Lord of the Flies Summary and Analysis
Chapter Nine: A View to a Death
On the humid, dark mountaintop, Simon's fit passes into the weariness of sleep. Waking up, Simon speaks aloud to himself, questioning what he will do next. His nose bleeding, he climbs farther up the mountain, and in the dim light, catches sight of the Beast. This time, however, he recognizes it as the body of the man who parachuted onto the island. Overwhelmed with disgust and dread, Simon vomits. He realizes that he must inform the other boys of their mistake, and he staggers down the mountain toward Jack's camp to tell them what he has found.
Ralph notices the clouds overhead and estimates that it will rain again. Ralph and Piggy play in the lagoon, and Piggy gets mad when Ralph squirts water on him, getting his glasses wet. They wonder where most of the other boys have gone, and they realize that they must have gone to Jack's feast for the childish fun of pretending to be a tribe and putting on war paint. They decide to find them to ensure that the events do not spiral out of control.
When Ralph and Piggy arrive at Jack's camp, they find the other boys sitting in a group together, laughing and eating the roasted sow. Jack, now a leader, sits on a great log, painted and garlanded as an idol. When he sees Ralph and Piggy, he orders the other boys to give them something to eat, then orders another boy to bring him a drink. Jack asks all of the boys who among them will join his tribe, for he gave them food and demonstrated that his hunters will protect them. Ralph is distressed to see most of them agree to join Jack's tribe. Attempting to convince his boys otherwise, Ralph provokes yet another argument with Jack, and the two yell at each other about who deserves to be chief. Feeling that he is losing ground, Ralph appeals to his symbol of authority, the conch shell. Jack, however, does not acknowledge the conch's significance and tells Ralph that it does not count on his side of the island.
Disturbed by the hostile turn of events, Piggy urges Ralph to leave Jack's camp before there is serious trouble. It starts to rain. Ralph warns the group that a storm is coming and points out that Jack's tribe is unprepared for such disasters, since they do not even have any shelters. The littluns become frightened, and Jack tries to reassure them by ordering his group to perform its ritual pig hunting dance. The boys begin dancing and chanting wildly, and they are soon consumed by frenzy. The storm begins, and a figure emerges suddenly from the forest. It is Simon, running to tell the others about the dead parachutist. Caught up in the madness of the dance, however, they do not recognize him. As Simon cries out about the dead body on the mountain, the boys rush after him with violent malice. They fall on Simon, striking him repeatedly until he is dead.
Meanwhile, on the mountain, the storm intensifies and spreads across the island. The boys run to the shelters, seeking safety from the increasingly violent wind and rain. The strong winds lift the parachute and the body attached to it and blow it across the island and into the sea, a sight which again terrifies the boys, who still mistake the body for a beast. At the same time, the strong tide, propelled by wind, washes over Simon's body and carries it out to sea, where a school of glowing fish surrounds it.
In this particularly significant chapter, Ralph finally loses his leadership over the other boys, who succumb to Jack's increasing charisma and the opportunity he gives them to indulge their violent and childish interests. Golding underscores the tragedy of this shift in power with the violent storm that ravages the island, a storm for which the shortsighted Jack was not prepared. Just when Ralph's calm judgment and practicality is most needed, he lacks the authority to bring the boys to safety. The storm on the island serves as a reminder of the perils they face; while Ralph has built shelters for the boys and is prepared for this situation, Jack has focused simply on hunting and entertaining the boys, to their detriment. Golding again directs the reader's sympathy towards Ralph, whose concern remains for the good of the group.
Jack's authority over the other boys becomes increasingly disturbing and dangerous in this chapter. When Ralph finds Jack, he is painted and garlanded, sitting on a log like an idol. This distinctly pagan image is at odds with the ordered society from which Jack came and is the final manifestation of his rejection of civilization. We may note again the presence of chanting and dancing among the boys in his group and recall that, prior to their arrival on the island, Jack and his boys were members of a choir. Traditionally, boys' choirs sang Christian religious songs and hymns. Jack and his tribesmen still sing, but they sing chants that strongly evoke the animistic religious traditions of native cultures. Their choice of ritual and song, coupled with Jack's appearance as an "idol," indicates the boys' complete and final rejection of the civilization of the Home Counties.
In this chapter, Golding also emphasizes Jack's rise to power and foreshadows the brutal consequences of his authority. Again, Jack rejects the rules established for the island, telling Ralph that the conch yields no authority when Ralph attempts to cite precedent. He signifies his power over his tribe with his painted body and garlands, an image that alludes to Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella, Heart of Darkness, in which a boat captain, Marlow, accepts an assignment to find a defecting government agent, Kurtz, in Africa. In Conrad's story, Marlow discovers Kurtz in a remote area of the continent, living with a group of natives who worship him as their leader and god. In this chapter of Lord of the Flies, Golding draws a deliberate parallel between Jack and Kurtz in order to emphasize the extent of Jack's power over the other boys and to call the reader's attention to the severity of the tension between Ralph and Jack which, like the tension between Marlow and Kurtz, is strongly ideological (Marlow and Ralph representing civilization, and Jack and Kurtz representing savagery). This tension eventually leads to violent conflict.
Note the increasing importance of the beast to the boys in this chapter, and its centrality to Jack's usurping of leadership from Ralph. As Ralph and Piggy discover, Jack and his tribe have constructed an elaborate mythology around the beast, to whom they now attribute many qualities that were not present in earlier descriptions. They believe that the beast is immortal and can change shape as it wishes, and they claim that it must be both worshiped and feared. Around this mythology Jack has established the rules of his society. His boys are united by their belief in the beast and, above this, their belief in Jack as the one person who can protect them from the beast. Their ritual dances and chants, as well as Jack's makeup and adornments, express their commitment to this mythology, within which the Lord of the Flies functions totemically.
The Lord of the Flies embodies and expresses the mythology of the beast that unites Jack's tribe and is significant in many ways. As an offering to the body of the parachutist on the mountain, which the boys (excluding Piggy) regard as the beast, it symbolizes Jack's acknowledgment of, and deferral to, the evil impulses that reside inside the individual psyche. In previous chapters, he had vowed to kill the beast; here, Jack attempts to appease it, to gain its favor. As a totem, an artifact that unites Jack's tribe (much like the conch served as a totem for Ralph's group), the Lord of the Flies symbolizes the solidification of Jack's group around a shared set of values and interests which, as we have noted, are self-interested and indulgent. Finally, as a memento of the hunting of the sow, the Lord of the Flies represents the imposition of human will over nature, another of Jack's goals for island life. The pig's head reminds the boys of the essential opposition between man and nature, an opposition Jack views as essentially hostile and one that the boys can win.
The most important event of the chapter, however, is the murder of Simon by Jack's tribe. They are in a trance-like state from their ritual dancing, although this does not excuse them. The murder continues the parallel between Simon and Jesus established in the previous chapter by depicting the murder as a sacrifice, akin to Christ's murder on the cross. Like Jesus, who was the sole bearer of knowledge of God's will, it is Simon who alone possesses the truth about the beast. Also like Christ's, Simon's tragedy is governed by the fact that he is misunderstood or disbelieved by those around him. For example, the other boys believe Simon is crazy, yet he is the only boy to discover the truth about the supposed beast. This irony is compounded when Jack's hunters mistake Simon for the beast himself. His murder represents the culmination of the violent tendencies prevalent among Jack's band of hunters, who finally move from brutality against animals to brutality against each other. The change is subtle: they murder Simon out of instinct, descending on him before they realize that he proves no danger to them. Nevertheless, this is yet another line that the boys cross on their devolution into inhuman savagery and another step toward engaging in complete and premeditated violence against one another. Simon's murder reveals the essential brutality of the human spirit. On both metaphoric and structural levels, Golding casts Simon as a martyr, a figure whose death is instructive at least to the reader.
The parallels between Simon and Christ continue even after Simon is dead. We may note not only the religious subtext of the chapter's final image, but the distinctly pessimistic tone of this subtext. The storm simultaneously removes the parachutist's and Simon's bodies from the island. Yet, while the parachutist appears to ascend on the winds, Simon is dragged under the tide. The parachutist, who represents both the war that caused the events that brought the children to the island (he is a soldier) and, in a more general sense, the evil that is present in the human psyche (he resembles a fallen angel, a common figure for Satan), is lifted into the sky, while Simon, a Christ-like figure, appears to descend beneath the surface of the earth. The image, therefore, reverses the traditional story, with Satan rising to the heavens and Christ descending to the underworld. The implication is that the ideal order of good and evil has been reversed on the island. Evil has triumphed, a suggestion that mirrors Jack's rise to power and foreshadows the even more tragic events to come. Still, a vestige of optimism remains: Simon's body, as it is carried out to sea, is surrounded by some small glowing fish, who function as a kind of living halo. They do not necessarily want to eat the body; perhaps they are figuratively honoring it. The implication is that the truth of Simon's message, and the injustice of his death, will be recognized in time, as is the case with martyred prophets and saints.
Lord of the Flies Essays and Related Content
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- William Golding: Biography
- Lord of the Flies Summary
- About Lord of the Flies
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter One: The Sound of the Shell
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Two: Fire on the Mountain
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Three: Huts on the Beach
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Four: Painted Faces and Long Hair
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Five: Beast From Water
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Six: Beast from Air
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Seven: Shadows and Tall Trees
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eight: Gift for the Darkness
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Nine: A View to a Death
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Ten: The Shell and the Glasses
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eleven: Castle Rock
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Twelve: Cry of the Hunters
- The Lord of the Flies: Biblical Allegory or Anti-Religious Critique?
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