In ‘Lord of the Flies,’ fear is both prevalent and very important. In this lesson, we will look at quotes to learn about fear in the novel and what it represents.
Anxiety and nervousness are a part of everyone’s life at some point. Getting up in front of a crowd, for instance, makes many people nervous. However, not everyone will experience true fear. The difference is that fear involves a threat, perceived or real, of serious danger or pain. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, we see true fear manifest in several different ways on the island.
One thing to keep in mind is that for each of the different aspects of fear the boys experience, the level increases as the novel goes on. That is, the boys become increasingly more terrified with each chapter. This is because fear and the boys’ reaction to it represents their movement away from the civilization they came from and toward a more savage and primitive society. In this society, there are the hunters and the hunted, and the boys fall on both sides of this line, depending on the fear they are facing.
One major fear the boys face is fear of the unknown. This is represented by the beast in the forest. The boys fear it even before they see any evidence it might exist. When the idea is first brought up, the response is dismissive, but they still react to it: ‘Either the wandering breezes or perhaps the decline of the sun allowed a little coolness to lie under the trees. The boys felt it and stirred restlessly.’ The beast is a story conjured up by a scared littleun, but the fear behind it takes hold. This is the first instance of fear we see, and therefore the least dramatic, but it is important because of its lasting effect.
The story of the beast runs throughout the novel, becoming increasingly more real as the boys think they see evidence of it. Sam and Eric see a dead man tangled in a parachute, but in the dark in the forest, their minds see a clawed monster. They run immediately back to tell the other boys what happened: ‘They lay there listening, at first with doubt but then with terror to the description the twins breathed at them between bouts of extreme silence. Soon the darkness was full of claws, full of the awful unknown and menace.’
This quote illustrates how the fear has grown in the boys, and with this sighting of the ‘beast,’ the fear is now much stronger and more concrete. It runs as an undercurrent of everything else the boys do, keeping them near fire and out of the forest except in groups. It also contributes to the savagery we see them display. They are afraid and act out destructively against that fear.
We really see how their fear represents their societal devolution in the death of Simon. He is killed as a result of the fear of the beast, when the boys are doing their savage dance. He is also the only one who knew the truth about what the beast really was, and so the truth died with him. In this way, the fear in the novel perpetuates itself, and gets rid of things that might alleviate it.
Fear of Pain
Another type of fear the boys experience is fear of pain. We mostly see this in Sam and Eric, after they are taken prisoner by Jack’s tribe. It is implied that Roger tortured them before they were allowed to actually be part of the tribe. This suspicion is supported by their reaction when Ralph comes up to them at their post: ‘He heard a cry and a flurry from the rock. The twins had grabbed each other and were gibbering.’ They are so afraid of the pain Roger might inflict that they are speechless with terror.
This fear also adds to the societal devolution. It leads Sam and Eric to eventually give up Ralph’s hiding spot, and this in turn leads to the primal hunt scene that occurs at the end of the novel. In this scene, Jack’s tribe are the hunters and Ralph is the prey. It is about as far from civilization as you can get.
Fear of Death
As you might expect, the scene where Ralph is being hunted is full of fear. This scene illustrates fear of death better than anything else in the novel. Ralph is so terrified that he is barely rational. At one point, he is cornered and he acts exactly the way a cornered, terrified animal might act: ‘Ralph screamed, a scream of fright and anger and desperation. His legs straightened, the screams became continuous and foaming. He shot forward, burst the thicket, and was in the open, screaming, snarling, bloody.’ He used his fear, and the adrenaline it gave him, to break free of the boys hunting him.
This scene is where all the fear that has been building up in the novel really comes to a head. As the fear has been increasing, the level of society has been decreasing. Here, their society is at its lowest point, and Ralph is terrified beyond rationality. It is at this point that we really see the connection between the boys’ fear and their societal devolution.
Fear is ever present in Lord of the Flies. Throughout the novel we see fear of the unknown represented by the beast in the forest. We also see fear of death, especially in the final scene with Ralph, and fear of pain, such as with Sam and Eric when they are taken prisoner. These examples, particularly Ralph’s, also make it clear that fear in the novel represents the boys’ societal devolution, as they move away from civilization and toward a more primal, aggressive society.