Comparative Study on the Theme of Death between Lord of the Flies and Mrs. Dalloway
The gap between Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf and Lord of the Flies (1954) by William Golding is about three decades. The background of the former deals in the first aftershock of devastating World War I whereas; the latter shows the apocalyptic situation of mankind after World War II. Both of the authors in these two novels are very much aware of the common catastrophe that is death. However, they treated the theme in complete different ways. Moreover, a many implicit issues impacted the characteristics of their individual treatment. Virginia Woolf is a quite radical figure in British literature as well as in world literature. She incorporated the instability and deconstructed view of gender in almost all her works and Mrs. Dalloway too (Samuelson, 58). On the other hand, William Golding loves to rip off the facade of ideology as he did in Lord of the Flies with the concepts of heroism and childhood.
Death is suicidal in Mrs. Dalloway and homicidal in Lord of the Flies. The two protagonists of Lord of the Flies Ralph and Jack first united for hunting down a pig. However, it will take a turn ahead in later part of the novel as the suppressed desire of gang rape within that bunch of kids. In Mrs. Dalloway, the character of Septimus Warren Smith was prone to suicide as he was deeply distressed by the shell shock of World War I and the death of his dear friend Evans. The theme of death in these novels has been delineated through the characters such as the deaths (read murder) of Simon and Piggy in Lord of the Flies as well the pig hunting episodes (Hillkirk, 49). Initially, Septimus was the only character in Mrs. Dalloway to embrace death explicitly but at the same time how Clarissa viewed death is very significant to analyze this theme in the novel.
To compare and contrast the treatment of the theme death in Lord of the Flies, first consideration has to be made on the pig hunting episode in relation to as a mean of survival. World Wars normalized the view of genocide and those kids landed on that island having that perception (Hillkirk, 56). They wanted to survive so, they murdered a pig for to consume. Later on, it became an addiction and challenge for them to degrade themselves to the lee of ruthlessness and primitiveness. For practising ultimate power and the mentality of absolute fascist, Simon and Piggy were brutally murdered and both of the murders were collective acts. Political diplomacy was represented through the character of Ralph and Jack, the prime agent of military power wanted to remove him to lead his path to achieve absolute tyranny.
In case of Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa introspects death in terms of her inability to satisfy her deep inner soul. To her, at this point of age, the meaning of life is still a mystery. In fact, she thought of death covertly as the binary opposite of life (Samuelson, 61). Her life is purposeless and hollow as well to live on the rest. In order to find her self-identity, she surfed through the entire timeline of life in terms of her role as a wife, as a mother, as a social being, her past fling with Peter Welsh, her decision of marrying Richard Dalloway and her repressed lesbian love for Sally Seton. All she could feel on that day of party numbness and indifference for life. Death to her is a mean of freeing the soul getting the quintessence of happiness.
To differentiate the suicide from murder, the deaths of Septimus, Simon and Piggy should be evaluated. Simon was the spiritual one among them and only he was able to perceive and anticipate the ultimate truth. Deep in the jungle, his encounter with pig head let him know that there was no beast to fear of rather it was the inky darkness of their soul. When he wanted to inform everybody about it, he was unanimously beaten to death just because he saw a hope of life (Hillkirk, 59). Likewise, Piggy protested against abolishing the freedom of expression and he was smashed to death. For, Septimus, he had become schizophrenic due to the apocalyptic outcome of war. He lost faith in mankind and his only refuge was his hallucination of his friend Evans. He was convinced of the catastrophic end of this mankind at some point of time thus he committed suicide to save his soul.
Both of the authors incorporated their characteristic of opinion, perception and unconscious beliefs into these novels. Apparently, it seemed that war was the principal cause of having the theme of death in these two novels however; inability to search the meaning of one’s identity and soul has been another implicit reason for thinking in this catastrophic way for both of the authors. Woolf was caught in the web of generalized view regarding gender whereas; Golding was deeply dissatisfied with celebrating heroism through wars.
Hillkirk, R. Keith. Death as a Theme in Literature. The English Journal.1982. Print. 48-61.Samuelson, Ralph. The Theme of “Mrs. Dalloway’. Chicago Review. 1958. Print. 57-69.