The first time we see Simon, he’s fainting. Physical weakness becomes a hallmark of his character, from passing out to throwing up to hallucinations and bloody noses. So it’s easy to think right off the bat that this kid is kind of weak. Simon is a timid but compassionate guy. A “skinny, vivid boy,” Simon’s got this innate goodness that comes out in his actions. He helps the littluns pick fruit to eat, he recovers Piggy’s glasses when they fly off his face (post-Jack’s punch), and he gives Piggy his own share of meat. As important as what he does do is what he doesn’t do, namely turn into a primitive savage and go about killing things.
But Simon is actually wise, mature, and insightful to the point of being prophetic. Simon wins the Most Amazing Comments Ever award in Lord of the Flies, despite competing with such brilliance as “We need an assembly to put things straight” and “What are we, humans or animals?” Simon’s prize-winning contender: “Maybe there is a beast […], maybe it’s only us.”
And that’s not all in the wise comments department, either. You can’t talk about Simon without talking about that huge, show-stopping scene in Chapter Eight when he “talks” with “the Lord of the Flies.” If you choose to see the Lord of the Flies as purely a product of Simon’s imaginations, then all of the pig’s head’s comments can be attributed to Simon’s insightful brilliance. We’re talking about lines like “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt or kill!” and “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close.” We’ll go into more detail in the "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section, but for now be satisfied with the fact that Simon is the only boy to truly grasp that “the beast” is just all the negative, horrible aspects of mankind. The pig’s head’s next line, “I’m the reason why it’s no go […], why things are the way they are” is a direct answer to the question Piggy posed several pages earlier: “What makes things break up the way they do?” So there you have it: Simon answers the questions of the other boys – it’s just that no one will listen.
Of course, the other way to view the Simon/Lord of the Flies scene is to say that the talking pig’s head isn’t a mere hallucination – it’s the actual Lord of the Flies, Beelzebub, the Devil, evil incarnate, talking to Simon via a severed noggin. If this is true, Simon loses points for not coming up with the intelligent insights on his own. On the other hand, he gains quite a few points back for being like Jesus.
What? Yes, indeed, Simon might be considered to be a lot like Jesus. To start with, his name is Simon, which happens to be the name of one of the twelve apostles. Simon started out as Simon until Jesus decided really his name should be “Peter” instead. Now, as you’ll see elsewhere in this module, Lord of the Flies is sort of a response to another book, The Coral Island. Golding went so far as to use the same names for his characters, taking Ralph, Jack, and Peterkin. Except “Peterkin” ended up as “Simon.”
And then there’s Simon’s affinity for meditation, his kindred spirit-ness with animals, his “suffer the little children unto me” attitude (think about the fruit-picking), and his ability to prophesize (like when he tells Ralph that Ralph will get home, and sort of suggests that he himself won’t). Simon is one big religious guy. Having established that, we can go back to our pig’s-head-on-a stick scene and compare it to Jesus’s visit to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. Now, when we say visit, what we really mean is long and solitary mental suffering, much like Simon undergoes the night before he meets his own untimely death. Simon is “thirsty,” and later “very thirsty,” and although the text doesn’t say it, we can only assume that at one point later he is very, very thirsty. He’s also sweating, having a seizure, and bleeding profusely from his nose. So, if Simon’s “night before” matches up with Jesus’s “night before,” then it’s only natural for us to compare their deaths as well. Does Simon die for the sins of the boys? Are they somehow saved by his death? We think the most potent conclusion is that Simon was the boys’ savior: he alone had the knowledge of the beast’s true nature, and he alone had the potential to save the boys from themselves and their fear. And then they killed him.
The most interesting part of this gruesome, tragic death is that the boys think Simon is the beast when they kill him. How ironic is it that Simon said the beast was “only us,” and is then later pegged as in fact being the beast himself? The kicker is that, of all the boys, Simon is the least beast-like. The question is whether being non-beasty makes him more or less human.