Essay, Research Paper: Lord Of The Flies Symbolism

Literature: Lord of The Flies

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The novel Lord of the Flies, written by William Golding, is a very symbolic
peace of literature. Most of the symbols are very easy to identify and explain.
One exception is clothing. Clothing was over looked as a symbol until the
introduction of this symbolism project. It was overlooked because in our society
clothing is a natural part of our every day lives, so even when we are reading,
we tend to dismiss it as symbolizing only fashion or lack of. In Lord of the
Flies clothing symbolizes order, rules and democracy. As the boy’s clothing
turns to rags, their order turns to chaos, their rules are discarded and their
system of democracy is overthrown and replaced with a fascist leader. When the
boys first arrive on the island they realize that there are no adults to tell
them what to do or how to behave. Basically they see no rule enforcers as no
rules. Most of the boys remove some or all of their clothing to go swimming or
because of the heat. This shows right from the beginning that when clothes are
removed so are the rules. Ralph calls an assembly by blowing the conch and the
boys come dressed “in school uniforms; grey, blue, fawn, jacketed or jerseyed.
There [are] badges, mottoes even, stripes of colour in stockings and
pullovers.” (19). The last to arrive at the assembly was Jack and his choir.
Each boy in the choir is wearing a square black cap with a silver badge in it.
Their bodies, from throat to ankle, [are] hidden by black cloaks which [bare] a
long silver cross on the left breast and each neck [is] finished with a hambone
frill. … [Jack,] the boy who [controls] them [is] dressed the same way through
his cap badge [is] golden. (21). Since the boys are dressed in their school
uniforms they are orderly. They showed this by listening and sitting quietly. At
this assembly Ralph’s system of democracy is established simply by voting him
to be chief. Ralph sets up rules and duties. Jack and his choir are to be
hunters and all the biguns* are to share the obligation of fire watch, (the boys
on fire watch sit up with the rescue fire to make sure it stays lit and omitting
smoke). The remainder of the boys are to help Ralph build shelters and to keep
coconuts, filled with fresh water, near camp. As the boys clothing starts to
wear away to rages, their rules start to fade. No one except Simon helps to
build the shelters, water is not being brought in coconut shells, and Jack takes
the boys from the fire watch to help with his hunt. Due to Jack’s actions the
fire goes out and a ship passes them by. This shows Jack has a disregard for
rules and rescue. The boy’s clothing not only wears away, but they also become
extremely filthy. They [are] dirty, not with the spectacular dirt of boys who
have fallen into mud or been brought down hard on a rainy day. Not one of them
was an obvious subject for a shower, and yet – hair, much too long, tangled
here and there, knotted round a dead leaf or a twig; faces cleaned fairly well
by the process of eating and sweating but marked in the less accessible angles
with a kind of shadow; clothes, worn away, stiff like his own with sweat, put
on, not for decorum or comfort but out of custom;(121). The boys don’t see
themselves as dirty, they grow accustomed to the way they look and smell; which
shows their decent into savagery, because civilized people are clean or at least
aware of how dirty they are. Jack is the first boy to become savage. His
savageness grows to make him the most savage of the group. When he is at his
most savage moments, he is described with very few clothing on. When he is
hunting “except for a pair of tattered shorts held up by his knife-belt he
[is] naked.” (52). When his tribe is raiding Ralph’s, he is “stark naked
save for paint and a belt” (155), and when he is beating Wilfred for no
apparent reason, he is “naked to the waist.” (176). Jack is the one who
replaces Ralph’s democratic system with his own fascist one. In Jack’s
tribe, killing is condoned and the boys wear barely any clothes. One night
during a ritual pig killing dance, Simon stumbles into the circle from out of
the dark woods. Jack’s almost naked tribe attacks and brutally kills Simon
with their hands and teeth, because in the dark they have mistaken him for the
beast. The boys blame the darkness for Simon’s death instead of themselves.
After Piggy’s glasses are stolen, he makes a speech to Jack’s tribe at his
base in pure daylight. Roger pushes a boulder off the cliff onto Piggy, killing
him. This is significant because the killing of humans is no longer done with
darkness to blame, the boys are truly savage! Ralph is the least savage of the
boys who have survived. He tries to restore order within his own tribe when it
consists of: Piggy, Sam, Eric, and himself. Ralph’s major point is that they
need to be clean. “Supposing we go, looking like we used to, washed and hair
brushed – after all we aren’t savages really.” (189). He clearly
associates being orderly with being clean and properly dressed. When Ralph is
being hunted by the now blood thirsty, nearly naked to fully naked boys, he
catches a glance at Bill. Bill is a bigun* who is part of Jack’s tribe. Ralph
describes him as “a savage whose image refused to blend with that ancient
picture of a boy in shorts and shirt.” (202). Again, this is Ralph identifying
that they were orderly when they wore shorts and shirts and now this almost
naked boy is not the Bill who arrived on the island not so long ago; he is a
savage. The boys are rescued by a naval officer. The naval officer is dressed in
“a huge peaked cap. It [is] a white-topped cap, and above the green shade of
the peak was a crown, an anchor, gold foliage. He [has] white drill, epaulettes,
a revolver, [and] a row of gilt buttons down the front of [his] uniform.”
(221). As soon as the boys see this clean uniformed man, order is restored. The
fighting stopped instantly and when asked who is in charge, Ralph, the
democratic leader, speaks up without objections. The officer takes the boys back
to civilization, cleans clothes and rules, only after they have a good cry.
“With filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph [weeps] for the end of
innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the
true, wise friend called Piggy.” (223). As you can see the more clothing the
boys lose, the more savage they become. We think the same thing would happen
with any group of people put in that situation. Even people not in that
situation, but with little clothing on act different, maybe not as savage as the
boys in Lord of the Flies but defiantly different. Think of the way strippers
act when working and when there not, also the way children strip off fancy
clothing to go and play. Subconsciously we see clothing as order and rules.
Without clothing teenagers and adults are promiscuous or embarrassed depending
on how and why their clothes came off. Even when we are wearing comfortable
clothes as opposed to fancy clothing we act differently. We would never go to a
ball in our sweats and we would never lounge around doing housework in ball
gowns. When we wear clothes that are comfortable and flattering we act more
confidant then when wearing clothes that are uncomfortable and/or unflattering.
The clothes we wear or don’t wear dictates our willingness to fallow rules and
states whether or not we are capable of being an orderly part of society.
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