An allusion is a reference to an famous person, historical or religious figure, an historical event, or another literary work. Allusions allow an author to inject deep meaning with few words. Allusions at times are used ironically by creating a contrast between the allusion and the situation.
The first example of an allusion is the title of the novel itself.
Lord of the Flies - The title is a literal translation from Hebrew for Beelzebub, the devil’s right hand demon in hell. This allusion emphasizes the evil that reigns over the island and within humankind.
Understanding the following Lord of the Flies allusions to the beast is eye opening. The beast is spoken of in Revelations chapter 13 of the New Testament:
- And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea (Revelations 13:1) coincides with the title of chapter 5, Beast from Water
- And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast (Revelations 13:3); the beast in chapter 6 is actually a dead parachutist who the boys bring back to life figuratively through fear. The entire island (the boys’ world) is awed and fearful of the mysterious creature.
- And they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? (Revelations 13: 4); after Jack and the hunters conclude they cannot defeat the beast, they worship it by offering a sacrifice, the Lord of the Flies.
- And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies (Revelations 13:5); Simon, while hallucinating, converses with the Lord of the Flies, the beast’s emissary; the Lord of the Flies declares his intention to destroy all that is good on the island.
Literary and Biblical Allusions
In Euripides’ The Bacchae, Agave kills her son Pentheus, mistaking him for a lion, as he exits the forest.
The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne is mentioned by the naval officer in chapter 12. Ralph, Jack and Peterkin are the three main characters in Coral Island and must fight pirates and cannibals to survive.
In addition to those referencing the beast, Biblical allusions in Lord of the Flies focus on Simon. Simon is seen by many as a Christ figure. Simon demonstrates the following:
- Prophesies his own death in chapter 7, as Jesus does throughout the New Testament
- Feeds his followers fruit in chapter 3 much like Jesus feeds the multitudes in the New Testament.
- Withdraws to his secret place in the forest as Jesus withdraws to the wilderness to pray.
- Understands the truth about fear, evil, and human nature, but is slain as he attempts to share it.
Other Biblical allusions in Lord of the Flies center around the Garden of Eden. The island itself represents an Edenic paradise until the boys arrive and destroy it.
This post is part of the series: Lord of the Flies Study Guide
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