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Summary & Commentary on E.C. Bufkin's Criticism, "Lord of the Flies: An Analysis"
E.C. Bufkin's "Lord of the Flies: An Analysis" is a criticism on William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies. In this criticism, Bufkin examines the key use of irony and the fall of man that have been intertwined throughout the novel. He also exposes previously unearthed comparisons to other acclaimed novels that share common themes.
Bufkin first examines the evident use of evil in Lord of the Flies. Not only does he mention the obvious transformation in the boys, - from their civility to the vicious and immoral longings they come to possess - but he also uncovers a deeper evil, as he puts it, "…a quest for order amidst the disorder that evil causes." (Bufkin, par. 1)
Perhaps, the most frequently explored topic in this criticism is Bufkin's discussion concerning the use of irony in Lord of the Flies. This point is brought up throughout the work to describe characters, settings, themes, motifs, comparisons of other novels, and the ironical use of mythology in the novel. The third facet Bufkin comes to address is the correspondence of Lord of the Flies to the Christian idea of the Fall of Man. (Bufkin, par. 2-5)
Bufkin then speaks concerning the association of two novels that he believes share common themes and ideas. He, like many critics, linked William Golding's Lord of the Flies to R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island. The second novel Bufkin links to Lord of the Flies, is John Milton's Paradise Lost. First comparing the setting, Bufkin gives insight to the common occurrence of references to Adam and Eve and the fall of man. (Bufkin, par. 7)
Next, Bufkin goes on to examine two passages from Lord of the Flies. He compares the first to the fall of man and the second to the fall of angels. Therefore, comparing the island to hell, upon where the angels in Paradise Lost fell. (Bufkin, par. 9-10)
Finally, Bufkin explains the omniscient point of view and the bipartite that is Lord of the Flies. He explains that chapters I-IX show the innocence of the boys before chapters X-XII, where they are placed in identical situations to the first part but differentiate in their actions drastically. (Bufkin, par. 13-15)
My overall attitude towards E.C. Bufkin's criticism of Lord of the Flies is that it was well-written and well-thought. I found many valid points in his arguments, and many points I felt he should have elaborated.
Bufkin mentions that the boys change from good to evil was a "transformation". However, I felt it was more of a revelation. I feel this way because the boys always possessed evilness, however, it was masked into a sort of exterior decency that was unrecognizable under civilized conditions.
The fact that Golding was heavily influenced by Ballantyne's Coral Island is definitely noticeable. According to Bufkin, "Although neither appreciation nor understanding of Lord of the Flies is dependent upon familiarity with The Coral Island, the reader acquainted with Ballantyne's work can better see what Golding has done in his own novel. The person who knows both stories is aware of the contrast between them, and knows that the contrast is, in effect and purpose, ironical." (Bufkin, par. 5) Bufkin may think the fact that the characters in Lord of the Flies take on the same names as those in The Coral Island implies irony, however, I feel that it is more of an act of plagiarism.
Another passage that stands out to me is when Bufkin states, "…the killing of the sow, to which the boys are 'wedded in lust,' may itself, since the passage is presented in terms of sexual intercourse, function as a symbolic, parodic reenactment of the Original Sin…". (Bufkin, par. 7) If you have read Lord of the Flies, you know that that part of the novel, without question, suggests rape. Bufkin believes that it is an implication towards Original Sin; however, I feel that it just further hints at the sexual incidents that take place during the story.
Bufkin describes the movement of the plot as "vertical, not horizontal". A few of the examples he gives to explain this idea are, ''The boy with the fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock…'; the boys are 'dropped' from the sky; the parachutist is a sign come 'down from the world of grown-ups;' and later his corpse 'swayed down through a vastness of wet air…falling still falling it sank towards the beach…'; and Simon, after his hallucinatory conversation with the Lord of the Flies, 'fell down and lost consciousness' and, when killed, he 'fell over the steep edge of the rock' and the orgiastically excited boys surged after him and 'poured down the rock,' whereupon 'the clouds opened and let down the rain like a waterfall…" (Bufkin, par. 15) These may be clues towards the fall of human civility that takes place in the book, or maybe they're just, as Bufkin puts it, ironic.