Motifs in Lord of the Flies

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  • 0:00 Recurring Elements or…
  • 0:54 Biblical Parallels
  • 2:16 Symbols of Power
  • 3:59 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 will look at some of the more widely accepted motifs or recurrent ideas that support the theme of good vs. evil in William Golding's novel, 'Lord of the Flies.'

Recurring Elements or Motifs in Lord of the Flies

Have you ever visited someone's home and were struck by certain designs, decorations or colors that seem to be repeated in every room? While this may make you question your friend's interesting decor choices, it also is an example of a literary device called a motifs. Just like your friend's collection of art deco vases or zebra print items helps you to understand his or her style, a motif helps the reader understand the author's message by repeating certain elements, ideas or symbols throughout the novel or other literary work.

In Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses certain motifs to reinforce his central ideas or themes. This ensures that the reader will understand the underlying message behind the more obvious story elements such as character, setting and plot. We will look at two of the most widely accepted motifs in this work: biblical parallels and symbols of power.

Biblical Parallels

It is not a far reach to see some parallels between the Bible and Lord of the Flies, and Golding did face some criticism for his use of them. Let's start with the most obvious. Both texts deal with the struggle of good versus evil. Both books include a natural, garden paradise that becomes corrupted by human actions. Last but not least, and here is the parallel that would be a great game show question: in the Bible, Satan is sometimes referred to by the Hebrew name Ba'al Zebub, which translates into, you guessed it, the lord of the flies. Now, let's look at some of the less obvious, and more contested parallels.

In Lord of the Flies one of the main characters, Simon, arguably has some 'Christ-like' qualities. He is caring and compassionate. He looks after the helpless and more vulnerable little children, and he alone sees the truth that the true 'beast' is not an imaginary monster, but represents the boys' inherent natures. Additionally, he is sacrificed when he attempts to bring this message to the other boys. However, this is where the parallel ends. Unlike the biblical Christ, Simon has no connection with the divine and his death doesn't bring redemption or salvation to the other boys. In fact, his death plunges them deeper into their barbaric ways. While it is a powerful motif in reflecting the author's message of the struggle of good against evil in the human spirit, it is wise to take this motif with the proverbial grain of salt.

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