Lord of the Flies: The Head on the Spear

Throughout the novel Lord of the Flies, written by William Golding, the boys experience fear of a mysterious beast. While trapped on the island, the boys struggle to remain civilized. The pig’s head plays an important role in the manipulation and fear the boys have on the island, and the degeneration of their community.

In addition to simply appearing frightening, the pig’s head acts as a conscience to the boys. However, the good, peaceful side of this conscience seems to have been left out. Simon’s encounter with the pig provides specific evidence that the boys have been following the instincts of fear. Simon is hypnotized when the head declares, “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill” (143). Although the pig is different from a conscience in that it doesn’t advise the boys what to do, it invokes fear in them which affects how they act. The boys tried to think of the Beast as something concrete and physically present on the island which they do so by trying to hunt it. This fear causes the boys to change mentalities to focus more on self prosperity and their own survival, rather than the survival of their whole group.

The degeneration of the group is not only symbolized by the struggle for power and leadership among the boys, but the conflict of survival. Ralph is the main victim of this degeneration. He ponders his actions, “He knelt among the shadows and felt his isolation bitterly. They were savages it was true; but they were human…” (185). Ralph is different from the other boys because he refuses to resort to uncivilized behavior and he resists the evil persuasions of the pig’s head. Not only the pig, but the spear it rests on foreshadows the hunting of Ralph, Roger sharpened a stick at both ends,” claimed the twins (190). At first, this means nothing to Ralph, yet when he encounters the pig’s head, he notices that it is resting on a stick sharpened at both ends. Ralph’s resting place may be that same place as the pig’s head surrounded with flies and nothing but evil. Ralph realizes he may become an unknown remain of the boys’ evil doing and must stand alone for what is right, against what is wrong.

Additional symbolism in the pig’s head is that the boys are resorting to barbarian like behavior. This truly marks the deterioration of organized lifestyles especially when the pig tells Simon, “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? …I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are” (143). The pig is persuading Simon that there is no going back to organized civilization and there is nothing he can do about it. He has now become another victim of this fear of the Beast, which leads to his death. In the killing of Simon, the boys of Jack’s tribe are so preoccupied with hunting the Beast that they kill Simon by mistake. Their barbarian behavior towards Simon sparked the beginning of the killing of Ralph’s tribe and lead to the death of Piggy and hunting of Ralph.

As the Beast instills more and more fear in the boys, they act more barbaric and vicious, which is visible in how their organization and peace turned to violence and corrupt power. William Golding focuses on the themes of fear and savageness of the boys by describing the encounters of several boys with the pig’s head. The Beast is portrayed as an evil existence of a pig’s head on a spear stuck in the ground who wishes only the worst for their civilization and eventually the extinction of Ralph’s tribe.

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