In William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, the author makes effective use of characters to represent symbols in a democratic society. Although Ralph, Simon and Piggy are real characters in the novel who are involved in difficult situations during their stay on an isolated Pacific island, they also come to represent as the novel progresses aspects of a modern democratic society. A democratic society requires individuals who will provide rules, protect others’ rights, show compassion, seek truth and pursue activities of an intellectual and scientific nature. Ralph symbolizes a leadership based on order and respect of others, Simon represents the humanitarian and seeker of truth, and Piggy stands for the rational, scientific thinker of a democracy.
Ralph establishes his power and reveals himself as a natural leader by respecting, and gaining respect from the other boys while also keeping order amongst one another. He has directness in his manner which the narrator describes as “genuine leadership”(Ch1 P27). Ralph also displays a need for civilized and orderly manner. He displays this at the beginning when he creates a democratic symbol around the conch so that everyone could be heard and respected by others. “And another thing. We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school.” … “. I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.”(Ch2 P36) This clearly displays natural leadership abilities, and how he is building a democratic system. His civilized and orderly manner is also shown when only he and Simon where willing to build the huts, in which they would live, while the other boys where off hunting, slowly drifting away from civilization. “Been working for days now. And look!” Two shelters were in position, but shaky. This one was a ruin. “And they keep running off. You remember the meeting? How everyone was going to work hard until the shelters were finished?” … “They’re hopeless. The older ones aren’t much better. D’you see? All day I’ve been working with Simon. No one else. They’re off bathing, or eating, or playing.” He also demonstrates his leadership and organizational skills by attempting to assign tasks to each of the boys. “We’ve got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day there may be a ship out there”—he waved his arm at the taut wire of the horizon—”and if we have a signal going they’ll come and take us off. And another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting.” (Ch2 P46-47)
Ralph is putting his heart and soul into leading, respecting, and creating an organized and civilized society around the boys.
Simon has a strong sense of kindness, benevolence and sympathy towards all of the boys on the island, and also has a great desire to discover truth. His sense of humanitarianism is displayed through the helping of others. When it came to the point where the littluns’ could no longer reach the fruit on the trees, it was him who helped them retrieve it. “Then, amid the roar of bees in the afternoon sunlight, 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. When he had satisfied them he paused and looked round. The littluns watched him inscrutably over double handfuls of ripe fruit.” (Ch3 P61) He could have been doing many other things with his time, but instead chose to spend it by helping others in need. He is also a seeker of truth. He knew that the beast was not real and needed to find out the truth for himself. “”Maybe,” he said hesitantly, “maybe there is a beast.” … “What I mean is . . . maybe it’s only us.” (Ch5 P97) He is compelled to find out the truth, even if it means risking his life in the process. “Simon saw a humped thing suddenly sit up on the top and look down at him. He hid his face, and toiled on. The flies had found the figure too. The life-like movement would scare them off for a moment so that they made a dark cloud round the head. Then as the blue material of the parachute collapsed the corpulent figure would bow forward, sighing, and the flies settle once more. He crawled forward and soon he understood. The tangle of lines showed him the mechanics of this parody; he examined the white nasal bones, the teeth, the colors of corruption. He saw how pitilessly the layers of rubber and canvas held together the poor body that should be rotting away. Then the wind blew again and the figure lifted, bowed, and breathed foully at him. Simon knelt on all fours and was sick till his stomach was empty. Then he took the lines in his hands; he freed them from the rocks and the figure from the wind’s indignity.” (Ch9 P161) This shows that it was he who built up enough courage to seek the truth about the beast. He also displayed his humanitarianism by freeing the dead man from the entanglement. Simon does not give in to savagery, and continuously displays a strong sense of kindness towards the others. It is his desire to seek truth that eventually leads to his death.
Piggy is clearly the most intelligent boy on the island, he used his rational and scientific thinking to help the boys, but his suggestions where often overlooked. He made many intelligent observations over his time on the island, such as the fact they nobody knew where they where, so how would they get rescued? “”Nobody knows where we are,” said Piggy. He was paler than before and breathless. “Perhaps they knew where we was going to; and perhaps not. But they don’t know where we are ‘cos we never got there.””(Ch2 P37) He also has to remind Ralph that the fire is the most important thing. It is the fire that was going to get them rescued. “Ralph tried indignantly to remember. There was something good about a fire. Something overwhelmingly good. “Ralph’s told you often enough,” said Piggy moodily. “How else are we going to be rescued?” “Of course! If we don’t make smoke–“” (Ch10 P180) It’s beginning to seem as if Piggy is the only one left who hasn’t begun to turn into a savage. After the scare of the beast, it is also Piggy who comes up with the idea of moving the signal fire onto the beach. It is as if the others don’t care about it anymore, and would rather just not get rescued than to bother keeping a fire up. “”We got no fire on the mountain. But what’s wrong with a fire down here? A fire could be built on them rocks. On the sand, even. We’d make smoke just the same.”” (Ch8 P142) Piggy also displays his vast scientific knowledge by thinking of new ideas. If Piggy had been heard, it would have been these ideas that would have kept the boys closer to civilization. An example is when he suggests attempting to make a sundial. “”I’ve been thinking,” he said, “about a clock. We could make a sundial. We could put a stick in the sand, and then–“” (Ch4 P70) If the others had listened to Piggy’s excellent ideas, and not ignored his rational decisions, the way things turned out surely would have been more civilized.
In the novel, Simon Ralph and Piggy where forced to overcome many difficult challenges. By creating rules, protecting each others rights, showing compassion, seeking truth and pursuing activities of an intellectual and scientific nature, these boys where able to begin constructing a democracy on the island in attempt to maintain order and civilization. If it was not for the loss of restraint by some of the boys, things surely would have happened differently.