Lord of the Flies

by: William Golding

Point of View

Golding employs a third-person omniscient narrator in Lord of the Flies, meaning that the narrator speaks in a voice separate from that of any of the characters and sometimes narrates what the characters are thinking and feeling as well as what they’re doing. The narrator only gives us insights into the thoughts of characters sparingly, however. Most often the narrator describes what the characters are doing and how they’re interacting as seen from the outside. The narrator’s point of view is sometimes that of an objective observer of all of the boys, as in the scenes where they’re all meeting and interacting, but sometimes the narrator will follow the point of view of one boy by himself. The characters whose point of view we see most frequently are Ralph, Jack, Simon, and Piggy. The narrator devotes the most time to Ralph, describing not just his thoughts but his thought process—“Then, at the moment of greatest passion and conviction, that curtain flapped in his head and he forgot—what he had been driving at.” The reader also get a sense of Ralph’s home life in an extended reverie where he remembers “when you went to bed there was a bowl of cornflakes with sugar and cream.…Everything was alright; everything was good-humored and friendly.”

The narrator reflects Jack’s internal thought the least out of all the major characters, but still takes the reader inside his head, as after he kills the so “His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come the them when they had closed in on the struggling pig...” We also spend brief amounts of time inside the heads of littluns in order to show that the impulses ruling the main characters are universal and innate. We only see these characters briefly, such as Henry, who becomes “absorbed beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things,” or Maurice, who still feels “the unease of wrongdoing” when he throws sand in Percival’s eye. Golding shows that even the youngest boys experience lust for power, or remorse at causing pain. Yet he mostly shows the littluns from a distanced perspective. This technique likens them to a generic mob, capable of acting as a single organism, as when they join Jack’s tribe and unquestioningly participate in the pursuit of Ralph. By switching between brief interior glimpses into specific littluns and presenting them as a single character, the narrator shows the way the individual is susceptible to mob mentality.

In utilizing a third person point of view, Golding also lets the reader see action that none of the boys themselves witness, creating dramatic irony, which is when a reader knows more than a character does. The reader witnesses the scene of the paratrooper landing on the island, so when the boys believe they see a looming beast, the reader understands it’s actually a corpse animated by the wind. When Simon discovers the truth about the beast, it is knowledge he shares with the reader but is unable to spread to the other boys, as they kill him in their trance-like frenzy before he can explain. The beast then slips from the mountain during the storm, preserving the reader as the only person who knows the beast’s true identity. At the end the reader briefly sees the boys from the officer’s point of view, as “little boys,” and “tiny tots… with the distended bellies of small savages.” In this case, the dramatic irony is that the reader knows the horror of the situation, while the officer believes the boys are playing a harmless game.