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Aster's avatar

Question about the ending in Lord of the Flies (details inside)

Asked by Aster (15334 points ) February 12th, 2013

On the last scene of the movie/book, a Marine stands on the beach and, seeing and hearing the children screaming and running though the woods with hand made spears asks, “what are you boys doing?” I’m no literary critic but what do You think would have been a more believable remark? I think it would have been more realistic had he asked, in a loud voice, “what the Hell’s going on here? Are you boys ok? We’re here to rescue you!”

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11 Answers

fremen_warrior's avatar

@Aster good point, in my opinion, though, it really depends on his personality, and given how we only meet him in that scene, it is believeable enough, at least to me it is, that he could ask that – especially since he has really no idea what horrors have been playing out on that island…

Aster's avatar

True; but when they landed they witnessed the children yelling and running with the spears and painted faces. So I would expect a less relaxed comment from him. Of course, we were not privy to what he said next or what the other Marines said. And I’m not sure if we should have known.

glacial's avatar

@Aster We were privy to what was said next in the book. The officer cannot comprehend that the boys are doing anything but playing.

thorninmud's avatar

I kind of like the comment as written. The marine is speaking out of naivete, unaware of the horrible transformation that has unfolded. It seems out of place to the reader precisely because the reader is privy to the darkness that has taken over. The incongruity of the statement makes the reader realize that this guy has no idea of the horror he has just uncovered. It’s a fitting metaphor for our own blindness to—and denial of—our own capacity for brutality.

glacial's avatar

@thorninmud I think it’s more than that, though. Keep in mind this was written in the 1950s, by a Brit. If you read the ending of the novel, it’s as if the officer doesn’t want to see what they’ve been doing. I think he wants to cling to the ideals of British civilization and military order. Meanwhile, the boys are looking at this, and they can now see through this farce because of their own actions.

In the original film (1963), there are no words exchanged at all, just loud, chipper, military style music playing, and the officers are dressed in almost silly, gleaming, white clothing. The contrasts are very stark even without words. But I think the novel played it out best – and of course, you get to hear what Ralph is thinking as well.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m with thorninmud. I think it’s well done. Without oversight, the boys turned totally savage. But with adult supervision, they revert back to boys. It is a recognition of the uncivilized side in us.

Aster's avatar

I would agree with @thorninmud but for the fact that the Marines knew full well how long the children had been missing. It isn’t as if they were gone up the street for six hours. Which makes me suspect the Marines had to have a kind of awareness that this was not ordinary playtime. I do like the metaphor (s) involved in his complacence which could by itself create a nice discussion .

thorninmud's avatar

@glacial Good point. The same blindness and denial, but on a societal level.

glacial's avatar

@Aster No, because the “marines” were not out looking for the children; they just stopped because they saw the fires.

That is probably more believable in the original setting for the story than it would be for the modern military.

Aster's avatar

They did not think the children were missing or dead? If not, that explains a lot. I think.

wundayatta's avatar

Think of the context of WWII. Think about what it was like finding concentration camps in Germany. The Marine might see the boys and can’t imagine what they have been through, so he has no explanation for their behavior.

Immediate post world war II was a much more innocent world than we have now, even with the holocaust. The holocaust was an aberration in those days. Now it is normal. We see it happening over and over. And man’s inhumanity to man is normal. Killings all the time. A marine today might be much more wary. But in those days, I think we can excuse a marine who can’t imagine the horror those kids had been exposed to.

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