Why Does Golding Structure His Essay As A Narrative

Critical Analysis of Golding’s Use of Tone in Lord Of The Flies

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Critical Analysis of Golding’s Use of Tone in Lord Of The Flies

When viewing the atrocities of today's world on television, the starving children, the wars, the injustices, one cannot help but think that evil is rampant in this day and age. However, people in society must be aware that evil is not an external force embodied in a society but resides within each person. Man has both good qualities and faults. He must come to control these faults in order to be a good person. In the novel Lord of the Flies, William Golding deals with this same evil which exists in all of his characters. With his mastery of such literary tools as structure, syntax, diction and imagery, The author creates a cheerless, sardonic tone to convey his own views of the nature of man and man’s role within society.

The use of diction is powerful, with the gripping use of words and description. Golding creates tension and reinforces his theme and tone with the use of specific words. Many are connotative and therefore create a story abundant in meaning and symbolism. Golding uses colors such as pink to symbolize particular things such as innocence, as shown in the piglets and the island. The word yellow makes the reader think of the sun, enlightenment and Ralph; the words black and red bring to mind evil, blood and Jack.
With the use of words the author also creates the novel's own private symbols that are key to the tone. The conch comes to symbolize authority, democracy and order. Upon the mentioning Piggy's glasses, images of insight and reason come to mind. With this highly connotative language, Golding creates many contrasts as well to convey his underlying theme. He compares the dazzling beach's "pink granite" [Page 12], green feathered palm trees and endless sand [Page 10] to the "darkness of the forest", full of "broken trunks", "cables of creepers" [page 28], and dense vegetation. He also compares the day's "torrid sun" [Page 176] to the night which makes everything as "dim and strange as the bottom of the sea" [Page 62]. The lagoon's security and the dangerous open sea are also contrasted when Golding qualifies them as "still as a mountain lake" [Page 10], "dark blue" [Page 31] and "deep sea" [page 62]. Golding also uses dark and inherently bad words such as "dark", "Jack", "broken", "torrid", "coarse" and "splintered" to describe sinister things and euphonious words such as "feathers", "glittering fish" and "Ralph" to describe more peaceful things.

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Use Of Tone         Critical Analysis         Use Of Diction         Novel Lord         Good Person         Syntax         Faults         Atrocities         Deals        

Although Golding's language is informal, perhaps even colloquial and at times utterly simple, he is capable of carrying the reader to his pink coral island and to the little boys and their losing battle against evil.

The use of imagery in this literary masterpiece is gripping. As described in the previous paragraph the use of specific words only thrusts the reader into a world of evil children and their capacity to do malfeasance. Golding uses imagery to describe the scenery and the setting. A good example occurs in the first passage where Golding writes, “there was a strip of weed-strewn beach that was almost as firm as a road. A kind of glamour was spread over them and the scene and they were conscious of the glamour and made happy by it.” [Page 25] This creates a vivid world for the reader, now a viewer, to be immersed in. It no longer becomes a book, but instead a movie playing within the reader’s head. The frightening description of the boy’s first exposure to the island is mastered with sentences conveying the underlying evil. For example Jack “stood there among the skull-like coconuts” [Page 10] and the island was “torn everywhere by the upheavals of fallen trees, scattered with decaying coconuts.” Once again the imagery plunges the reader into a world of death and degeneration, much like the boy’s sense of morals and civility. Also Golding uses the imagery to personify things in order to make them even more evil then they already are, “the heart of flame leapt nimbly across” [Page 44] and “the smoke increased, sifted, rolled outwards…eating downwards” [Page 44] “the fire growled at them.” [Page 45] In that instance Golding personified the inherently baneful fire to create an even more corrupt character to plague the boys like a normal fire never could. The passage preceding and the one about the “Lord of the Flies” also uses imagery to convey the evil on the island. “The head remained there, dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackened between the teeth.” [Page 137] and the forest is even described as a minion of the devil as well because “for a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter.” [Page 143]. This tool of literature was used to its fullest extent in order to further Golding’s theme of man’s inherently evil nature.

Golding’s attention to detail is well done, not an item or character goes by without first being elaborated and painstakingly perfected in every way. Golding conveys his theme by using detail to slide in words and phrases that lend themselves to the evil side of the spectrum. As illustrated in the above paragraphs Golding describes coconuts as “skulls” and personifies fire giving it a heart and the ability to growl at the young boys. The long description of the “beast” on pages 95 and 96 shows how keenly all the minutiae are described. Golding also pays a great attention to detail when he describes the murder and death of the different animals on the island, including Simon and Piggy.
On page 135 the vivid, sickening scene is described as Jack and his hunters “hurled themselves at her” [Page 135] and the whole passage just comes alive with the sickening heat of that sticky summer day. His attention to detail helps bring forward and into the light his assumption about the inherently sadistic and nefarious nature of man; his details bring the reader into a world of sick depravity and horror and truly convey the sick world in which a man without society lives.

The final tool in Golding’s tool belt is syntax. Most of the sentences in The Lord of the Flies are simple. There are sentences that are complex and the occasional compound sentence. Most characters speak simply and clearly. Often, they speak fragments and string together fragments. All the speech is written as if it were truly spoken by a middle-aged British or english boy. Throughout the book though Golding’s syntax changes depending upon the mood and feeling of a certain passage. As seen in the following passage, the narrator transmits Ralph’s thoughts which are in third person:
"Break the line.
A tree.
Hide, and let them pass.
Hide was better than a tree because you had a chance of breaking the line if you were discovered.
Hide, then."

[Page 217]. This pulls the reader in and enables him to feel Ralph’s fear. This also creates tension, the short choppy sentences convey the mixed thoughts and intense feelings bombarding Ralph. Also Golding uses longer, more detailed sentences to describe and elaborate on less important issues. Strange how the more important things are given shorter choppier sentences while more trivial things get a larger amount of pages.

Golding has presented many wonderful examples in which he uses one of the four tools at his discretion to convey his idea that man is inherently evil and when left to his own devices will kill and be evil. Golding’s idea is that society keeps mankind in check and without it man will revert to his natural, inherently evil self. By looking at the use of the tone, the theme is apparent, a cheerless, sardonic tone to conveys the inherently evil nature of man and man’s role within society.

An adventure novel

One particular genre of fiction is the adventure story, often set on a deserted island and featuring people being brave and resourceful, living a carefree existence and overcoming any obstacles. These books such as Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island were extremely popular with young readers.

When writing Lord of the Flies, Golding was thinking of one such book in particular. The Coral Island by RM Ballantyne was written a century before Golding's book and features three shipwrecked boys called Ralph, Jack and Peterkin. Together, and with no help from adults, they construct shelters, find food, defeat pirates and generally have a great time while remaining friendly and supportive to each other. As a teacher of young boys, Golding found all this hard to believe and set out to turn this sort of fiction on its head.

An allegory

An allegory is a narrative which has a symbolic and deeper level of meaning. Characters, setting, objects and colours, as well as having a place in the story, also stand for or represent other bigger ideas. So in Lord of the Flies:

  • Ralph represents civilisation, order and democracy
  • Jack stands for savagery, disorder and dictatorship
  • Piggy symbolises rational scientific thought
  • Simon represents human morality and goodness
  • the island setting is a microcosm of the wider world

An allegory can be seen as a very long extended metaphor. The symbolic meaning of an allegory is often political (eg George Orwell's Animal Farm) or religious (eg CS Lewis' Narnia books); Lord of the Flies is both.


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