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”Lord of the Flies” by William Golding Commentary

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In this passage from Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the reader gets deep insight into Ralph’s mind and how the boys are adapting to life on the island. Occurring around the middle of the novel, this passage dives into the thoughts of Ralph to see what he is really feeling about being stranded. It shows how the other boys are coping, and it demonstrates the two different sides of the island; the reader now sees the dangerous, wild side representing the savagery of the boys, and the safe, light side representing their innocence. When the reader looks at the passage with an inquisitive eye, one will see that Golding’s choice in tone and content gives the passage many levels of meaning and proves to add depth to what may appear to be simple words. In the first part of the passage, the reader takes a look at Ralph’s newfound obsession over his hygiene. The passage starts with Ralph and his awareness of the heat. Golding uses words such as “distastefully,” “unusual” and “grey.” This negative diction used by the author shows one that Ralph is currently appalled by the physical state of the boys, himself included.

These words not only add to the emotion of the paragraph but represent the time passed on the island. As Ralph moves on to talk about his unkempt hair and dirtiness, the thought of all the ways to solve these problems fly across his mind. Immediately we see a change in tone of the passage. The reader sees how the tone of the passage changes from using negative words such as “filthy” to positive diction using words such as “a proper wallow with soap.” The change of tone is not only a sign of positive thoughts, it demonstrates the meaning behind the thoughts. The thoughts of being able to bath and cut your hair properly would signify the return to civilization and getting home is a thought constantly on the mind of Ralph’s character specifically. Ralph’s memory of a civilized world and what it is like to lead a normal life is obviously not very long due to his age. As the end of the first part of the passage nears, Raph notes, while looking at his bitten down nails, that he could not even remember when he had restarted this habit and says: “Be sucking my thumb next–”. Here the reader sees his regression into a primitive, savage lifestyle. The biting of Ralph’s nails symbolizes the retreat in time instead of progression in life.

The savagery of the boys in this book is turning them into monstrous cavemen and Golding can represent this in just a few words said by Ralph. Immediately, realizing what he had said, Ralph turns around and Golding uses the word “furtively.” This choice of word by the author emphasizes Ralph’s realization of the boy’s regression. Instantly we see what was just a description of a young boy’s thoughts turn into the description of savage boys eating. Golding characterizes the boys as “hunters,” and describes them to be “stuffing themselves.” Here Golding demonstrates the contrast between characters. Ralph was lost in his thoughts of hygiene while the more savage boys are preoccupied with what Golding goes on to distinguish as insufficient food. As the boys eat their food, Golding uses words such as “olive-grey” and “jelly-like fruit” to back up his statement of “…trying to convince themselves that they got sufficient kick out of…” To the reader, the struggle with insufficient food becomes apparent with the choice of words used by the author. Golding then returns to Ralph’s thoughts again as Ralph himself compares them to his once clean self. Golding describes the boys as a kind of dirty that is “not with the spectacular dirt of boys who have fallen into mud or been brought down hard on a rainy day.”

Ralph describes the filth of the boys as what “he took as normal now and that he doesn’t mind.” But the choice of words by the author to say “He discovered with a little fall of heart…”, allows the readers to see Ralph’s disappointment in his new state of mind. As the second part of the passage comes to an end, Ralph looks out to the sea and once again, and the tone of the passage changes. The island has the light and the dark side. This is a symbol for the light and dark side of the boys on the island. The safe side is described in a happy and hopeful tone using words such as “filmy enchantments,” “mirage,” “dream of rescue,” and “irresistible.” But as the reader dives into the other side, one feels the hope drain out and the author begins to use words such as “cold,” “clipped,” “hard,” and “condemned.” The ocean is characterized as having “Shining hair,” “arm of surf,” “fingers of spray,” and “rising with a roar.” Here the reader sees how Golding personifies the ocean and one watches as the sea taunts Ralph, showing the power of nature over man. The emphasis of the dark tone used by the author adds to the feeling of the passage.

The words chosen by Golding were clearly chosen thoughtfully to give the darkness meaning, layers and depth to the description. As the reader ends the passage, the dark tone continues with words such as, “painful,” “gripped,” and “stiff.” This dark description leads up to the last sentence of the passage said by Simon: “You’ll get back to where you came from.” The emphasis of the quote is clearly on the word “you” as in the later chapters the reader sees the death of Simon. Simon has insight into Ralph’s thoughts here. The reader can see, with a close read, that Simon has insight into what Ralph is thinking without Ralph even speaking aloud. Here, Golding foreshadows the death that is soon to come and demonstrates the connection between the characters of Simon and Ralph.

Both characters seem to be connected by the thought of getting home and Simon appears to know that Ralph is thinking about it. The reader sees the connection between the two characters with just the choice of words given by Golding. Throughout the passage, Golding’s writing adds to the layers of the book. His word choice creates vivid description and allows the reader to dive into the character’s minds. The use of foreshadowing adds insight and proves to be an important tool used in the author’s writing. Every detail from the tone, word choice and structure adds meaning to the passage and sucks the reader into what life is really like stranded on an island.

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