The Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel that deals with the conflict between two competing human impulses. The first impulse is to live peacefully and to follow a moral code. The other impulse, is the rule of the mob, more violent, seeking instant gratification at the expense of the others. In other words, the conflict can be categorized as good vs. evil or reason vs. impulse. In the book the conflict is explored through the disintegration of a group of young boys, who go from a civilized, moral and disciplined life in England, to a savage, brutal and barbaric life in a jungle. The protagonist is named Ralph and he represents order and leadership while Jack the antagonist epitomizes the savage in us all seeking power over the others.
Other characters are imbued with other instincts such as Piggy who totally civilized with no apparent wilding attributes. However, another character, Roger is not capable of understanding the rules of civilization. The author seems to convey that the instinct for savagery is more natural to humans than the desire for civility. The author implies that when left to their own devices, most people revert to savagery and barbarism. Balancing out this innate evil, which is central to the story, is Simon who is naturally good.
The boys’ progression on the island from well behaved children awaiting rescue to little more than savages who decide never to return to their old life represents the loss innocence that we all go through as we grow from childhood to adulthood. The author illustrates this as a natural occurrence due to innate tendencies rather than something that is the result of their circumstances on the island. The Lord of the Flies tends to echo some images and themes found in the Christian Bible. The author never makes any direct connections but some contend the Bible themes are an underlying motif in the novel. For instance many believe that the good character Simon’s glade in the forest harkens back to the Garden of Eden because the glade was a clean, orderly and uncorrupted space on the island. Others equate Simon with Jesus and the Lord of the Flies with the devil. Simon is killed by the other boys in the book after coming to a moral conclusion. He is sacrificed by the others.
However, one of the problems with equating Simon to Jesus is that Simon has no supernatural connection to God, which is Christian tradition when it comes to allegory. His death also did not bring salvation to the island. In fact, it gets worse on the island, more savage. At the beginning, Ralph and Piggy find the conch shell on the beach and use it to call the others together because they were separated by the crash. The conch shell has come to represent civilization and order in the minds of most readers. In the group the boy who holds the shell is the one who speaks. As civilization breaks down the conch shell loses its power over them.
The boulder that Roger rolls onto Piggy also crushes the conch shell, signifying the demise of the civilized instinct among almost all the boys on the island. The shell is broken when Roger rolls a rock onto Piggy who was holding it at the time. Despite his nickname, Piggy is the most intelligent and rational boy in the group. His glasses are taken to represent intellectual endeavor. The lenses are used to start fires and to focus sunlight. The glasses are later stolen after the boys break down into tribes. The tribes refuse to share devolving even further. Other symbols within the book are the signal fire used to represent the boys’ connection to civilization. There is an imaginary beast that signifies the primal instincts present in all humans. The Lord of the Flies, which is actually a severed head impaled on a stick as an offering to the imaginary beast, symbolizes the evil lurking within all.