Within William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, innocence is steadily lost amidst the boys. The boys were placed in a situation where they had no other choice but to grow up, and grow up fast.
These boys were put in a traumatic situation and they had to learn by themselves how to survive and create a society all on their own. Naturally, this ends with a complete loss of innocence among the young children. In Golding’s novel, the boys quickly lose their innocence during their time on the island. Golding shows the downward spiral from sinlessness to corruption in various ways, including the boys’ hunting, and the deaths of the boy with the birthmark, Simon and Piggy. The boys’ loss of innocence also comes with the realization of the impact and consequences of their actions.Golding shows the boys’ gradual loss of innocence in the way they hunt. In the first chapter, the boys find a pig stuck in a bush.
When Jack goes to slay it with his knife, he can’t bring himself to do it, “because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood” (Golding 29). At the time, he was still too pure. Later when the boys kill a pig for the first time, Jack experiences “the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had … imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink” (74). Jack finds himself able to play with the shed pig’s blood and the rest of the hunters are “wedded to the sow in lust, excited by the … dropped blood” (148). Ultimately, Jack and the rest of his hunters have strayed so far from innocence that they actually hunt Ralph, planning to slaughter him like a pig and impale his head on a sharpened stick. Golding also uses the deaths on the island and their increase in violence to show the fall from innocence. The boy with the mulberry scar is killed because of the carelessness of the other boys, which, although truly unfortunate, was not an intentional death.
The next to die, Simon, is murdered by the entire group of boys in the heat of an intense moment. This crime was intentional, but not predetermined as they killed him because they thought he was the beast “crawling out of the forest” (168) and murdered after he “stumbled into the horseshoe” (168) formed by the boys. The death of Piggy was premeditated and is celebrated by Jack, as he “bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly” (201), making this another point in the novel where innocence is lost. By the end of the book, the boys pursue Ralph, aiming to kill him and impale his head on a stick, planning out his death with not an inkling of shame restraining them.
Although the boys progressively get more violent and less innocent as the book go on, they still retain part of the childlike behaviour that they came to the island with. This is represented well in the two scenes where the boys set the island on fire. As they let the signal fire get out of control, all the boys are celebrating until Piggy points out this is wrong. “You got your small fire all right. … the boys were falling still and silent, feeling the beginnings of awe at the power set free below them” (44). The same thing happens when they set the fire to find Ralph. “The fools! The fire must be almost at the fruit trees — what would they eat tomorrow” (220) They don’t stop and think about what they have done until they’re confronted by the naval officer. In both situations, the boys fail to account for any possible complications that could come out of these situations, which resulted in the death of the boy with the mulberry mark, and had the naval officer not rescued them when he did, they would have burned down the entire island, leaving without any type of shelter or food.
Within the text, the boys conduct themselves with an “act first, think second” attitude, a mindset that is very common among children their age. They carry this attitude until the end of the novel when they are forced to accept everything that happened on the island, which results in a true loss of innocence for all of the boys.The boys slowly lose their innocence with each kill, their actions becoming more violent as the novel progresses. However, their innocence is not truly lost until the end of the novel, when they realize what they have done. Their inability to understand that their actions have consequences is one childlike quality that they possess until the end of the novel.
Works CitedGolding, William. Lord of the Flies. Faber and Faber Limited, 1954.