Nature of the Beast

By Josh, Clayton, Nadia

Overview

From the beginning of the novel, the boys struggle with fear of the unknown. They fear what they cannot see, the parts of the island they haven’t explored, the mysterious beast, and of course, though they may not realize it at first, they fear the damage they may do to one another. All of these have some “unknown” element to them; they can’t see in the dark, they don’t know what’s on the island, they’re unsure of what the beast really is, and they’re ignorant of the depths of their own violent capabilities.

Activity

Read each statement. Pick the one you believe is true and be ready to justify why you believe that.
In Lord of the Flies, fear is neutralized by the realization that the only thing the boys have to fear is fear itself.

In Lord of the Flies, fear becomes paralyzing and unbeatable by the realization that the only thing the boys have to fear is fear itself.

Quote 1

"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?" (Goulding, )

The image of the “beast” strikes fear into all the kids, even though it’s just a figment of their imagination, it’s still a horrifying image for them all. The fear of the beast spreads so quickly from the boys.

Quote 2

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”
(Goulding, )


Rather than combat the fear of the beast, Simon’s comment that the beast may be inside the boys is actually more chilling than the notion of a thing with claws and teeth. If the beast is inside the boys, then it is terrifying in a far more profound way. It means that we, people, are responsible for the horrors of the world. Simon doesn’t let us place the blame on some external object.

Quote 3

“Ralph laughed, and the other boys laughed with him. The small boy twisted further into himself.
“Tell us about the snake-thing.”
“Now he says it was a beastie.”
“Beastie?”
“A snake-thing. Ever so big. He saw it.”
“Where?’
“In the woods.”
[…]
“He says the beastie came in the dark.” (2.73-80)


The little boys naturally think the beastie comes in the dark; fear of the unknown creature is that much greater when they can’t see it. Interestingly, this is the whole point of the beast; the boys can’t metaphorically see it for what it really is.

Quote 4

“Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling along. Ralph saw it first, and watched until the intentness of his gaze drew all eyes that way. Then the creature stepped from mirage onto clear sand, and they saw that the darkness was not all shadow but mostly clothing. The creature was a party of boys […].” (1.184)

This is about as close as we’re going to get to Golding telling us that the boys are really animals, that they are a dark black creature.


Quote 5

“Life […] is scientific, that’s what it is. In a year or two when the world is over they’ll be traveling to Mars and back. I know there isn't no beast – not with claws and all that I mean – but I know there isn’t no fear either.


Each of the boys combats his fear of the beast in his own way. Here we see Piggy using reason and “science” to convince himself it doesn’t exist.

Discussion Questions

1. What do the littluns really fear when they talk about the beast? At what point in the novel do the boys fully accept the reality of the beast, and what is the catalyst?
2. How does fear play a major role in Lord of the Flies? What are the effects of fear on the boys as the story progresses?
3. What does the beast represent? How is it used by Jack to control the others? Are there parallels for "the beast" in the real world, the one outside of fiction?
4. What does Simon mean when he suggests that the beast is only the boys themselves?