In this lesson, we’ll analyze Simon’s death in William Golding’s ”Lord of the Flies”. We’ll also go over the symbolism of his death and how it affects the story line and other characters.
Introduction to Simon’s Death
Most people are familiar with the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. He was put to death by people in his community for spreading the word of God.
In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the character of Simon is also put to death while trying to spread knowledge to the other boys on the island. His death is meaningful because it calls attention to many of the symbolic messages in the book.
Simon’s death in Chapter 9 cannot be fully analyzed without some knowledge of his journey in Chapter 8. Jack and the hunters spike a pig’s head on a stick as an offering to ‘the beast.’ Simon is alone with the pig’s head, nicknamed the ‘Lord of the Flies,’ and converses with it.The beast playfully boasts that he is a part of Simon and that he cannot be hunted and killed. He also warns Simon that they will play and have fun on the island or he will become angered.
Simon then passes out. This scene is important because Simon now knows that the beast is representative of the evil of human nature; he represents our desire for immediate gratification. In the case of the boys, immediate gratification is fun and food.
In Chapter 9, Simon awakens and begins his journey up the mountain. He finds a figure of a dead paratrooper with his parachute in the woods. Simon vomits from the smell and the scene and immediately begins to descend to spread the news to the others.
It is important to note here that the flies surround the body. The flies were also surrounding the Lord of the Flies.Simon ignores the flies and struggles down the mountain.
The flies seem to represent the spirit of the beast. They surround both ‘beasts’ that he encounters on the mountain, and they swarm his face before he decides to share his news with the other boys; this almost resembles a warning of his impending death.
Ralph and Piggy decide not to attend Jack’s feast, but finally Piggy states that they should because they need to make sure that nothing bad happens.
The conversation at the feast that follows between Jack and Ralph is very important because it shows the significance of the beast to the other boys.Jack is a dictator who uses fear and coercion to control his tribe. This is noted in the following quotation: ‘I gave you food and my hunters will protect you from the beast.’ The existence of the beast ensures Jack’s leadership. It is also important to note that Jack does not recognize the power of the conch shell, a symbol of civilization.
His tribe also does not concern itself with the fire, the children’s only means of rescue. Jack’s tribe has embraced their situation and has lost their humanity; they are no longer concerned with being rescued.Ralph brings up an important point about the impending storm and the lack of shelters on Jack’s side of the island. When he sees some of the boys pondering this point and looking indecisive, Jack distracts them by beginning a tribal dance. The dance is primitive, ritualistic, and frightening.
Roger plays the beast in the center of a ring that the boys have formed. The narration becomes very jumbled and hasty, further pointing out the animalistic nature of the dance. The boys continue to dance, and Simon enters the ring. He is beaten to death and left on the shore.Simon’s death is important because he intended to bring the true identity of the beast to the boys. Had he been allowed to be heard, Jack’s rule may have ended.
The savage beast lives in Jack and his followers, not in the figure in the mountaintop. This is further illustrated when the dead paratrooper is taken away by the storm:‘. . .it sank toward the beach and the boys rushed screaming into the darkness.
The parachute took the figure forward, furrowing the lagoon, and bumped it over the reef and out to sea.‘The boys flee in fear as the beast and the person that has the truth about the beast are swept out to sea. The true beast will continue to live after this event has taken place.
Allegory to Jesus
An allegory is a story that carries as symbolic meaning, usually meant to comment on society. Simon’s death is commonly seen as being symbolic with Jesus Christ’s. Simon discovers the truth about human evil and is warned by the Lord of the Flies that he will die if he shares this knowledge with the others.
Despite the warning, he goes down to share the news with the other boys and is martyred, or killed for a cause, as a result.Simon’s connection to nature and his nurturing personality are also evidence of this allegory. He feeds and cares for the littluns, the smaller boys on the island, by feeding them fruit and veggies that he has found around the island, much like Jesus fed his people fish and bread.The descriptions in the chapter also lead us to believe that Simon is a Christ-like figure. After he has died, a heavy rainstorm begins. This is similar to the darkening of the skies on the day that Jesus is crucified.
The following description of Simon also shows him as a Christ figure: ‘The water rose farther and dressed Simon’s coarse hair with brightness.‘ In this quotation, the sea has given Simon a halo, a common symbol of holiness. Simon could have been the children’s savior with his news, but he is crucified before he can give them the information.
In The Lord of the Flies, Simon learns that the beast the children on the island fear is actually a dead paratrooper and his parachute.
When he tries to bring his new knowledge to the other boys, he is murdered by them in a ritualistic style. This act strengthens Jack’s hold on the group and makes him essentially a dictator who uses fear and coercion to control his tribe, and has all but relinquished any notion that being rescued is important, as evidenced by his ignorance toward tending the fire. This is because the children follow him for protection from the beast.The beast is also representative of the innate evil in humans, or our desire for immediate gratification, also represented by the actual ‘Lord of the Flies,’ a rotting pig’s head Jack and his followers have placed on a spike.
Simon’s death also could be considered an allegory to Jesus Christ since he becomes martyred, or killed for a cause, for his knowledge of the true nature of ‘the Beast.’ The Lord of the Flies itself even warns Simon of his fate if he shares his knowledge.