The Lord Of the Flies is certainly NOT just a children book. It is a study in psychology and sociology marked by uncanny symbols with meanings meant to be deciphered in order to fully grasp the actual meanings of Golding's work.
How I Met Golding:
The first book by Golding that I came across was incidentally his last; The Double Tongue. I thoroughly enjoyed that book and before long, procured The Lord Of The Flies and Free Fall to further experiment with Golding as I was still paving my way through English Literature which with due respect I found severely inferior to European Literature (Dostoevsky, Camus, Hauptmann) owing primarily to my naivety I admit now.
I have always enjoyed books with deep rooted symbolism thereby prompting the mind to shape his/her own perception about characters and the plot. As I put down Bernard Malamud's (again incidentally or by design?) final novel "God's Grace" — which was a riddled with biblical symbolism — I wanted to read something light, something that will require little deciphering through which I can skim through before embarking once again on a voyage to decipher a book.
And that is when I picked up "The Lord Of The Flies" motivated primarily by the cover, the thinness of the book and a rather straightforward overview printed at the back of the book.
I have never been so wrong in my life!
Lord Of The Flies: A study in Sociology and Psychology?
The first few chapters of the books are dedicated in setting up scenery, introducing the characters and the circumstances in which the entire crew finds themselves in. This was rather straightforward with little if not any exaggeration at all from Golding's end.
After the initial character building chapters, Golding — using very few characters and very little room for maneuvering mimicking the situation of the Islanders — starts to employ his true genius!
What Golding accomplished out of this book should not be viewed as a simple story about a group of boys stranded on an Island. This book is a study in sociology, in conflict studies and the evolution of tribes and religions.
Reason Vs Superstition:
"Which is better--to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?” — Piggy (Ralph's beloved vizier)
In the book, after the initial row between Jack and Ralph, there arose two distinct factions or clans from the initial tribe. We may call Ralph's clan as the Prometheans named after the mythical Greek figure Prometheus who stole 'fire' from the gods and gave it to men. In this regards, Ralph's obsession with keeping the fire going in order to be rescued sits well with the notion that 'fire' represent 'reason'.
The opposing clan of Jack and his hunters are much more superstitious and form a killing cult around the myths of 'The Beast' which they fear. The Beast is no other than what Freud called 'id' — that carnal desire for violence and hedonistic pleasures. Jack initiates a blood ritual, a symbolic hunting dance whereby the hunting of the pig is reenacted by the clan over a feast which ultimately intoxicate them in power and results in the killing of Simon — the holder of truth
“Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.” — The hunting party sings in unison as they carry out the ritual.
Civilization Vs Savagery:
If we are to give both the Prometheans (Ralph's clan) and Jack's Hunting Party an ensign, the former will be represented by the 'conch' while the latter by the 'spear'.
The conch is used every time there is a need to call an 'assembly', or in other words to maintain order amid the chaos. Conch therefore becomes the sign of the orderliness of the civilized who rely on democratic decision making which Ralph continuously stresses reminding people that they democratically elected him 'chief'.
The spear on the other hand represents the urge to kill. However, in the start, when Jack's hunting party is still being supervised by Ralph, there is order on the Island as Ralph's rationality and sanity is balanced by Jack's aggression. But as soon as Jack is allowed free reign, the Island becomes a blood thirsty sacrificial altar for Simon and Piggy. Seeing this savagery which is founded on the mythical beast, Simon comments, “Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”
The Biblical Connection:
Simon is the first person who actively seeks the truth about the Beast and makes his way deep into the jungle where he not only encounters the beast, but also comes face to face with 'the Lord Of The Flies' which is nothing more but the head of a sow on a stick which was left over by Jack's hunting party to appease the beast.
Simon may very well be compared to Jesus Christ himself who wanders deep in the garden of Gethsamne and comes face to face with the devil himself. Devil over here is not the beast, but the 'Lord of the flies' who who urges Simon to listen to his deep carnal desires which are violent.
“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”
Simon ultimately resist the urge and the temptation just like Christ and finds the truth about the Beast. He then ventures out the rest of the boys to revel his 'truth' which will no doubt 'set them free' from the fear and will bridge their divide much like Christ's message of brotherhood. But, before he can revel the truth, overcome by lust for blood, Jack's hunting party kills Simon more or less like Christ's Crucifixion.
As stated earlier, the economy of words, the utilization of symbols and the uncanny references to both religious and historical events that Golding utilizes certainly makes this book one of the best critiques on human lust for power which makes him practice brutal acts of violence to satisfy this thirst.
Of course, this is just some of the symbols and learning from the book which I have mentioned. The book is certainly riddled with countless other meaningful messages and symbols which awaits the deciphering of a reader.