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lord of the flies

What archetype does each main character in William Golding's Lord of The Flies represent, and what do the boys as a whole symbolize?


There are many ways to interpret Golding's Lord of the Flies. Certainly Golding meant the boys' microcosm of society to symbolize the macrocosm of European or Western society. Looking at the characters in terms of psychologist Carl Jung's archetypes, one can see the following correlations:

Ralph represents the Everyman, or the "regular guy." Although he seems to be the hero of the story, he doesn't demonstrate special competence or courage above the other boys, nor does he have the weakness of arrogance which tends to be the downfall of archetypal heroes. Instead, he believes in the equality of everyone. His talents are being real and caring for others and being practical.

Jack represents the Ruler, whose core desire is control and who has the qualities of a natural leader. His weakness, of course, is being an autocrat.

Piggy stands for the Caregiver or Parent. As the one who is most worried about "what grownups would say," he steps in to help Ralph and to try to care for the littluns. He displays the weaknesses of the caregiver by being exploited by others and even martyred at the end of the book. 

Simon, the Sage, is the only one of the boys to understand the truth of "mankind's essential illness." He seeks out information and knowledge, first in his private hideaway (where he meets the Lord of the Flies) and then when he confronts the "beast from air." Simon also exhibits some of the Caregiver archetype in that he helps feed the littluns and helps Ralph with the shelters and is the first martyr--dying as he tries to bring the other boys the truth about the beast. Although not one of Jung's archetypes, the archetypal Christ-figure also corresponds to Simon in this novel.  

It is easy to see that the littluns as a group represent the Innocent, and Maurice, with his tendency to mimic, represents the Jester. Samneric represent the Partner; they are always in partnership with each other and partner with Ralph until they are kidnapped by Jack. Roger represents the Rebel or the Outlaw and succumbs to his weakness by giving himself over fully to violence and "crime."

This is one way of viewing the characters in Lord of the Flies from an archetypal standpoint.

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