The Very Unhappy Ending of Lord of the Flies

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Literature

Document 1

The first and most obvious reason the rescue feels out of place is that it represents a classic Greek deus ex machina (God of the Machine). The second and more ominous reason the recovery feels out of place is the lingering question of who will rescue the captain and his cruiser, which Golding poses at the very end. Is Golding's Lord of the Flies ending as happy as it seems on the surface? Or is there some more profound, more sinister ending that hides behind the brittle facade of a rescue? Golding's setting for the Lord of the Flies is a remote, deserted island, untouched by human hands up until the kids show up. Within hours, the children, formerly highly civilized British schoolboys, descend into a shared hysteria and lose their civilizing influence.

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Golding's philosophy here is in keeping with the view of humanity in The Leviathan (Hobbes, 1651). The Lord of the Flies ending scene focuses on this cruiser as the civilizing factor and the rule of law that stops Jack from finally killing Ralph. According to Cain, Deus ex machina is unsatisfying because it destroys the book’s character development and tension. It also breaks the internal structure of the story (Cain, 2010). A deus ex machina ending is unhappy because it makes the reader feel cheated. All the emotional investment they put into the novel and whether Ralph survives or dies, it's all in vain. Because Golding left the interpretation to the reader, we can see this question posed another way. Suppose that law and order broke down after only a few hours stranded on a deserted island.

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Are we to accept that the civilizing factor of the cruiser and the adults on it would be enough to drag Ralph and his cohorts back into the light of civilization? If that doesn't happen, where does that leave the crew? The cruiser is a gunboat, perfectly capable of engaging other ships on the ocean, but if there was a threat from within, could the crew successfully deal with it? Would the savagery of these children be too much for the adults of the crew to deal with? If so, who is to save them, floating in the middle of the ocean and embattled on all sides? In this case, the picture it paints of the ending is grim and scary.

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