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The Study of Simon’s Character in Lord of the Flies
From a Freudian perspective, the tripartite components of the human psyche—id, ego, and superego —are enacted symbolically by Jack, Ralph and Piggy, in the respective order. Simon’s existence in the story serves no purpose to portray this psychic mechanism whereas the other three main characters wrestle with each other and attempt at role balancing in response to survival need. Jack is the id-ridden one, who follows the primitive instinct of the body, and hunting and killing to his satisfaction at any cost.
Obviously, even as one of the Hunters, Simon’s apathy about hunting and his abstinence from eating meat evince the dominion of his mind over his body. Considering the superego, readers might confuse Simon with Piggy and equate their roles as both of them stand for the ethical voice on the island, trying to maintain moral standards by which the ego, Ralph, operates. In fact, the characteristics possessed by Piggy are more consistent with the core of superego.
Intending to be socially conventional, Piggy constructs an ethical frame according to the rules imposed by adults, by which he emphasizes their importance whenever in the face of injustice. In contrast, Simon knows man’s essential illness as a result of long time introspection, in a natural shelter concealed in undergrowth from humanity. On the other hand, Simon’s altruistic tendency, shown by his feeding of the hungry horde of neglected littluns, intensifies his saintliness, as the divisions of the psyche essentially embody three levels of desires.
Recalling the scene when Simon, Ralph and Jack find the candle-like plant, the difference in their interactions with the outside world is clearly demonstrated. Ralph denies their illuminating functions and Jack shows contempt for their inedible quality. They associate an external object with its possible practical use in reality. Simon differs in “seeing” the candle buds, treating an experience as a pure communion, through which insights would have developed according to his sense of impression. Such internal individual perception is limited to affect his inner world of beliefs, but never the others’.
This account for the great difficulty Simon encounters when he tries to explain the beast that he “sees”, actually a concept, is true when those utilitarians cannot even understand Piggy’s practical and logical consequence. Another item worth mentioning is Simon’s inclination to be internally or spiritually satisfied—he detects the candle buds after telling his companions that he is hungry. Candles are a commonly used decoration in religious venues, generally meaning a connection to spirit. Similar instance occurs when the others think that he would be bathing in the lagoon, he seeks solitude— a cleansing of his mind.
Although realizing that the beast-innate evil nature of mankind does exist, Simon is steadfast in his faith in original virtue of humanity, which was once heroic and sick. If the island is personified as a female, Simon is prone to embrace its beauty and tranquility, meditates alone in a glade surrounded by white glimmering flowers of the candle buds, which symbolize mankind’s spiritual purity. He is not ever disturbed by the affirmed discovery of the beast, and feels completely at ease with going by himself across the forest to rejoin Piggy’s group.
The other boys interpret the island in an opposite manner, and become more aware of her danger and hostility as time passes by, giving vent to this restlessness by claiming the existence of the beast. During an assembly, Simon makes a valiant and unsuccessful effort to indicate the essence of the beast- “maybe it is only us”, implying that he expects the beast is one of the two dimensions of our nature . Then he questions the crowd, asking “what is the dirtiest thing there is? ”, assuming mankind’s natural tendency to have an affinity with the clean- the virtuous side of himself.
This belief is radically undermined when he witnesses the brutal killing of a sow with a sense of violent sexual imagery comparing it to a rape, rendering the glade a filthy and bloody place. The concrete ugliness of the body—the spilled guts and the pungent smell, juxtaposes with the abstract one—the hunters’ indulgences to bestial impulse . Nature, which he used to hold in regard for her sacred beauty, is tainted with the sin of flesh, where its root is man’s body, an indispensable part since birth.
The pig’s head on a stake, foul but magnetizing a flock of flies, changes into the Lord of the Flies in Simon’s hallucination, in which he remains conscious, suggested by his comment on the self-proclaimed beast- merely “a Pig’s head on a stick”. The Lord of the Flies is an externalization of human sin envisaged by Simon, acting as a medium for presenting his inner conflict with choosing between compliance and self-preservation, the ignorant lie and the despairing truth, at last the abusiveness of evil and the fragility of virtue.
Through the monologue in a form of phantasm, Simon refutes his previous notion of human nature and brings a new definition to it—the beast is part of us instead of being in dichotomy; “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! ” he said to himself. He comes to recognize his own plight and that of the island, having a premonition of death as the Lord of the Flies promises to have “fun” on the island. Awake, Simon defies the threat and accepts his fate, as “What else is there to do? ”.
He undergoes a physical and spiritual transformation-“The usual brightness was gone from his eyes and he walked with a sort of glum determination like an old man”. The unmasking of the supposed beast on the top of the mountain which he finds to be a dead parachutist, confirms his belief- the beast is within us. Before climbing down the mountain to make public the truth, he frees the corpse of the fallen man from the bondage in compassion, with a significance of “dust thou art, to dust returnest”, enabling nature to purge the sin from the body.
In his last and desperate attempt in liberating mankind from sin, Simon fails, albeit his love and unwavering faith in mankind, believing that confronting the truth would achieve them a conversion into goodness. His death is inevitable, as a testament to his hypothesis—he stumbles into a circle of insanity before he can explain the nonexistence of the beast, then being torn apart by a group of dancing and chanting “beasts” that have their predatory instinct unleashed and their identities lost. In the arms of the sea, a sign of life’s eternality, Simon finds the homeland of his soul.
The ‘strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes’ that forms a halo around his head give a little consolation to his death, but they are actually low form of life similar to flies, which are aesthetically accepted by nobody. It is Simon’s noble spirit, under that decaying body, makes them glow. Simon’s death produces no corrective effect on the boys’ ignorance of their inner beast, as ironical as his death, most of the boys give in to such bestiality afterwards so as to gain a psychologically completeness of the brutalities that they have committed, and the island soon ends up being an earthly hell in blaze.
The participation of Ralph and Piggy in Simon’s murder, driven by the need to join the “demented but partly secure society”, indicates the irreversible loss of the boys’ innocence to animality, as the two are the only left on behalf of rationality, yet being insensible to the internal beast, believing that ‘evil is somewhere else’. Even for Piggy, who reasons scientifically, has his own limitation to reach the understanding of their defects by nature, and simply concludes Simon’s death as an accident when he ants to exculpate himself. This explains the futility of Science when tackling with the dark side of humanity. The story itself is a miniature of mankind history, and the reason for the collapse of a society can be inferred- neither determined by the fire nor the conch. The former represents technology—can be the first spark ever ignited but also a destructive atomic bomb, helps, at the same time, totally destroys civilization.
And the latter refers to a democratic parliamentary system which Golding had elaborated on in his speech-“The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. ” Therefore, Simon is the final resolution for all chaos, who exemplifies the ideal moral that individual should have- he is temperate in sensual desire, sacrifices for mankind’s welfare expecting nothing in return, sees through man’s latent ill nature but martyr for a faint possibility of healing it.
Nonetheless, here comes the paradox- Simon is not a convincing character that can come to life. The author had him idealistically created and endowed him a propensity to put overly the spiritual above the material: basically, he does not express the normal desire to survive, neither in a primitive society nor a civilized one, for the structural model of psyche is inapplicable to him. Again, he spontaneously has an insight into human nature with a covert thinking process, likely to produce an ill-founded outcome for his reliance on idealism (of philosophy) if being in reality.
Rather than calling him an idealistic thinker, he suits better to the role of a visionary, having a supernatural intuition that Ralph could go home eventually. Thus the only way to justify for his motivations is that he is deliberately intended to be a Christ figure, admitted by Golding in an interview, in which he also said, “What so many intelligent people…find, is that Simon is incomprehensible. …a person (Simon) like this cannot exist without a good God.
Therefore the illiterate person finds Simon extremely easy to understand…” In “Lord of the Flies”, Simon is designed to be a symbol of religion, because of the parallelism between his fate and Jesus’s which is found by many critics. Unlike Jesus, Simon’s death is not redemption of the world from sin. It indeed coincides with an assertion made before the outbreak of World War II, by a German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche—”God is dead”, literally meaning that the conventional Christian God is no longer a feasible source of any absolute moral principles.