William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies was written in 1954 to show how easily the human nature can collapse under destructive circumstances. The story is set in a tropical island that is deserted, having no evidence of any inhabitants. The setting in the literary work has a major impact on the development of the characters. In addition, the setting brings forth the underlying conflict in a story. The Lord of the Flies involves a group of boys aged twelve who are stranded after a terrible plane crash. Their stay in the island brings out the evil and goodness in them, hence portraying the influence of the setting on the mentality and behavior of the characters. The island is also serene and peaceful, as it is noted that, “Out there perhaps a mile away, the white surf flinked on a coral reef, and beyond that the open sea was dark blue. Within the irregular arc of coral the lagoon was still a mountain lake-blue of all shades and shadowy green and purple” (Golding and Epstein 10). William Golding depicts the transformation of the characters from good to evil, thus showing how civilized beings become savage beasts just to enhance their survival and safety.
The story is inspired by a terrible plane crash that leaves the occupants stranded in a deserted island. Being of the English origin, the boys start as the innocent creatures, as Golding and Epstein say, “A child had appeared among the palms about a hundred yards along the beach” (17). These boys come from a civilized society and are referred to as children at the beginning of the story. Ralph is the protagonist in the story, as he realizes they are all young and someone should lead. He becomes that leader and strives to maintain order by assigning duties to the boys. The tasks entailed maintaining fire, gathering water, making shelter, and hunting for food. Being kids, the boys follow the instructions given despite their playful nature. Golding uses this setting to portray the responsibility that comes with having someone in control.
Golding and Epstein used the setting of a deserted island to bring out the evil nature of people. The setting enhances savagery as brought out in the boy’s character. Simon, for example, is a gentle and kind-hearted person, who seeks and wants the best for others. However, Jack, the antagonist, is a prudent and rude boy, who responds and acts violently towards others (Golding and Epstein 93). In fact, his violent behavior is the most influential among the boys. When Simon goes to Jack’s side of the island, he finds the boys chanting and dancing. Upon seeing him, the boys attack him viciously using their hands and teeth, as they claim that he is a beast. Golding uses this setting to highlight the eroding of humanity, especially in a lawless world.
Despite being from a civilized society, the boys were resourceful in the situation they found themselves. However, they feel isolated; hence, the fear of the unknown was brought forth by the mysteries of the island. The boys are unfamiliar with their surroundings, especially the hanging vines from trees, which they perceived as ‘beasties’ or snakes. These vines caused nightmares, but the fear of the unknown was triggered by their differences that eventually caused destruction. Simon knows there is nothing like ‘beasties’ and makes fun of it by saying, “the beastie came in the dark” (Golding and Epstein 74). Simon strives as much as possible to dispel the mystery at the mountaintop. He is brutally killed by the other boys who have deeply rooted fears regarding the mysteries surrounding them (Golding and Epstein 95). In fact, every night the boys suffer from untold tensions of terror in the dark, hence huddling together to find comfort. Golding used this setting to portray the impact of the underlying conflict among the characters triggered by the mysteries in the deserted island.
In conclusion, there is a great influence of the setting on the development of character. At the beginning, the boys were civilized and worked together as a team under Ralph’s leadership. However, their alienation in the island resulted in the chaos and evil in them. Jack’s hunting supremacy escalated to Simon’s killing. Golding used the deserted setting to depict the possibility of loss of moral values and innocence among human beings.
Golding, William, and Edmund L. Epstein. Lord of the Flies: A Novel. New York: Perigee, 1954.