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

A ship passes the island while Jack is leading the hunters, their faces painted, on an expedition to kill a pig. Jack breaks one lens of Piggy's glasses.

A lengthy and important narrative at the beginning of the chapter gives us the impression that months have passed. The boys no longer clock the hours of day and night. The civilization they've known is dropping away, like primitive man, they are being guided by the sun and stars.

This section describes the different times of day as though they were different times of life. Morning is seen as childhood, "a time when play was good and life so full that hope was not necessary and therefore forgotten."

The middle of the day is likened to the difficulties of middle life. "Strange things happened at midday.... Sometimes land loomed where there was no land and flicked out like a bubble as the children watched." Exhausted by the heat, the boys dismiss the mirages they see without trying to understand them. The inability to understand what might be happening around them and the necessary acceptance of living without explanations are equated with the middle years of a person's life-a time when there are often denial, ignorance, and confusion.

Late in the day the boys are more comfortable, but they begin to dread the onset of evening. Similarly, late in life a person may experience freedom from confusion, but by then the closeness of death looms large. Golding says that late afternoon is a "time of comparative coolness but menaced by the coming of the dark." Night, or being near death, fills one with "restlessness, under the remote stars." When a person is near death, all that is associated with the living universe becomes distant.


NOTE: GOLDING'S METAPHOR FOR LIFE

Why does the author include this commentary in a tale about a bunch of boys trying to survive on an island? Golding is offering us his philosophy that life starts out playfully and ends anxiously. The passage holds the key to some of the story's deeper meaning. We all begin as playful children, move slowly and painfully into adulthood, and anxiously approach death. This is a story about young boys coming of age or approaching the end of innocence. We see them young and playful at the beginning, and we will find them elderly in spirit by the end. The activity of boys on an island is also a metaphor for the human race's struggle to survive. The earth is our island, and some people are trying to build shelters while others are hunting pigs. Only a few see messages in the mirage; most are blinded.

Piggy, who has impaired vision, dismisses along with the others the "mysteries" and the "miraculous" on the island. It is he who labels the strange happenings a mirage. Although no mention is made here of Simon, he is the one who does not dismiss the wonder and the terror of mirages, as we will see later.

NOTE: MIRAGE AS METAPHOR

An important idea underlies Golding's use of mirages. A mirage is something that does not really exist yet has a power of suggestion that can impress a person and influence how he acts and thinks. For example, if you were thirsty and thought you saw water, but the water was only a mirage, you would probably feel even more thirsty because of the very idea of water. The glands in your throat which cause you to feel thirst will react just as strongly to real water as to imagined water.

Here mirage introduces the idea of the suggestive power of something which does not really exist. In daylight the boys ignore mirages seen in nature, such as the palm trees which seem to float in the sky, but mirages of the night, like the beast in the jungle, cannot be so easily dismissed.

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