrate the struggle between democracy and absolutism, in which democracy is considered as civilized and absolutism as savage. Simon, who is brutally murdered, symbolizes inner human morality and goodness that is viciously subdued by the vices of human nature. So the civilized boys as Simon and Ralph utilize their power to save the other boys and forward the goodness of the group, on the other hand, savage boys as Jack and Roger utilize their power to satisfy their own aspirations, using the younger boys as objects for their own pleasure. 

Lord of the Flies as a biblical allegory:

We can also read Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” as a biblical allegory. The Schoolboys are stranded on a garden-of-Eden like island, which provides for all of their requirements. But, rather than being satisfied to live in law and order, they are overcome by fear and eventually demolish their Edenic island with brutal and careless actions. Simon is a Christ-like figure because he plucks fruit for the other boys and converse with nature. He acts generously toward the other boys. He is the first to recognize the problem caused by the monster and the lord of the flies – i.e. the beast on the island is not an actual earthly monster, but rather a wickedness and evil that lies within each human soul. But Simon is murdered before he can convey this message to other boys. Simon’s body splashed into the ocean by “moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes,” hinting at a depiction of angels descending to escort Simon to heaven. After interpreting Golding’s in this way, we can say that it is a retelling of man’s disobedience from the Book of Genesis in which mankind opposed God and was thrown out from the Edenic Garden. However, Simon’s death, instead of being redeeming of the boys’ evil and wickedness, only carries on to propel them even further towards evil and wickedness. 

Limitations as an allegorical novel:

“Lord of the Flies” does not completely follow the tradition of the allegorical novel, instead it departs from the convention of allegorical novels in that the major characters are completely evolved, conflicted, credible schoolboys. In a conventional allegorical novel, the characters represent a single idea and throughout the novel the author emphasizes only that idea. But this is not the case in “Lord of the Flies”. Most of the characters in the novel, on the contrary, have a degree of uncertainty and are portrayed at first loving and compassionate. Ralph, who signifies decent, broad-minded leadership, is also troubled by indecision and an incapacity to express his belief, or even think with clarity at critical moments. On the other hand, Jack who symbolizes wickedness and evildoing, undergoes moments of fragility and infirmity, as when the boys decide to retain Ralph as their head. Jack is delineated kind heartedly at the start of the novel, and grows extremely hostile as he is influenced by the cruelty he acts on the pigs and other boys. So we can say that instead of staying unchanged and single dimensional, the characters of “Lord of the Flies” transform during the course of the novel. This makes Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies” distinct from other classical works of allegorical novels.    


“Lord of the Flies” is broadly read and explained by many scholars both in religious and nonreligious ways. Golding employs the political, societal and biblical subjects to enrich his story and pass on his idea that human beings are wicked and immoral and requires an alliance with God to be complete and good. The novel’s characters, subjects, and setting all evolve basis of the novel on the fall of man, civilized and democracy and the issues of wickedness and absolutism. So because Golding’s novel incorporates characters, setting and situations that can be explained to act for hidden meaning with moral and societal significance that is why we can consider “Lord of the Flies” as an allegorical novel. 

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