Lord of the Flies

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Adults Symbol Analysis

Adults Symbol Icon
Adults symbolize civilization and social order to the boys. But to the reader, the world war raging outside the island makes it clear that the adult "civilization" is as savage as the boys' "civilization" on the island.

Adults Quotes in Lord of the Flies

The Lord of the Flies quotes below all refer to the symbol of Adults. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Human Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Lord of the Flies published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"Aren't there any grownups at all?"
"I don't think so."
The fair boy said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realized ambition overcame him. In the middle of the scar he stood on his head and grinned at the reversed fat boy.
"No grownups!"
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker), Piggy (speaker)
Related Symbols: Adults
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The premise of the novel is that a group of young boys has been marooned on a island. Their plane has seemingly crash-landed nearby, and every adult has been killed in the wreck. Right away, the boys are delighted by the absence of adults, whom they associate with order, discipline, and punishment (as any British schoolboy might). Notice that Ralph, the boy with the fair hair, is at first solemn, then happy about the absence of adults. Ralph has a natural instinct to feel sympathy and compassion for the dead and the wounded. But because he's also a child, Ralph's sympathy is quickly replaced with delight.

The quotation is important because it sets up the plot of the book: a group of boys on an island, without any grownups around. On a more metaphorical level, Golding intends his scenario to be a metaphor for human society--a society in which people are free to do as they please. In short, Golding wants to ask us, What would unlimited human freedom look like? The fact that Golding chooses children for his microcosmic view of human society suggests that he sees children as really being no different from adults--equally foolish, equally destructive, equally clueless about how to be good. Or perhaps Golding is trying to make a more complicated point by choosing to write a dark, sinister novel about children and society: if even children (pure, innocent children) are capable of falling into murder and bloodshed, then what hope do adults have?

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Chapter 4 Quotes
Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry — threw it to miss. The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounded five yards to Henry's right and fell in the water. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.
Related Characters: Roger, Henry
Related Symbols: Adults
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, we meet a boy named Roger, who becomes one of the novel's antagonists. Here Roger picks up a handful of stones and begins throwing them--he's just blowing off steam; in short, being a kid. Roger then notices a younger boy named Henry. Although Roger is throwing stones and trying to scare or intimidate Henry, he's careful not to actually hit Henry. As Golding makes clear, Roger doesn't try to hit Henry because he's been well-trained by civilization: all of society is built on the idea that people are supposed to not be able to hurt each other with impunity.

It's important to note that Golding never once mentions Roger's natural inclination to be respectful and kind. While some people argue that humans are naturally good and loving, Golding suggests just the opposite. As he sees it, the only thing than can keep human destructiveness in check is civilization: precisely the combination of "parents and school and policemen" that the passage mentions.

Chapter 12 Quotes
His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
Related Characters: Ralph, Piggy
Related Symbols: The Island, Fire, Adults
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of Lord of the Flies, the boys are faced with a surprising rescue. Confronted with a grown-up for the first time in weeks, the boys suddenly realize how far they've fallen. In no time at all, the boys have become bloodthirsty murderers, savoring murder and violence of all kinds. The evidence of their barbarism is visible everywhere--their island itself is in ruins, burning to ashes by fire.

Confronted with the misery of his situation, Ralph has no choice but to cry. He can see very clearly what has gone wrong: Piggy has been killed; his peers have tried to murder him, etc. But Ralph goes further, weeping for the general savagery of humankind. The quotation is important, then, because Golding uses it to make explicit what he'd previously implied: the children's experiences on the island are a metaphor for humanity itself. If innocent, "pure" children, left to their own devices, are capable of murdering each other, then humanity as a whole is hopelessly destructive, too. The fact that children are capable of such destruction suggests that there is always innate evil in the human soul--the only thing that can save the human race from its own "heart of darkness" is civilization, grounded in reason, law, and respect.

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Adults Symbol Timeline in Lord of the Flies

The timeline below shows where the symbol Adults appears in Lord of the Flies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Human Nature Theme Icon
...were in was shot down and crash landed on an island, and that all the adults on the plane were killed. They wonder if any of the other schoolboys on the... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The boys keep exploring. Ralph finds a perfect swimming hole and says his father, who's in the Navy, will come rescue them. But Piggy is fairly certain that no... (full context)
Chapter 2
Civilization Theme Icon
Ralph says that without adults, they'll have to take care of themselves. He makes a rule that whoever holds the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Civilization Theme Icon
The three boys wish adults were around to make everything better. Ralph wishes the adults would at least send them... (full context)