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Lord of the Flies

by: William Golding

What Does the Ending Mean?

In the final pages of Lord of the Flies, Ralph runs through the jungle fleeing both Jack and his pack of savage boys and the fire Jack set in the on the mountain. Ralph emerges onto the beach and is discovered by a British Naval officer who has come ashore after seeing the burning island from his ship. Ironically, Ralph’s main motivation throughout the entire novel has been maintaining a smoke signal, yet Jack’s careless and murderous wildfire incites their rescue from the island. Soon the rest of the boys join Ralph and tell the officer about their ordeal. As they speak, the reality of what has happened to them finally hits them, and several boys begin crying. They are transformed from murderous savages back into scared children. The quickness of the boys’ transformation suggests their experience on the island has been a form of mass hysteria they weren’t fully aware of as it was happening.

The officer seems unable to fully comprehend what they boys have been through, preferring to believe they have been playing a game, and expressing disappointment that British boys could revert to such savagery. During much of the book, Piggy and Ralph wish for a “grownup” figure to tell them what to do and how to keep order. But the officer reminds us that while the boys have been trying to survive and maintain civilization on the island, adults all over the world were waging war for no discernible reason. The adult world waiting for Ralph back home is just as savage as the island with Jack and his tribe. The devastating realization for both Ralph and the reader suggests that despite our best efforts to uphold order and civility, humans are inherently prone to self-destruction. This ending suggests that despite what we want to believe, the line between civilized order and inherent human savagery is blurred.