Children's Literature Review

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Title: Golding's Lord of the Flies

Author(s): Arnold Kruger

Publication Details: Explicator 57.3 (Spring 1999): p167-169.

Source: Children's Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 130. Detroit: Gale, p167-169. From Literature Resource Center.

Document Type: Critical essay

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

[(essay date spring 1999) In the following essay, Kruger contends that the character of Simon in Lord of the Flies--who is often viewed critically as a Christ-like figure--actually has a greater analogue in the figure of Jesus' disciple Simon Peter.]

It is an accepted critical truism that the character of Simon in William Golding's Lord of the Flies is an analogue of Christ; that Simon's holy, saintly, self-sacrificial behavior is an exemplar of all that is most high and good in human life; that he is an epiphanic figure. And his death, a communal execution, so echoes the Crucifixion that the correspondence seems complete. An alert reading of the text, though, together with an examination of the biblical references to both Christ and his apostle Simon Peter, gives a somewhat different view of Simon. On the preponderance of this evidence, I suggest that Golding's character is actually an analogue of Christ's apostle Simon Peter.

The distinction between the roles of Christ and his apostle may seem a fine one, but the essential elements of the difference are important both to the story and its underlying allegory. I say this on the basis of Golding's overt Christian faith. He says in his book of essays A Moving Target: "Of man and God. We have come to it, have we not? I believe in God" (192).

The figure of Christ is commonly conflated with that of any especially spiritual character--anyone who evidences saintliness, selflessness, and undiscriminating love for his fellow creatures. This, of course, is what Simon does, as in the scene in which he feeds the "littluns": "Simon found for them the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands" (61). A nice image of selfless caring, but also an observance of Christ's injunction to his apostle Simon Peter: "Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Feed my lambs'" (KJV, John 21.15). This picture of Simon/Simon Peter placing ripe fruit into the hands of children, is clearly an allusion to the nurturing and proselytizing roles of Christ's apostles within the Church; as Simon Peter himself says: "Feed the flock of God which is among you [...]" (1 Pet. 5.2).

Another example of the essential difference between Simon and Christ occurs at the beginning of the novel, when Simon is introduced as "the choirboy who had fainted [...] smil[ing] pallidly [...]" (23). His personality and behavior bear a strong resemblance to that of the biblical Simon Peter, who is scolded by Christ when he says: "Simon, are you asleep? [...] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14.37). Simon's "choirboy" position further reinforces his secondary status and might be compared with that of Simon Peter, an apostle in attendance on Christ.

But the central cause of the confusion of the Simon character with Christ is Simon's murder at the hands of a mob while trying to deliver them from fear of "the beast." The murder does evoke Christ's Crucifixion, but only superficially--as the murder of any spiritual figure would. In fact, most of the apostles and many ordinary Christians of that period died on crosses and gibbets, and in arenas--all of them murdered by mobs. The giveaway in Simon's case is that he died "crying out something about a dead man on a hill" (168), much as the biblical Simon Peter must have. That is, the likely cause of his death was his proselytizing, which he would have continued even on his cross, "crying out" the Christian message of sacrifice and redemption. The "dead man on a hill" is, of course, Christ on Golgotha, dying for our sins; the phrase itself, with its evocation of ignorant confusion and mockery, dramatizes the incredulity with which the Christian experience is often received.

Simon's death and its consequences are much different from those of Christ's. And the scene of Simon's apotheosis, after his death when "his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble [...] and his coarse hair was dressed with brightness" (170), is a lovely, lyric metaphor of the promise of death for all men in Christ:

Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed [...](1 Cor. 15.51-52)

Although Simon falls short of Christ's perfection, he remains a witness to the higher reaches of the human spirit.

Works Cited

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. 1958 ed. London: Faber, 1996.

------. A Moving Target. Rev. 1984 ed. New York: Farrar, 1994.

Source Citation: Kruger, Arnold. "Golding's Lord of the Flies." Explicator. 57.3 (Spring 1999): 167-169. Rpt. in Children's Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 130. Detroit: Gale, 167-169. Literature Resource Center. Gale. UNIV OF ALABAMA. 14 July 2009 .

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