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Lord of the Flies

William Golding
Quotes

The Island

Quotes The Island

All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another.

This quote, from the novel’s opening paragraph, introduces the island as a hauntingly beautiful but inhospitable place that has been disturbed by the boys’ arrival. The plane crash has left a “scar” in the jungle, and the image of Ralph “clambering heavily” through the heat, creepers (ivy), and downed trees shows that the island is full of obstacles that will make life difficult for the boys. The bird Ralph inadvertently startles suggests that the island is full of mysteries and surprises. The bird’s “witch-like cry” hints that the boys have awakened a supernatural evil that lies beneath the jungle’s natural beauty.

[Piggy’s] lips quivered and the spectacles were dimmed with mist. 

“We may stay here till we die.”

With that word the heat seemed to increase till it became a threatening weight and the lagoon attacked them with a blinding effulgence.

This passage from Chapter 1 characterizes the island as an actively menacing force that threatens the survival of the stranded boys. Although the island in some ways resembles a tropical paradise, the very qualities that make it pleasant become threatening when the boys realize they may never be rescued. The heat becomes unbearable and the bright lagoon where the boys frolic and swim “attacks” them with its “blinding effulgence” (brightness).

They had guessed before that this was an island: clambering among the pink rocks, with the sea on either side, and the crystal heights of air, they had known by some instinct that the sea lay on every side. But there seemed something more fitting in leaving the last word till they stood on the top, and could see a circular horizon of water.

Ralph turned to the others.

“This belongs to us.”

When Ralph, Jack, and Simon climb the mountain and confirm they are on an uninhabited island, Ralph immediately declares that the island “belongs to us.” This episode bears a striking resemblance to the biblical story of the temptation of Christ, in which the devil takes Jesus to the top of a mountain and offers to grant him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8–9). The biblical parallel helps establish the island as an allegorical representation of the world and the boys as a symbol of all humankind. Unlike Jesus, who rejects the devil’s offer, Ralph and the others behold the beauty of the island and immediately lay claim to it. The irony of this apparent deal with the devil becomes clear later when the island, ruled by the “Lord of the Flies,” transforms the civilized boys into murderous savages who end up destroying the island they claimed.

Strange things happened at midday. The glittering sea rose up, moved apart in planes of blatant impossibility; the coral reef and the few stunted palms that clung to the more elevated parts would float up into the sky, would quiver, be plucked apart, run like raindrops on a wire or be repeated as in an odd succession of mirrors. Sometimes land loomed where there was no land and flicked out like a bubble as the children watched. Piggy discounted all this learnedly as a “mirage”; and . . . they grew accustomed to these mysteries and ignored them, just as they ignored the miraculous, throbbing stars.

This passage portrays the island setting as a strange, mystical place that distorts and confuses the boys’ sense of reality. When they look at the sea, sky, and land, they see it behaving in unnatural, impossible ways, as if they are hallucinating. Although all of the boys seem to have these visions, the scientific Piggy dismisses them as mirages, and the other boys learn to ignore them. Yet throughout the story, the island remains a mysterious place that increasingly distorts the boys’ perception of reality, culminating with the murder of Simon when he is mistaken for “the Beast.”

Over the island the build-up of clouds continued. A steady current of heated air rose all day from the mountain and was thrust to ten thousand feet; revolving masses of gas piled up the static until the air was ready to explode . . . Colors drained from water and trees and pink surfaces of rock, and the white and brown clouds brooded. Nothing prospered but the flies who blackened their lord and made the spilt guts look like a heap of glistening coal.

In this passage from Chapter 9, storm clouds gather dramatically over the island, foreshadowing the dark turn of events that begins with Simon’s death. The “build-up” of the rising clouds and static electricity (which causes lightning) parallels the rising action of the story, but the dark imagery of the colors draining from the landscape and the flies “blacken[ing] their lord” signals that the resolution will not be a happy one. The narrator bleakly observes that “nothing prospered” on the island except for the flies swarming the spilled guts of the dead sow.