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Ba’alzevuv – “LORD OF THE FLIES” – William Golding

February 12th, 2011 · No Comments · Prose, Quotes, Writing

Another feature of Golding’s work is the superb use of symbolism, a symbolism that “works.” The central symbol itself, the “lord of the flies,” is, like any true symbol, much more than the sum of its parts; but some elements of it may be isolated. The “lord of the flies” is a translation of the Hebrew Ba’alzevuv (Beelzebub in Greek). It has been suggested that it was a mistranslation of a mistransliterated word which gave us this pungent and suggestive name for the Devil, a devil whose name suggests that he is devoted to decay, destruction, demoralization, hysteria and panic and who therefore fits in very well with Golding’s theme.

From the Preface

The Devil is not present in any traditional religious sense; Golding’s Beelzebub is the modern equivalent, the anarchic, amoral, driving force that Freudians call the Id, whose only function seems to be to insure the survival of the host in which it is embedded or embodied, which function it performs with tremendous and single-minded tenacity. Although it is possible to find other names for this force, the modern picture of the personality, whether drawn by theologians or psychoanalysts, inevitably includes this force or psychic structure as the fundamental principle of the Natural Man. The tenets of civilization, the moral and social codes, the Ego, the intelligence itself, form only a veneer over this white-hot power, this uncontrollable force, “the fury and the mire of human veins.” Dostoievsky found salvation in this freedom, although he found damnation in it also. Yeats found in it the only source of creative genius (“Whatever flames upon the night, Man’s own resinous heart has fed.”). Conrad was appalled by this “heart of darkness,” and existentialists find in the denial of this freedom the source of perversion of all human values. Indeed one could, if one were so minded, go through the entire canon of modern literature, philosophy and psychology and find this great basic drive defined as underlying the most fundamental conclusions of modem thought.

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