This investigates whether there are biblical parallels in William Golding’s The Spire and The Lord of the flies and if so how they are achieved and what do they add to the book. I have examined the texts in great depth to detect the sometimes incredibly subtle religious connotations and linked them with religious motifs and sometimes even specific characters and stories from the Bible. Once I had detected these biblical parallels I then set about exploring the additional layers they gave to the book. In The Lord of the Flies the religious parallels were used to provide a stark contrast to the developing evil and in The Spire they help to produce a more complex story.
Lord of the Flies is a story about a group of schoolboys who become stranded on an island. It is an allegory or a fable showing the breakdown of society without authority or a code of conduct and a failure to keep morals. Although it appears to possess extreme clarity of meaning the reality is that the true meaning is hidden from the reader by various techniques, such as biblical references. Golding’s aim in the novel Lord of the Flies is to show the ways in which humans transfer their inner evil into something external. Evil does not exist in the outside world; instead it makes up the core of all human beings.
The biblical references are not a central theme and this book is not explicitly religious. There is no direct mention of the Bible however certain characters and symbols carry religious connotations. Golding uses them to form a more complex story with additional layers. Neither does Lord of the Flies merely retell stories from the bible: the biblical parallels are subtle and are sometimes not clearly recognized. Yet these links at the very least define it as an allusion to the bible.
The title of the book alone Lord of the Flies is the literal translation of ‘Baal-Zebub’, the old Canaanite god of evil. In other words, ‘Lord of the flies’ means the devil, antithesis of God. Thus before even reading the book, a clear link with religion is forged, and suggests a possible interpretation for the book: that religion is the counterbalance to evil throughout.
The Lord of the Flies is also the most important and poignant image in the book. It is the severed head of a pig which was killed by Jack and is described as ‘dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackening between the teeth’, ‘an obscure thing’ covered with a ‘black blob of flies’.  It represents evil in its purest form. This vivid description of its outer ugliness, laced with adjective alliteration of the letter ‘b’ is harsh and guttural and reflects the inner ugliness it possesses, in that it is the symbol of extreme evil. It brings out the inner beast in most of the boys and its situation juxtaposes good and evil and emphasizes the disproportions of the two. Being the strongest image it contrasts with the lack of a moral and righteous equivalent, the closest being Simon’s glade in the forest.
In the first chapter of Lord of The Flies Golding gives clues to his readers that the context of the novel is going to contain biblical parallels, as the life of his characters was deeply Christian before they were stranded on the island. Jack, one of the main boys on the island says: “I ought to be a chief, because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp”. Choirboys are also a typical image of naivety, innocence and youth and sing about religion. However this religious background does not stop Jack and his fellow hunters from later committing severe and serious crimes on the island. Other hints of forthcoming biblical parallels are: “taking their cue from the innocent Johnny, they sat down on the fallen palm tree”. The boys have literally fallen because of their plane crash. This fall from the sky, in other words ‘heaven’, symbolically represents their fall from the state of innocence. The end of innocence in the novel takes place just after the first chapter. The boys feel very comfortable in the jungle hunting down wild piglets: “You cut a pig’s throat to let the blood out.” 
The ‘beast’ personifies dark forces in Lord of the Flies. In the beginning of the book the beast takes shape of a snake: “the snake-thing” which is the very shape that Satan takes when trying to persuade Eve to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. When Eve disobeys God, she breaks his law and is expelled from Eden. The boys also start to break the rules they have made and similarly ruin their own paradise-like island. When the boys promise to have some “fun” with the beast it foreshadows Simon’s murder in the following chapter and echoes their bowing down to evil. Also the attitude of the boys towards the beast: “The eyes that looked so intently at him were without humour.” This shows their fear of evil contrasting with Ralph who was ‘laughing’ at the idea of a beast.
The term ‘beast’ is also used in the Apocalypse for the embodiment of evil. The link with the Apocalypse is even more apparent from the expressions ‘beast from the sea, beast from the earth,’ that are used in Lord of the Flies as chapter names: ‘Beast from Water’, ‘Beast from Air’. The most explicitly cruel episode, where Simon is killed and eaten by the rest of the maddened group is described as having ‘no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.’ Claws are a most potent attribute to evil and their mention shows how the evil has embodied and possessed the boys. In Pincher Martin pure selfishness and destruction is concentrated in his claws, which are the only thing that remains of him even after his death: ‘there was nothing but the centre and the claws. They were huge and strong and inflamed to red. They were outlined like a night sign against the absolute nothingness (…).’ 
The symbol of salvation is a conch on the island. It also stands for power: “Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing”. Whoever is holding the conch is the only boy allowed to speak. It bears the power of a church bell ringing for common prayer, for union. Later in the novel salvation is associated with fire. “Life became a race with the fire. … To keep a clean flag of flame flying on the mountain was the immediate end and no one looked further”. Keeping the fire burning symbolizes the boys humanity. When it is extinguished the evil takes over in the boys. Fire is associated with hope, warmth and friendship but it is also the cause of conflict, destruction and death in the novel. By the end of the second chapter, fire has already taken its first victim – one little boy with the mark on his skin disappears in huge fire recklessly set up by others: “That little ‘un that had a mark on his face–where is–he now?”  Even though we are not told what has happened to him his fate seems ominous. The presence of snakes at this point shows that evil is around as snakes are a symbol of the devil: “Snakes! Snakes! Look at the snakes!”
The island itself seems to be an allusion to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are placed in a Garden that is a perfect haven, complete with the necessities required to survive. However Adam and Eve foolishly take the advice of the serpent and eat the fruit from a tree in order to gain knowledge, even though God dissuaded them from doing so. This is in effect what happens on the island. The island itself is complete with food and water. Survival is possible, yet the inner devil is unleashed in the boys and instead they take on savage and immoral roles. At first it was a haven yet it was corrupted by evil. The ‘Lord of the Flies’ may also allude to the serpent from the Garden of Eden and this allusion seems as equally suited as that of the Devil. At the end of the book the boys inner evil is reverted back to the innocence they possessed at the beginning and this is shown by the return of fire on the island: “the whole island was shuddering with flame.” The British Naval officers who are the boy’s saviour represent the messiah as they have come to save the boys. However the officers are gun-carrying saviours: “held a sub-machine gun”. They dislike the blood and filth of the boys and are embarrassed by Ralph’s open display of tears, even though Ralph’s grief is absolutely human.
A clear connection to the Bible can be found in the character of Simon, whose role is of a religious and spiritual visionary. His name is of biblical origin – two apostles bore this name. Simon’s help to the weaker makes him a saintly, Jesus-like figure. On one occasion Jesus fed five thousand people with only two fish and five loaves of bread. Like Jesus, Simon symbolically feeds the human spirit, not only the human body. Simon’s physical appearance signifies innocence: “He was a small, skinny boy, his chin pointed, and his eyes so bright they had deceived Ralph into thinking him delightfully gay and wicked. The coarse mop of black hair was long and swung down, almost concealing a low, broad forehead. He wore the remains of shorts and his feet were bare like Jack’s”.
Simon asks questions that nobody on the island can answer: ‘what is dirtiest among us? What else can be done?’ His tone here is reminiscent of Christ’s when he asks: “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” Simon persistently wants to prove that there is no other evil but that inside the boys. Like Moses, Simon climbs down the mountain to reveal the truth. Traditionally prophets raise awareness of human sins and foretell the future. Simon fulfils both conventional tasks.
Simon’s death resembles Christ’s – in an act of swift fear and general ignorance Jesus is crucified. In both cases, the masses are not convinced by the supposed prophet/saviour: “Simons effort fell about him in ruins.” Simon’s death is an imitation of Christ’s. The wisdom that Simon wants to share with other boys which is that the Beast lives inside us is disturbing and seemingly leaves no space for a possibility of repentance and salvation. Simon’s character in the story tells us that there is at least one good man ready to follow Christ’s footsteps. This alone is encouraging. When society on the island breaks down Simon remains moral and righteous and he takes it upon himself to seek the truth. When he does discover the true nature of the beast he is killed for it.
Simon is in fact the most courageous and strongest of all the characters. He is the only one of the boys who resists the temptation of evil and is the only one brave enough to confront the beast. The conversation between Simon and the beast certainly echoes that between Jesus and the devil, where he is tempted for 40 days and nights in the desert. In this story in the Bible Jesus is tempted with food and power and the Devil tries test him. Simon does not succumb to this trickery. The immense power and evil of the head is so intense that it causes Simon to faint when he sees the ‘blackness within, the blackness that spread’. He is both physically and spiritually transformed: “The usual brightness was gone from his eyes and he walked with a sort of glum determination like an old man”. This echoes not only the evil within the pig’s head that has spread but also the evil within the boys that they are now consumed by; it has taken over their entities as blackness does. The interpretation of Lord of the Flies cannot be limited to Christian allegory. Simon’s death, contrary to Jesus’, brings no salvation to the boys, but triggers more bloodshed and violence. Simon even fails to tell the boys his findings about the true origin of the beast (the dead parachutist), whereas Jesus spreads his moral teachings until the very last living moment.
The Spire by William Golding is, unlike The Lord of the Flies explicitly religious and religion and God are central themes. It is a provocative tale of good metamorphosing into evil through the means of religion and pride. Golding particularly analyses the disturbing connection between religion, violence and sacral victims .The protagonist Dean Jocelin is one day visited by an angel who tells him to build a spire on a building lacking foundations: ‘The foundations. I know. But God will provide.”  Jocelin believes that God himself asked him to build the spire, as God will help him. Whilst on the surface this book appears to be a book about God, Dean Jocelin is presented as God’s alter ego, his antithesis.
The Spire attracts two types of readers. Christian readers could take more of a moral lesson from this book due to its fable nature whereas secular readers might be able to detach themselves from the educative implications. Christian readers could see this book as a warning to men about the effects of false idols, the existence of evil in society and the exposure of the roots to all men: ‘love, faith and fear’. This is similar to the bible, some read it secularly as just stories and do not take any lessons from it or see it as a code of conduct to live by unlike Christian readers who follow it intently.
Its view of Christianity places it outside its time as well as its supposed setting: The Middle Ages. The text focuses on the conflict between angelic and satanic forces at work throughout the novel and with use of juxtaposition and antithesis Golding presents a conflict between the Christian values preached about in the Bible and those of Dean Jocelin. This emphasizes his corruption and developing evil within him.
Dean Jocelin is a member of the church; and at first he is a typically religious man he even sees the human body in terms of religion: “The model was like a man lying on his back, […] the Lady Chapel where now the services would be held, was his head.” However with his vision comes the development of evil and his faith is lost at the ‘cost’ of the spire. This evil lies dormant within all men. In Dean Jocelin’s case it is exposed with the vision, just like in The Lord of The Flies where the boy’s inner evil is exposed. This vision of an angel mirrors that of Noah in the Old Testament. Noah is instructed by God to build an ark to save two of each animal from the flood that God sent to destroy the world in order to wipe out corruption and start again . Although the nature of the vision is very different to Jocelin’s, the principle is the same. Jocelin is told by an angel to complete a seemingly impossible task just like Noah: building an ark large enough to store two of every single species of animal made people doubt Noah and question his logic and sanity. Building a spire on top of a church with no foundations was seen as equally stupid: “the solid earth argues against us”  and it is seen as ‘a sheer impossibility.” The difference between the two was that unlike Noah who maintained his morals until the end, Jocelin metamorphoses into a hypocrite becoming everything he preaches against. It is clear that Jocelin sees his work as miracle making as he describes the task of building the spire as ‘a miracle’.
Patricia Ráčková believes that the building of the spire symbolizes the making of Dean Jocelin’s own faith and spiritual life. The spire is doomed to fail as it is built on muddy soil without foundations, and Jocelin lacks devotion and humility in his faith that are the roots to any Christian. He confuses his determination with the spire as God’s will rather than his own pride and his feelings of contempt and euphoria for his helpers as charity. “Dean Jocelin does not try to “discern the spirits”, to find the background of the angel from his vision. On the contrary, he clings to his intention, destroying ultimately not only his life, but also the lives of the people he loves most”.
There are four people important to Jocelin in The Spire that he sacrifices to his intention. Three of them die and the last is left with a demolished life. Their sacrifice goes against the religious sensibility in Jocelin that has completely disintegrated. These four people represent the supporting pillars that carry the weight of the spire, and their demise reflects the breakdown of Jocelin and the significance of the spire.
Jocelin’s encounter with the angel in chapter one seems to be the trigger for his transformation: ‘it is my guardian angel’. From the very beginning the angel has a great effect on Jocelin. He believes it is a messenger directly from God: ‘I do Thy work; and Thou hast sent Thy messenger to comfort Me.’ The capitalization of ‘thy’ and ‘thou’ emphasizes how much Jocelin idolizes God. Jocelin is delusional enough to believe that he is carrying out God’s work and does not see the destruction he creates. He places himself on the same pedestal as Jesus, he sees himself as a prophet like figure carrying out God’s work for the greater good. This is emphasized by: ‘As it was of old, in the desert,’ directly referencing the Bible where Jesus is sent an angel in the desert when he is tempted by the devil. Jocelin clearly sees himself to be as significant as Jesus, due to this angel that appears to him however his angel does not offer him sanctuary. It is angel by name yet devil by nature. The angel tempts the Dean into corruption and evil and it clearly juxtaposes angels from the bible. This encounter with the angel is the trigger for the growth of Jocelin’s pride.
The language throughout the novel reflects that in the Bible and its formal, old-fashioned nature is in itself a biblical parallel: “they uttered water as if this were yet another penalty of damnation”. At first it tricks the reader into believing that the book is not a critical analysis of members of the church, however as the change in Jocelin’s character becomes more and more apparent the language seems overpowering, hyperbolic and almost ironic in places.
Jocelin’s state of mind having given in to evil is defined by: ‘then the thought leapt into is mind like a live thing. It was put there as surely as the thrust of a spear. […] The tiles of the floor were before him once more, each with two heraldic beasts, their clawed feet raised to strike, their snakey necks entwined.’ This quotation shows how Jocelin has completely entered the realm of evil. The allusion to the beasts on the tiles brings the reader to the dark domain that now dominates Jocelin’s mind. The inclusions of three expressions that are frequently in Golding’s works emphasize the embodiment of evil in Jocelin. They are specifically connoted with devil-like forces: beast, claws (in ‘clawed feet’) and snake (in ‘snakey necks’), and have biblical connotations: the association of snake with the devil in Genesis 3 is well known and claws as with Lord of the Flies are a potent symbol of evil.
In conclusion Golding hardly believes in God. After his traumatic experiences in World War II, he has tried “to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature” in both novels. There is little more innocent than a group of young boys singing in a church choir however the boy’s innocence is presented as deceptive. In a letter to a friend sent privately Golding says: “One of our faults is to believe that evil is somewhere else”. He believed that people mistake the origin of evil for being external yet with the boys the beast was inside even though they attached it to their surroundings with Satan-like characteristics. Jack’s behaviour in the book is not the cause of evil, merely a symptom of the greed, selfishness, and power to rule that lies within everyone.
It can be concluded in The Spire that Jocelin is not the devil in human form even though he is the antithesis to God. He is simply a fool sucked into the domain of a false God. Desperately seeking a path to heaven as all Christians ultimately want to achieve he chose to complete a task given to him by an angel who represents evil rather than good. His spire meant to connect heaven and earth takes Dean Jocelin further away from God than ever, his actions evil and dark in nature take him closer to hell and the devil and his vision from his guardian angel ironically alludes more to the devil and a temptation, which Jocelin succumbs to. The drive for power and the immense pride clouded his judgment and persuaded him to complete this difficult task leading to the stripping of his righteous outer layer until only the evil core remained.
Golding turned to the Bible when he carried out his profound literary analysis of the source of evil in human nature, and employed biblical parallels to function as a subtle motif in both novels. This added thematic resonance to the main ideas. The conclusion that we can draw is that themes as well as ideas in the novel are conspicuously biblical, but such parallelism is not decidedly carried out in all chapters. It serves to underline the central issues and may be the key to interpretation. There is no religious criticism in either novel and the biblical parallels in The Lord of The Flies provide a stark contrast to the evil that has been drawn out of the boys. Both books show the effects of worshipping false idols, the sow’s head (lord of the flies) in The Lord of the Flies and the spire in The Spire.
 Mark Kinkead-Weekes and Ian Gregor, A Critical Study, London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1967, p.15
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