Lord of the Flies

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Fire Symbol Icon
Fire is a complicated symbol in Lord of the Flies. Like the glasses that create it, fire represents technology. Yet like the atomic bombs destroying the world around the boys' island, fire is a technology that threatens destruction if it gets out of control. Fire also symbolizes the boys' connection to human civilization: their signal fire gives them hope of rescue.

Fire Quotes in Lord of the Flies

The Lord of the Flies quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fire. 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 2 Quotes
Ralph waved the conch.
"Shut up! Wait! Listen!"
He went on in the silence, borne on in his triumph.
"There's another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire."
"A fire! Make a fire!"
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Ralph--newly elected the leader of the boys--proposes a solution to the boys' most important problem. Trapped on the island, the boys need a way to escape. Thus, Ralph proposes building a large fire that can send out a smoke signal, visible for miles in every direction.

Notice that while every one of the boys seems enthusiastic about building the fire, most seem more interested in the fire itself than in using it be rescued. Fire itself is a complex symbol of both order and chaos. Fire is the quintessential human invention (see the legend of Prometheus, for instance), but it's also the quintessential symbol of destruction and chaos. Ralph and his peers on the island have the potential to use fire for good--to make a smoke signal--or to use it to destroy each other and the entire island. It remains to be seen how the group will use fire, but the boys' overly enthusiastic, mob-like attitude doesn't bode well.

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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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Fire Symbol Timeline in Lord of the Flies

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire appears in Lord of the Flies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Civilization Theme Icon
Ralph says he's confident they boys will be rescued. He suggests they build a fire on the mountaintop to alert rescuers. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Excited by the idea of building a fire, the boys jump up and run to collect wood and bring it to the mountain... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The fire burns out because the wood is so dry. Piggy starts to criticize the boys, but... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph says they have to keep the fire burning every day without fail. Jack volunteers himself and his hunters to do the job. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Piggy notices that sparks from their signal fire have set the trees below them on fire. He argues that instead of running off... (full context)
Chapter 3
Civilization Theme Icon
...the conversation back on getting rescued. He mentions Jack and the hunter's responsibility for the fire, which causes another argument. Jack claims hunting is work. Ralph shouts that while Jack likes... (full context)
Chapter 4
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...horizon—it's a ship! Everyone looks at the mountain, but there's no smoke from their signal fire. They run to the mountaintop and discover the fire is dead and the ship has... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Eventually Jack apologizes for letting the fire die. Ralph asks Piggy's permission to use his glasses to light the fire. Ralph realizes... (full context)
Chapter 5
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...the things they said they'd do, but didn't: store water, build shelters, keep the signal fire going. He says the fire is the most important thing on the island. (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...He asks the boys if they're humans or savages? He mentions the hunters letting the fire go out. Jack furiously rips the conch from him. (full context)
Chapter 6
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...says they have to go search the mountain for the beast and relight the signal fire. (full context)
Chapter 7
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...finally stop and discuss how to do the dance properly. Maurice suggests a drum and fire. Robert says they need to use a real pig next time, so they can really... (full context)
Chapter 8
Civilization Theme Icon
...should do. Ralph isn't sure. He says the beast is sitting up by the signal fire as if trying to intercept their rescue. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
...the mountain. Piggy considers the suggestion insane. He says they should just build a signal fire on the beach. (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...(a female pig). Jack cuts off its head. He decides they'll raid Ralph's camp fore fire to cook the pig, and invite everyone to a feast. Roger, meanwhile, sharpens a stick... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack emerges from the forest into Ralph's camp. As his followers steal fire from the signal fire, he invites Ralph's group to come his feast, then disappears. (full context)
Chapter 10
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...Piggy's glasses. Meanwhile, Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric discover four people aren't enough to keep the fire going. They decide to keep it burning only during the day. That night, Jack and... (full context)
Chapter 11
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph demands that Jack return Piggy's glasses. He mentions again the importance of the signal fire. Jack's tribe has only a cooking fire, he points out. In response, Jack orders his... (full context)
Chapter 12
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...then tries to storm it. They can't get in, so they set the thicket on fire. Ralph breaks from the thicket and runs into the jungle. The tribe follows, spreading out... (full context)