Loss of Innocence in Lord of the Flies

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  • 0:00 The End of Innocence
  • 0:56 Loss of Innocence Allegory
  • 4:10 Golding's Portrayal of…
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Judith Dunkerly-Bean

Judith has taught university literacy and teacher education courses and holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction.

In this lesson we explore the literary concept of Loss of Innocence and the way it is utilized in William Golding's classic novel, ''Lord of the Flies''. In the novel the loss of innocence is portrayed figuratively and literally for both the boys and the world(s) they inhabit.

The End of Innocence

It has happened to all of us. Some younger, some older, but it happens. That moment when you see the world a little bit clearer, but you are sadder and wiser for the knowledge you have gained. Moreover, you can never go back to the innocence of not knowing what you have learned. Sad stuff, this business. As songwriters Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby famously wrote:

''Offer up your best defense...But this is the end...This is the end of innocence.''

Yet, in literature as in life, this is the point of growing up, painful as it may be. This is the theme of Lord of the Flies. A literary theme is a central topic or concept that the whole story is about. In Lord of the Flies, the theme of a loss of innocence is powerfully portrayed by several life-altering events. Despite their tender ages, the boys' experiences render them older than their years.

Loss of Innocence Allegory

The loss of innocence theme is played out in several ways in the novel. As the story begins, the plane carrying the boys crash lands onto an uninhabited tropical island leaving a massive ''scar'' in the once pristine wilderness. This foreshadows the devastation that the boys' transformation from civilized schoolboys to vicious barbarians will soon have on all of their previous innocence. Just as the crashing plane left destruction in its wake, likewise the boys' actions will soon leave a permanent scar on their souls and psyches, ultimately ending their innocence. Let's take a moment to think about how this unfolds for them.

At the beginning of the novel, the boys are fresh-faced, guileless children who, free from the supervision of adults, delight in playing in the surf. They also yearn to be rescued and return to the familiar world of England. Even though they engage in childish taunts and struggle to appoint a leader, they are behaving as we would expect children to: they are playing and at least partially enjoying their new found paradise free from adult intervention.

Yet, as the novel progresses, the once innocent children abandon the teachings of their childhood to become blood-thirsty barbarians who have engaged in the torture and murder of innocent animals and, ultimately, their own friends. Only two of the children, Simon and Piggy (both of whom are murdered), manage to cling to their innate goodness and intelligence. It is Simon who first sees the consequences of this loss in his vision with the Lord of the Flies in the jungle glade. In his vision, the severed head of the brutally killed sow speaks to him:

''There isn't anyone to help you. Only me. And I'm the Beast…Fancy thinking the Beast is something you can hunt and kill! You knew, didn't you? I'm a part of you?''

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