Fire is a force of great power one of rescue versus destruction or of civilization versus savagery In William Golding's Lord of the Flies boys of unlike characters are forced to use their survival instinct on a quest to stay alive on a small uninhabited island The use of symbolism like that of the signal fire constantly reminds the reader of the sharp contrast between the hope of rescue and the possibility of total destruction This symbolism plays a significant role in the main idea characterization and the plot of the novel This happens along with its versatile ability to represent conflicting ideas and a common goal all in a simple signal fire on top of a mountain Throughout much of literary history fire has come to represent knowledge and destruction Author William Golding repeatedly uses this as a symbol for the boys rescue but also their chances of destruction Starting the novel the protagonist Ralph is intent on keeping a signal fire going at the top of the mountain in hopes of the boys rescue This fire is their link to civilization and their hopes of rescue only remain alive while the signal fire continues to burn and produce smoke Ralph tells the other boys that if a ship comes near the island they may not notice us So we must make smoke on top of the mountain We must make a fire Golding 38 suggesting that he values rescue and civilization over all else on the island Immediately after Ralph s bright idea of starting a signal fire for rescue the boys watch in horror as it spreads throughout much of the forest burning down tree after tree on the island and killing a littlun Piggy later questions their responsibility by asking the group How can you expect to be rescued if you don't put first things first and act proper 45
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The characters understand the importance of order and fire in seeking their goal rescue Fire functions as a symbol of rescue and destruction and proves its significance to the boys survival In the novel main characters like Ralph and Jack are also characterized by the use of symbols like fire After Ralph decides to start a signal fire Jack gets excited and gets everyone to the top of the mountain to start an uncontrollable fire As he runs toward the top of the mountain Jack exclaims His Piggy s specs Use them as burning glasses 40 This signal fire they have started represents the boy s hope of rescue However with their less than perfect fire comes the destruction The uncontrollable fire soon spreads throughout the forest killing a littlun Piggy later remarks You got your small fire alright 44 This quote characterizes him as being more responsible than the savage Jack Events in Lord of the Flies containing fire have much significance and symbolic meaning when it comes to characterizing and developing main characters like Ralph Jack and Piggy Next fire helps to build Golding's theme in the novel This relates to the deeper meaning of fire and the meaning of this text as a whole because whenever the fire burns out or burns low the reader realizes that the boys have completely lost sight of their main goal rescue
Ralph tries to rally the group by reminding everyone that the fire is the most important thing on this island 80 Later in the book Jack lets the signal fire go out so that he can go hunt for pigs In this time without the signal fire a ship passes by the island without noticing any of the stranded boys Ralph angrily tells Jack There was a ship You said you'd keep the fire going and you let it out 70 The fire which symbolizes the boys connection to civilization and rescue has been let out by the most savage character Jack Therefore the symbolism of the fire contributes to the novel's theme of the effects of lost civilization Lastly in one of the final scenes of the text a forest fire is intentionally lit by Jack in order to smoke out and kill Ralph The main intent behind Jack's actions in this event was to lure Ralph out of hiding in order to decapitate and kill him However ironically this fire is the one that saves the entire group The navy shipmen see the giant forest fire that was intentionally lit and go to rescue the children on the island Just as the boys have given up on civilization in favor of savagery their last hope of civilization comes back to save them The fire had almost become a symbol of savagery burning out another character However it ironically saves all the children when it stays true to its deeper meaning Since the navy shipmen only saw the fire when it had the intent of hatred it exposes the true savagery within the adults partaking war and hatred in the civilized land back home This major use of irony with the symbolism relates to the meaning as a whole by exposing human nature and shows how the naval officer s disgust with the uncivilized children is ridden with hypocrisy The symbolism associated with fire clearly impacts the novel's character development and theme Fire helps to characterize main characters with their view on rescue while building up the theme of the breakdown of civilization William Golding's use of fire as a symbol in Lord of the Flies reminds the reader of the conflict between characters and their surrounding environment with the hope of rescue ever present as the fire continues to burn through day and night Characters like Jack and Ralph have conflicts that really represent savagery versus civilization Fire symbolizes the possibility of rescue civilization savagery and nature throughout the entire course of the novel building the framework for the texts deeper meaning
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