“He wants to know what you’re going to do about the snake-thing.”
Ralph laughed, and the other boys laughed with him. The small boy twisted further into himself.
“Tell us about the snake-thing.”
“Now he says it was a beastie.”
“A snake-thing. Ever so big. He saw it.”
Ralph asks a young boy to explain about the snake-like thing he claims to have seen, and it is during this conversation that the term “the beast” is born. The beast introduces fear into this island paradise. The young boys have nightmares about this beast that appears to them like a snake, which is symbolic of the serpent in the Garden of Eden that tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. At first, the beast seems like it is something outside of the boys, something that they could do something about. However, in time, the beast symbolizes the dark side of human nature, something that no physical wall or weapon can defeat.
“Well then—I’ve been all over this island. By myself. If there were a beast I’d have seen it. Be frightened because you’re like that—but there is no beast in the forest.”
While the boys talk about fear and debate whether the beast is real, Jack declares that the beast doesn’t exist because he has explored the island and has never seen it. Ironically, it is the primal instinct of hunting, of moving through the forest in search of food, that will bring out the beast inside Jack. When he says the beast is not in the forest, he is right because the only beast on the island is the capacity for evil inside the boys themselves.
“What I mean is . . . maybe it’s only us.”
That was from Piggy, shocked out of decorum. Simon went on.
“We could be sort of . . .”
Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness.
While in a meeting to discuss the beast, Simon attempts to explain his thoughts on the subject. He understands that the beast could be real, but not in the way the other boys think. Simon recognizes that the beast is a symbol of the dark side of human nature, but he doesn’t know how to express such an idea, at least in a way that will help the others comprehend. The other boys, who are only just beginning to understand the capacity for evil inside themselves, still think the beast is something they can hunt and kill.
As Simon thought this, he turned to the poor broken thing that sat stinking by his side. The beast was harmless and horrible; and the news must reach the others as soon as possible.
Here, Simon discovers that the beast that the boys thought they found is, in fact, a dead human pilot. Simon wants to reassure the boys that the beast is not real. However, the dead pilot, who symbolizes war and humans’ capacity to kill each other, points to a different kind of beast, the evil that exists inside all humans. The fact that Simon is never able to deliver this news because the boys murder him underscores the fact that the beast dwells inside the characters.
Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!”
The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face.
Jack’s tribe, Ralph, and Piggy dance and chant in a frenzy after they feast on roast pig. However, what began as a hunting call to find and kill a pig has now become a chant to hunt and kill the beast. This shift gives the boys permission to become even more violent. In this scene, they allow themselves to confuse Simon for the beast, and they kill him. Simon is martyred for attempting to bring them the truth about what they believed to be the beast—the pilot—and his murder symbolizes that the true beast is, in fact, the evil inside humans.