Miasmata and Lord of The Flies

Wednesday 17 July 2019

As an iconic, futuristic novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954) can be considered a major example of symbolism and allegory in literature. Set during an undefined war period, the story follows a group of boys who find themselves stranded on a tropical island after their airplane crashes somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Two of the boys, Piggy and Ralph, form an unlikely friendship despite them having absolutely nothing in common, while Ralph seems to be respected by the majority of the other boys, who establish him as some sort of leader. At first, the boys seem to enjoy their freedom, but soon their primitive survival instincts come forward, resulting in unavoidable tragedy just before salvation arrives. In the meantime, they develop a weird obsession about a monster that lives in the deep forest, which in fact represents their own fears and manias.

James Aubrey as Ralph in Peter Brook's adaptation of Lord of the Flies (1963)

Although the story of Miasmata (2012), the beautiful game by IonFX, is quite different from Lord of the Flies, we can identify several themes that are either prominent or implied in the book. Miasmata takes place in a tropical island, where the protagonist arrives in a boat. The island is a haven where several scientists, now deceased, had been working on a cure that could defeat a deadly plague that had infested the so-called civilized world. The protagonist has to search the whole place and find the ingredients (flowers and plants) that, when mixed together, will produce the cure. While at it, he is being stalked by a strange and vicious creature that chases him relentlessly while he is practically unable to defeat it.

The first theme that is common in both stories is the setting: the tropical island which looks like Paradise on Earth. In relation to this, comes the second theme, that of the representatives of the civilized world who are unexpectedly forced to live in primitive conditions, devoid of all the luxuries and benefits of their past lives.

Here the two stories deviate, as in Lord of the Flies this theme becomes highlighted from the moment that it establishes itself in the plot, while in Miasmata its role is secondary, since the protagonist is alone on the island, therefore his survival is easier and he has no one to compete with about a potential leadership.

The most prominent theme that is common in both the book and the game, is that of the "monster", the unidentified threat, the vague hostile force that is there around somewhere and becomes a recurring element that indirectly pushes the plot forward while every time it marks a notable progression in the characters' plunge to insanity.

The "creature" that stalks the protagonist in Miasmata

In Lord of the Flies, the "monster" is finally revealed to be the disfigured corpse of a pilot who got killed in an attempt to jump on the island with his parachute. In Miasmata, it is a strange creature that looks like a combination of a bull and a cat, which may appear several times during the hero's quest and depictions of which can be seen in one of the cabins of the deceased scientists. As the story of the game reaches its conclusion and the protagonist finds the cure and uses it to heal himself from the plague, the monster disappears, implying that it was a figment of his imagination, as well as a figment of the imagination of all the other scientists who had been on the island before him.

In both stories, the unknown enemy gradually becomes some sort of reverse driving force: its existence, mostly in the minds of the characters and less as a tangible threat, intensifies their darker instincts (in Lord of the Flies) and their agonizing uncertainty about what comes next (in Miasmata). This results in inevitable dramatic consequences as the characters get trapped in their own perception of that threat, which blinds them, preventing them from seeing and facing reality.

In Lord of the Flies, the climax of the drama occurs when the boys, under the influence of Jack, Ralph's rival awe who at some point, in a coup-like move, becomes the leader, kill Piggy, just before a ship arrives that will lead them back to civilization. In Miasmata, the protagonist, after healing himself with the cure, manages to swim to the boat that will lead him to salvation, only to commit suicide just there.

In a most moving twist of fate, we realize that the cure will never reach the civilized world, seeing that several injections containing the healing mixture, including the one of the protagonist, are lying on the bottom of the boat; which implies that all the other scientists before our hero managed to arrive to the boat but never left the island. In a parallel allusion, the boys in Lord of the Flies do go back to their home, but after what they had to go through on the island, they will never be the same again. In Miasmata, the shot, which is literal, heals the protagonist but leads him to realize that some secrets need to be preserved at any cost. In Lord of the Flies, the shot is metaphorical: the ominous atmosphere of the island injects itself in the minds of the boys and shows them what monstrosities they are capable of.

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