Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

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6. Motifs: Of the Biblical sort.

Lord of the Flies

William Golding, 1954
Famous for: The Beast, a talking pig’s head on a stake, a horrific descent into chaos and savagery.

Motifs in literature like Lord of the FliesIf you want to understand William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, read the Bible. OK, we’re joking. Sort of. Because while we’re not inside William Golding’s head, there are definitely some similarities between what happens in Lord of the Flies and what happens in, say, the book of Genesis in the Bible. Here’s the scoop on the biblical action.

The Bible chronicles the struggle between good and evil with good eventually triumphing. Now take a look at Golding’s Biblical twist in Lord of the Flies. 

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Think about that buzzy little island for a second. It’s overrun with boys—except for an unspoiled glade where Simon escapes to think.

Biblical reference number one!

The glade echoes the Garden of Eden, first, because it’s pristine, and, second, because it’s invaded by evil in the form of a pig’s head on a stake.

Biblical reference number two!

The pig’s head is the devil. Why? Let’s start with the fact that the phrase “Lord of the Flies”—the name the author gives to the pig’s head—is a literal translation of the name Beelzebub, a Biblical name for Satan.

Then there’s this. In the Bible, a talking snake (the devil in disguise) gets Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden. In Lord of the Flies, a talking pig’s head spouts evil—which, in turn, drives Simon out of his perfect little glade.

So here’s where Golding was going with all this Biblical stuff. The glade and the pig’s head—and the other references that I’ll let you dig up—help Golding’s theme about good and evil go POP! Which is, if you’ll remember, exactly what a motif is supposed to do.

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