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Fire Element Symbolism & Meaning

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Fire is very powerful in a destructive and constructive way. It destroys hope, civilization, the island, and the relationship between Ralph and Jack. The fire also builds hope, necessities of life, rescue, and power. Fire has both a good and bad side to it throughout the novel. Fire is a symbol which represents the good and bad in each and everyone, and everything in society.
On One side the air was cool, but on the other the fire thrust out a savage arm of heat that crinkled hair at the instant. Boys who felt the evening wind on their faces paused to enjoy the freshness of it and then found they were exhausted.

They flung themselves down in the shadows that lay among the shattered rocks. The beard of flame diminished quickly. Near the beginning, the boys are first trying to light the fire. Everyone is racing to get wood for the fire in order to keep it alive. At first it is said that “one side was cool” whereas on the other “fire thrust out a savage arm of heat”, leading to the thought of coolness, from the cool air, and and heat from the fire. Usually throughout the book, heat is used at times of pressure. When you are under the heat, everything around you feels as though it is passing by in a matter of seconds.

There is much tensions and stress on whatever actions occur. On the other hand, the idea of cool air creates binary opposition to that of the heat. The book uses fire to symbolize rescue, hope, and destruction. The use of the two opposing forces show that fire can be crazy and uncontrollable, but also a really useful source of survival. Either way, the fire is very powerful and plays a major role in the lives of the young boys. In this specific situation, the heat used to represent savagery, which is the description of the boys in Jack’s tribe. Since at this point the boys haven’t truly fallen into savagery, this acts as a foreshadowing of Jack and his tribe completely going savage to the point that there is no mercy. When the fire’s arm of heat is discussed, it personifies the fire to be wild o savage.

The fire is described to “crinkle hair at the instant” and this thought of immediate destruction of simple things leads to its symbolic meaning of savagery. Its uncontrollable factor is determined as the fire couldn’t keep itself to one side. Whether it stays small and acts as a useful tool, or goes crazy and destroys the thw whole island is not in the hands of anyone. The fire at this point with the heat and coolness of the air represents the contrasting parts of society, in this case, good and bad.

As mentioned earlier, when the description is read, it sounds as if the fire is a living thing. In the quote it says that the fire crinkled hair at the instant . The visuals that you get at this moment are quite dark and depressing/unhappy. When thinking about this, there is the thought that as fire becomes uncontrollable it spreads fast and destroys everything in its way is destroyed. This again shows fire as a destructive element. Just like this is explained, if the savagery goes too far with in the boys, everything will be destroyed, which is is what eventually happens. As the fire collapses the collapse of their civilization is foreshadowed.

“Life became a race with the fire”, explained William Golding, “and the boys scattered through the upper forest. To keep a clean flag of flame flying on the mountain was the immediate end and no one looked farther”. This shows fire as a symbol of life. The need of fire to maintain life is shown as well its need for survival and rescue. When the boys’ hopes are down, the fire

Fire represents power. Jack and his tribe attack Ralph’s camp but although Piggy “thought that they [wanted] the conch”(168), the conch was not taken. Rather than stealing the conch, “From his left hand dangled Piggy’s’ broken glasses”. Jack gives no importance to the conch and wants nothing to do with it. Instead, he gives much importance to the spectacles. Piggy’s spectacles are the only way that anyone on the island can light a fire.

At first, Ralph was chief and was the one that was able to start a fire. As mentioned before, fire is used to provide a source of heat, survival, and rescue, therefore, Jack is “a chief now in truth” as he is given the ability to control the necessities of life. Jack is now the only one who has command over the tool of power, so he gains power and has a big advantage over the others. From the beginning of the book, Jack has been competing with Ralph over the possession of the entitlement of chief. Jack had tried to win over the position but not a single act was successful. Not until Piggy’s glasses were stolen. The same thing that was one of his least important priorities is what led him, “The chief [to] then [lead] them, trotting, steadily, exulting in his achievement.”. Not only is Jack given power through the fire, but Ralph and Piggy’s powers are diminished.

The signal fire has to be lit at all times, so that passing ships can pick up the lost boys:“The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going?” (Golding 80). But the boys find it hard to keep the fire burning. Most of the boys really do not understand the importance of the fire and therefore tend to ignore it. Especially Jack is not very keen in dealing with the fire as a symbol of need for rescue. First after a ship misses them because the fire is out does Jack apologize to Ralph because he sees that it clearly was a mistake. Ralph tries to talk sense into Jack and is upset at how Jack feels about the fire: “I said before, the fire is the main thing. Now the fire must be out- […] Hasn’t anyone got any sense?” (Golding 102).

Ralph and his democratic camaraderie feel safe when the fire is lit. It gives them hope. Also it saves them from being attacked by the beast or any other malevolent creatures. For Jack, the fire also provides a place of safety and a sense of being home, but he goes further than just that. He uses the fire as a weapon too: “Ironically, at the end of the novel, a fire finally summons a ship to the island, but not the signal fire.

Instead, it is the fire of savagery – the forest fire Jack’s gang starts as part of his quest to hunt and kill Ralph” (“Themes, Motifs & Symbols”). After Jack steals the specs from Piggy, giving him command over the fire, he uses it for his own tribe’s interests. The fire from now on stands for Jack’s and his tribe’s camp, their cuisine, their dance area and their social meeting point, the place where Jack and his followers meet to discuss their work, the hunt.

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