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The Novel Lord Of The Flies

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3213 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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This essay compares and contrasts the film adaptations of the Lord of the Flies, by Peter Brook (1963), and the later remake by Harry Hook (1990). With specific analysis on the symbolism described by the author of the book William Golding. This will be done by answering the question ‘How effective are the symbols from the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, portrayed in the original movie adaptation by Peter Brook and the second movie by Harry Hook?’ For this purpose, I have reviewed both the film adaptations as well as the novel.

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It can be concluded that that both movies represent drastically different creative adaptations, though they are based on the same novel. This could well be the result of the cultural filter of the two directors that clearly had an impact on their film direction. It may also be noted that the movies are filmed in two different eras and this is evident in the film quality and style. While both movies portray the storyline from the original manuscript, the adaptation by Peter Brook more clearly defines the symbolism from the novel.


Lord of the Flies was first published in 1954 by the English Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. The novel is about a group of British schoolboys who are deserted on an unknown island after their plane after being ??????????? during an act of war. The boys try to establish some normalcy of life and organise themselves, under horrific circumstances. The book is known for its amazing use of symbols in an almost juvenile setting.

A movie adaptation was created by Peter Brook in 1963. The movie is ninety-two minutes long and was shot in black and white with a cast of British boys. Twenty-seven years later an American director named Harry Hook also created a movie based on Lord of The flies. This time the film was done in full color and shot with an American cast.

One can question just how effective these movies portray the initial ideas of William Golding? This essay contrast explores this question further, and also questions how effectively the symbols are portrayed in both movie adaptation of Lord of The Flies.

Significance of symbols used by William Golding

William Gerald Golding was born on September 19, 1911 in Cornwall England. His father was a schoolmaster and his mother was a suffragette. His parents had wanted him to study science, and he did so from grammar school until the second year of college. After his second year of college, he abandoned the study of science in favour of English literature. He wrote poetry and worked in amateur theatre for a while before becoming a teacher which he was at the beginning of World War II. At this time, he entered the Royal Navy and served with distinction on mine sweepers, destroyers, and rocket launchers. He believed that the horrors of World War II could be based on some innate evil which he explores in his novel, Lord of the Flies. After the war, he returned to teaching and writing, although he had little success getting published. He was able to get Lord of the Flies published and it experienced great success.

The Lord of the Flies takes place on an island during World War II. This is significant since the isolation causes a sort of civilization and community to form, a sort of microcosm of the real world. At the same time, the island lacks a society and the societal laws and rules allowing the boys stranded there to run wild and show their true, ugly, inner selves. Since the island is a microcosm, Golding uses it to reflect our world and give comments on our world and his views on human nature. In this book, the setting is used less to create a mood than to put the characters in a particular situation. Yet they do not turn into monsters immediately, this happens gradually. The best demonstration given by Golding is Jack’s progression to the killing of the sow. Upon first landing on the island Jack, Ralph, and Simon go to survey their new home. Along the way the boys have their first encounter with the island’s pigs. They see a piglet caught in some of the plants. Quickly Jack draws his knife so as to kill the piglet. Instead of completing the act, however, Jack hesitates. Golding states that, “The pause was only long enough for them to realize the enormity of what the downward stroke would be” (Golding page #). Golding is suggesting that the societal taboos placed on killing are still ingrained within Jack.

Golding wrote the novel in the third person perspective. There is one omniscient narrator. Although the book generally follows Ralph, it occasionally breaks off and follows another character for a time. This entire book is autobiographical in that it tells us something the author wants to show us. Golding tries to teach us and warn us of the evil nature of mankind. He says throughout the book that we are evil and that it is only society that keeps us from committing crimes.

Golding uses a lot of symbolism in The Lord of the Flies. The entire book is symbolic of the nature of man and society in general as the island becomes a society metaphorical to society as a whole and the hunt at the end of the book symbolic of the war. A symbol Golding uses throughout the book is the conch. It represents authority and order. The person holding the conch had the power, and it created order and rules since when it was called, everyone had to listen. Another symbol is Piggy’s glasses. They symbolized knowledge and insight. While Piggy had them, he was able to give advice to the group, such as that of the signal fire. It was Piggy’s glasses that created the fire. However, after the glasses are broken, the group loses what insight they had. The war paint is also a symbol. It symbolized the rejection of society. In a way, when they put on the mask of war paint, they took off the mask of society and revealed their true inner selves which was savage.

Golding’s tone is that of a lecturer. Golding writes in a simple neutral style. His language is not complicated or flowery. At the same time, it is not too informal. Throughout his book he tries to teach us and warn us about our own evil. This tone is carried during the novel. The tone is maintained more through the events and the characters in the story than by syntax or writing style. An example is the discovery of the parachutist. The writing style in this part remained just as neutral as the rest of the book, but the event of finding the parachutist as the beast teaches us that it is not some mystical monster we have to be worried about but ourselves.

Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

The book, Lord of the Flies, contains many meaningful symbols which add depth to the storyline. The story begins with one of the most important symbols of the entire book, the conch shell. The conch is found by Ralph and Piggy and is used for assembling all the young boys on the island. The conch serves as a calling mechanism in which the boys can be summoned. The conch symbolizes order and civilization throughout the novel. The meetings that are held after the boys are summoned by the conch are efficiently controlled because of the conch. This is because the person who holds the conch is the only one permitted to speak. The conch does not only serve as a strong symbol but also an object which gives political power. Yet it is evident that as the civilization on the island begins to fade away and the boys become savages the conch loses its power. A large rock is rolled onto Piggy by Roger and in doing so crushes the conch. This symbolizes the complete loss of the civilization among almost all the boys who are left on the island. Another important symbol portrayed in the novel is Piggy’s glasses. His glasses stand for the mastery of science and intellectually. This is clear from the beginning of the story as the boys use the magnification power of the lenses in Piggy’s glasses to generate fire.

Proceeding onwards from the creation of fire, the signal fire that the boys created burns on top of the mountain and is meant to catch the eye of passing ships or aircraft who could save them. The signal fire becomes a connection to civilization because it is the only way they will ever be rescued. When the boys stop looking after the fire and let it burn out, they have unknowingly accepted their new lives as savages. Ironically, at the end of the story a fire does successfully catch the attention of a ship which then heads to the island. The fire which eventually rescued the boys , was not originally meant to be a rescue mechanism, but a wild fire used to try to smoke out Ralph from the forest because they are hunting him.

Another prey also being hunted during the novel was the ‘Beast’. The ‘Beast’ is a fantasy creature which the boys on the island fear greatly. The Beast stands for the primitive nature of savagery which lives within all human beings. Even though the boys fear the ‘Beast’, the character Simon is the only one who realizes that the boys’ belief in the ‘Beast’ is the reason for its existence. The acceptance of the ‘Beast’ grows when Ralph, Jack and Roger climb up the mountain at night and ‘see’ the it. The ‘Beast’ is actually a dead man with a parachute who is hanging in the trees and is brought in motion by the wind. As the boys develop into more primitive beings the ‘Beast’ becomes more and more realistic and finally becomes a God to the savages, for which they leave sacrifices.

One of the sacrifices left for the ‘Beast’ is ‘the Lord of the Flies’, is a sow’s head placed on a stake. This symbol is not important in the beginning of the novel, but later when Simon ‘speaks’ to the head, and the head tells him that there lies evil in every human being, the symbol becomes crucial. Also the head claims that there is ‘fun’ in Simon’s future, which foreshadows his death in the subsequent chapter. In this way the sow’s head becomes a form of evil and a symbol of Satan which makes the worst in all the boys come to the surface. The Lord of the Flies imposes a biblical parallel into the novel, as it represents Satan and Simon represents Jesus.

The main characters, Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon and Roger, all represent an element in the book, as the Lord of the Flies is a very symbolic book. Ralph represents civilization and order among the boys, and Piggy represents a more intellectual side of society. In contrast to these characters, Jack symbolizes the untamed and dangerous side of humankind, as well as dominance. Simon represents the goodness which lives in all human beings. Roger represents the craving for blood and ruthlessness at extremes. These are the more significant characters in the novel whereas the ‘littluns’ represent the ordinary people.

Symbolism in the movie adaptation by Peter Brook (1963)

The reworking of the novel Lord of the Flies by Peter Brook in 1963 is a fairer comparison and thus, a better representation of the novel, when compared to the modern version by Harry Hook, yet there are several deviations from the situations portrayed in the book.

When we are brought into the movie using the media of photos to represent the hometowns of the soon to be characters, there are some assets in the setting that fall short . These are, for example, the lagoon and the large pink rock.

When the boys, who are all unknown to each other, besides the choirboys who do know each other, are summoned by the conch, the boys begin to speak lines of text which are very close to those written in the book. Also the agreements which are made about the conch are clearly stated and the shell very clearly symbolizes power and leadership.

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In the book, as well as the movie, Simon symbolizes the goodness and gentleness found within people. In the book his character is a dark coloured boy whilst in the movie he is a fair-haired boy. A fair boy could make the symbol less effective because he would not stand out as much physically compared to the other boys on the island.

Another symbol, the fire, is clearly portrayed, along with the symbolism of the connection between civilization and the boys, since it is the only way in which they could ever contact the outside world. As the fire is neglected, the boys become more and more savage and the connection with civilization begins to fade.

Another way the movie is unlike the book is the chronological order of events. In the movie the events are in a different order. Also other details are missing such as there being a boat instead of a plane passing and the fact that the hunters put on face paint, which symbolizes the moment they begin to become savages. These events are not emphasized although they are significant sections of the book.

Overall, the original movie adaptation by Peter Brook is very similar to William Golding’s book, and in a clear, compelling way passes his message to the audience. Brook also effectively portrays the symbolism as it was written in the novel.

Symbolism in the movie adaptation by Harry Hook (1990)

In Harry Hook’s film adaptation of the book Lord of the Flies, there are several noticeable differences between the book and the movie when thinking about the effectiveness of the symbols. The basic plot is correct, yet the dissimilarities already appear at the beginning of the movie.

In the movie, the cast of boys are now American and do not find each other by hearing the sound of the conch, which immediately takes away the power of this most important symbol in the book. Instead, they all arrive on the island in a boat on the first day and the conch is only discovered on the second day. This presupposes that most of the boys are not strangers to each other, which they are the book.

Also the boys all attend a military school where Ralph is already the leader and therefore is chosen to be a leader on the island, not because the boys actually vote for him, as in the book. This symbolizes Ralph’s immediate disposition to be a leader. The connection Piggy and Ralph already have at the beginning of the book is not revealed. One of the reasons why the maker of the film might have chosen to do this is because this shows the unity that the boys have, which soon afterwards disappears.

Another symbol which is missing in the American adaptation of the book is the ‘Beast’, which is actually a dead man hanging on a parachute which is stuck in the trees and moves when the wind blows. In this film version the surviving pilot, who is severely injured and goes mad, runs away into a grotto to hide and is the one who portrays the ‘Beast’.

The cast chosen in the movie directed by Harry Hook is rather different, not only are the boys American, they are also much older than the children described in the novel. Therefore the vulnerability of the small boys is not truly disclosed or emphasized in the beginning of the book. This makes it seem as though they are capable of a great deal more than the boys in the book and also the movie is, to a great extent, more modern and moreover the boys have gadgets such as glow sticks.

The American movie adaptation by Harry Hook has a completely different way of portraying major events and characters. Despite differing greatly at certain points, the storyline is clearly displayed.

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Both movies, which were adapted from the original story written by William Golding, show evidence of successfully depicting the symbols presented in the book, Lord of the Flies. ‘How effective are the symbols from the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding portrayed in the original movie adaptation by Peter Brook and the second movie by Harry Hook?’ Before being able to successfully answer this question we must take several things into account. Firstly it is important to mention that the directors had different nationalities, Peter Brook was British and Harry Hook was American. The reason this is important to mention is because they came from different sides of the world and therefore came from diverse cultures. Another important difference between the men is that they hail from different eras, and therefore also the movies hailed from different periods in time. This means that people from these different eras were most likely interested in seeing different kinds of movies. The earlier film adaptation from Peter Brook was made within fifteen years of the Second World War. This could also explain why Harry Hook’s interpretation of Lord of the Flies has a much more modern twist to it and more action. It seems that Peter Brook tried to keep as close to the book’s storyline as possible, whereas Harry Hook tried to create more of his own story and only used the novel for inspiration rather than keeping to the original storyline.

Throughout the film directed by Peter Brook, Golding’s symbols are clearly shown. The signal fire reveals the boys’ desire to be saved in the beginning, and later when they allow it to be extinguished without caring about it, it shows their acceptance of becoming savages and a lack of their civilised instinct. One can definitely say that Peter Brook effectively covered all the symbols discussed. Symbols such as the ‘Beast’, a symbol of the evil Satan, the conch and the signal fire. Besides several oblique events, such as the order in which the actions occur and when the hunters begin to use face paint showing the turning point at which they begin to turn into savages, one can certainly deduce from the movie that the director looked closely at the book and the major events within it. Due to this, the symbols as well as the manner in which the boys speak, is very similar to those in the book, and therefore the movie successfully conveys the symbolism.

In Harry Hook’s version of the film the Lord of the Flies, there are more deviations from the way the novel originally handled the symbols. Firstly the movie is more modern than the period described in the book, the vulnerability of the boys is not stressed as much as there was more technology during that time, and the boys would have been discovered more quickly. Another disturbance in the presentation of symbols is that the boys are already a united group and not strangers. This initially takes away Ralph’s natural leadership character, as well as the civilized leader symbol he carries with him. One can clearly see the lack of emphasis on many important symbols throughout the book. Even the ‘Beast’ is nowhere near to what is described in the novel. Hereby I can state that the movie by Harry Hook based on Lord of the Flies does not effectively portray all the discussed symbols.


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