Language - Imagery in Lord of the Flies

Imagery is the general term covering the use of literary devices which encourage the reader to form a mental picture in their mind about the way something or someone looks, sounds, behaves, etc. The language used often relates to one or more of our five senses.

The most common literary devices which come under this heading are simile, metaphor and personification.

Piggy and Ralph, from the 1963 film adapatation of Lord of the Flies
Piggy and Ralph are among the boys who Golding frequently compares to various animals

Where and how does Golding use natural imagery in Lord of the Flies?

Images of nature, particularly animals, appear throughout the novel, forming a deliberate pattern. Many of the boys are described using animal-like behaviour or appearance especially as they become more savage. Golding generally uses similes for these comparisons as he wants to compare a specific aspect of the character to the animal in question.

ImageAnalysis
Ralph'Ralph launched himself like a cat.'This emphasises Ralph’s agility in escaping from the others who are hunting him.
Jack'Authority sat on his shoulder and chattered in his ear like an ape.'This shows that Jack has descended into a primitive state. He is powerful but he has no human sense of right or wrong – he simply wants power.
Piggy'Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed.'Unsurprisingly Piggy is compared to one of the wild pigs already on the island. Just as they have been killed, Piggy has now been murdered.
Sam and Eric'The two boys...flung themselves down and lay grinning and panting at Ralph like dogs.'The twins are compared to a pair of overgrown puppies looking eagerly at their master. They will be loyal to Ralph throughout the novel.
The littluns“Then you don’t know how many of us there ought to be?” “How could I with them little ’uns running round like insects?” Piggy tries to count the younger boys but they are constantly moving around like annoying insects. This foreshadows the later scene with the flies buzzing around the pig’s head.

Natural images are also used in descriptions of the island and its environment. Golding frequently uses personification in this aspect of his writing.

ImageAnalysis
The sea'Now he saw the landsman’s view of the swell and it seemed like the breathing of some stupendous creature.'Ralph looks out to sea and thinks of it as an unspecified animal (perhaps the Beast).
The heat'He knelt down and the arrow of the sun fell on him.'Although the sun can be warm and comforting these images emphasise the intense heat acting like a weapon on the boys.
The wind'The wind came again, stronger now, cuffing the forest heads till they ducked and roared.' Like the heat, the wind also attacks and hurts. The forest responds like a wounded animal.
The forest'The whole thicket bent and the roots screamed as they came out of the earth together .'The descriptions of the forest make it seem as though it is a living breathing thing with feelings and emotions of its own. This makes the forest seem alive and sinister.
The fire'The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged an outcrop of the pink rock.'The forest fire accidentally started by the boys turns into a much larger and more ferocious beast (a jaguar) creeping up on them and ready to kill.

Why does Golding use natural imagery in this way?

In a book set on a tropical island, it is highly appropriate that Golding makes use of natural imagery. He wants the reader to understand that the natural environment the boys find themselves is actually quite unnatural to them and the use of animal images and personification emphasises this and becomes more intense as the novel reaches its conclusion.