Lord of the Flies

by: William Golding

Tone

The tone of Lord of the Flies is fairly aloof, creating a sense of removal from the events. The boys on the island generally treat each other with a lack of sympathy, and, similarly, the overall tone of the book expresses neither shock nor sympathy toward what happens. Events such as the deaths of Simon and Piggy are related in matter-of-fact detail: “Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened, and stuff came out and turned red.” The tone here is resigned, expressing no surprise at the violent death of one of the main characters. The sense is that the deaths are as inevitable as the tide: “Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.” By focusing on the natural world in the immediate aftermath of the death, instead of the boys, Golding distances the reader from the emotion of the scene, but his precise details about what Piggy’s broken body looks like impart a sense of horror and disgust.

Throughout the novel, Golding’s tone suggests the island itself is as responsible for what happens as the boys. Golding’s tone when describing nature is anxious and distrustful. He personifies nature as a violent, vengeful force. The heat becomes “a blow that (the boys) ducked.” The trees rub together “with an evil speaking.” The tide is a “sleeping leviathan” and the sea boils “with a roar.” Clouds “squeezed, produced moment by moment this close, tormenting heat.” Evening comes, “not with calm beauty but with the threat of violence.” The boys are presented as almost as vulnerable to the forces of nature as to each other, sustaining the tone of justified fear. Nature is a destructive force that elicits the boys’ most savage natures. Their growing discomfort and unease with the effects of nature, as expressed by Ralph’s disgust at his filthy clothes, overgrown hair, and unbrushed teeth, heighten the tone of anxiety.


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