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Piggy’s Head on A Stick: The Beast in “The Lord of The Flies”

September 2012
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Simon is strange. Like Piggy, he does not believe in the beast. When the other boys went up the mountain and saw the beast, both Simon and Piggy were down below taking care of the littluns (Golding104). Neither saw the beast for himself. The other boys come back to the camp, panicked and afraid. Having seen the beast atop the mountain, the boys are too afraid to go to the top of the mountain ato tend to the fire.

Simon is not convinced there is a beast, and so decides to go up the mountain by himself. Piggy stays below, happy that Ralph has gone, and he convinces the other boys to build a fire down below. Piggy is the only one to “have the intellectual daring to suggest moving the fire from the mountain” (Golding, 115). Here we see an important contrast. The more intuitive Simon has the daring to go up the mountain to check on the fire himself. Piggy is intellectually daring, and would challenge the boys to reorganize their society. Yet neither boy “believes” in the beast.

When the the boys realize that Simon has gone, Piggy remarks that Simon is “cracked” (Golding, 118). By this, Piggy means he is strange, even crazy. Yet we must wonder. If Piggy does not believe in the beast, what would be so crazy about Simon climbing up the mountain? Perhaps we can see a “crack” in Piggy’s self-assured intellectualism. Perhaps he believes in the beast after all.

William Golding gave a Nobel Lecture in 1983. During this lecture, he said, “It is at least scientifically respectable to postulate that at the centre of a black hole the laws of nature no longer apply. Since most scientists are just a bit religious and most religious are seldom wholly unscientific we find humanity in a comical position. His scientific intellect believes in the possibility of miracles inside a black hole while his religious intellect believes in the outside it” (“Nobel”).

Piggy represents here the scientific man, and Simon represents the religious man. The black hole is a kind of crack, a space where the laws of science break down. When Ralph asks Piggy if there are ghosts or beasts, Piggy answers that there are not, and explains that there are none because “things wouldn’t make sense. Houses an’ streets, an’–TV–they wouldn’t work” (Golding, 80).

Piggy is sure of his science. There are no gaps. The laws of science are universal, and don’t allow for such silly things as ghosts or beasts. Yet it is significant that when the other boys climb up the mountain to see if the beast is real, they spot the beast through a “gap in [a] rock” (Golding, 109). A crack is a kind of gap, a kind of black hole, where the laws of science and reason break down.

Again, Piggy and Simon agree that there is no beast. But Piggy’s actions begin to show little cracks in his reason, and he calls Simon “cracked” when Simon goes up the mountain to see for himself. Meanwhile, Jack had gone hunting, and had killed a pig. He orders the other boys to leave an offering to the beast, who is beginning to resemble a god. He orders the boys to put the pig’s head on a stick, and to put that stick into the earth. They boys discover that the earth is rock, so Jack orders them, “Jam [the stick] in that crack” (Golding, 122).

Piggy’s logic and science, we might say, is rock hard. The laws of science are universal, and break down only in black holes. Yet Piggy thinks that Simon is “cracked” for going up the mountain, where the beast lives. Of course the beast is not real. And Jack, where he finds a crack in the rock, finds space to erect an offering to his god.

From this angle, we can see a kind of continuum. At one extreme, we have Jack, who in the later chapters moves to “theological speculation” (Golding, 144). Jack is convinced there is a beast, and offers it meat. On the other side of the continuum, we have Piggy, who denies that there is a beast. Between these extremes, we have “cracked” Simon, who at first does not believe in the beast, and then meets with the beast face-to-face.

The crack in Simons head, we might say, is really in powerless Piggy’s head. If we look through this crack, if we look through this gap, we can see the beast on the other side, sitting in his throne, and making his offerings to his god. This beast in his throne is Jack, Piggy’s unconscious other.

But his crack is also in Simon’s head, as perhaps it is in all of our heads. And it is from out of this inner crack that the beast raises its ugly head. Simon is the first to see The Lord of The Flies, and he speaks with him.The voice of The Lord is Simon’s own (Golding, 122). The Lord of The Flies speaks down to Simon, calls him a “silly little boy”; even as Jack as chief speaks down on others; even as the boys tease Piggy (Golding, 127; 133).

The Lord of The Flies is a pig’s head; and Piggy’s name bears a striking resemblance to a pig. Piggy claims not to believe in ghosts and beasts. He is more scientific. Scientists only accept miracles to happen in black holes, where logic and science break down. A scientist would feel embarrassment, even shame, for talking about miracles as happening outside of black holes, where the rules of science reign supreme. The scientific schoolmaster would call a science student who spoke of ghosts and beasts “a silly little boy.” There are no gaps, such a Lord would speculate from his theological throne.

Yet Piggy, for all his science skepticism, calls Simon “cracked.” This name calling shows where the crack might well be: in Piggy’s head. “Pig’s head on a stick” (Golding, 128). The head is Piggy’s. And it is this unconscious belief in ghosts which may help us in part to make sense of his “ass-mar.”
“It’s come!” gasped Piggy. “[The beast] is real!” [ . . . ] Piggy kept still for a moment, then he had his asthma” (Golding, 149).

We can understand all of these characters–Piggy,Jack, and Simon–to represent different aspects of one mind, just as different characters of a dream represent the dreamer. Likewise, we can understand all of the characters of one person’s waking life to represent internal conflicts. Our conflicts with others represent our own internal struggles. The names we call others are like confessions. Piggy calls Simon “cracked.” Reading carefully, we discover the crack in Piggy’s own mind, through which The Lord of The Flies raises his ugly head. The Lord of The Flies turns out to be Piggy’s head on a stick.

Works Cited:

Golding, William. Lord of The Flies. New York: Penguin Books, 1999. Print.

Golding, William. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1983”. Nobel Nobel Prize. 7 Dec.
1983. Web. 27 Sept. 2012


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