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

Theme is the underlying truth of the story, not the plot but what the plot means. In Lord of the Flies there are many themes, and they are interwoven with each other.

1. THE NEED FOR CIVILIZATION

The most obvious of the themes is man's need for civilization. Contrary to the belief that man is innocent and society evil, the story shows that laws and rules, policemen and schools are necessary to keep the darker side of human nature in line. When these institutions and concepts slip away or are ignored, human beings revert to a more primitive part of their nature.

2. INNOCENCE AND THE LOSS OF IT

The existence of civilization allows man to remain innocent or ignorant about his true nature. Although man needs civilization, it is important that he also be aware of his more primitive instincts. Only in this way can he reach true maturity.

Golding implies that the loss of innocence has little to do with age but is related to a person's understanding of human nature. It can happen at any age or not at all. Painful though it may be, this loss of innocence by coming to terms with reality is necessary if humanity is to survive.

3. THE LOSS OF IDENTITY

Civilization separates man from the animals by teaching him to think and make choices. When civilization slips away and man reverts to his more primitive nature, his identity disintegrates. The boys use masks to cover their identity, and this allows them to kill and later to murder. The loss of a personal name personifies the loss of selfhood and identity.


4. POWER

Different types of power, with their uses and abuses, are central to the story. Each kind of power is used by one of the characters. Democratic power is shown when choices and decisions are shared among many. Authoritarian power allows one person to rule by threatening and terrifying others. Spiritual power recognizes internal and external realities and attempts to integrate them. Brute force, the most primitive use of power, is indiscriminate.

5. FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Fear of the unknown on the island revolves around the boys' terror of the beast. Fear is allowed to grow because they play with the idea of it. They cannot fully accept the notion of a beast, nor can they let go of it. They whip themselves into hysteria, and their attempts to resolve their fears are too feeble to convince themselves one way or the other. The recognition that no real beast exists, that there is only the power of fear, is one of the deepest meanings of the story.

6. THE INDIFFERENCE OF NATURE

Throughout much of literature the natural world has been portrayed as "mother nature," the protector of man. In Lord of the Flies nature is shown to be indifferent to humanity's existence. When nature creates a situation which helps or hinders mankind, it is an arbitrary happening. Man may be aware of nature, but nature is unconscious and unaware of mankind.

7. BLINDNESS AND SIGHT

Being blind and having special sight are interwoven themes. One who is blind to his immediate surroundings usually has special understanding of things which others cannot fathom. This person sees more, but he is not seen or recognized by those around him. Such a person is often considered a fool and ridiculed by others.

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