The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
A plane evacuating a group of schoolboys following an atomic war apparently is shot down, but not before a passenger capsule containing children is ejected. Initially happy to enjoy an adult-free, fruit-filled, sunny environment on a tropical island where they land, all the boys are determined to have fun. They soon see the need for governance and choose the “fair-haired” Ralph as their leader.
Ralph, like the others, at first sees the absence of adults as an opportunity to have fun, but he soon feels burdened with the weight of a leader’s responsibilities. He symbolically holds a conch shell, which assembles the boys and stands as a symbol of authority. Piggy, a weak-sighted, overweight, asthmatic, cowardly boy, is the group’s source of rational thought and knowledge. He supports the ritual of leadership by finding and identifying the conch as a symbol of leadership.
Ralph’s authority is challenged by Jack, the former leader of the choirboys. Jack, with his red hair and wild blue eyes, eventually extends his power as leader of the hunters to force all the boys into his group. Roger distinguishes himself from the beginning as a person who enjoys hurting others. He deliberately discharges the rock that kills Piggy.
Fear disturbs this boyhood paradise. First articulated by one of the smallest boys, who sees ropes turning into beasts in the night, fear spreads to the older boys, who interpret the corpse of a downed aircraft...
(The entire section is 400 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Pacific island. Unnamed tropical island on which the novel is mainly set. The island serves as a metaphor for society in general, providing the setting for the boys’ trials and adventures. Through the use of the only symbol of authority they have, a conch shell, they try to re-create British civilized society. The conch, like a whistle, yields an assembly of older boys and “littluns.” Throughout the novel, the group who identify themselves as choir boys, and are under the leadership of Jack, progressively stray from the civilized behavior of the assembly area and into irresponsible anarchy.
The Scar. Meeting place where the boys, led by Ralph, hold assemblies in imitation of Great Britain’s Parliament. Created by the plane crash, free of tropical vegetation, and level and sandy, it is the site of three crude huts. It is also the site of the docking of the rescue cutter that comes ashore from the cruiser.
Mountain. Site selected by Piggy and Ralph as the most obvious place to build a signal fire for smoke, the means of attracting rescuers. Irresponsibility by the littluns allows the fire to get out of control, taking the life of a littlun. Jack’s hunters cause the keepers of the fire to abandon it for the joy of hunting. The fire goes out; the possible rescue ship passes without seeing the smoke. The mountain is also the place of “the beast”...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Golding and World War II
"When I was young, before the war, I did have some airy-fairy views about man. . . . But I went through the war and that changed me. The war taught me different and a lot of others like me," Golding told Douglas A. Davis in the New Republic. Golding was referring to his experiences as captain of a British rocket-launching craft in the North Atlantic, where he was present at the sinking of the Bismarck, crown ship of the German navy, and participated in the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France. He was also directly affected by the devastation of England by the German air force, which severely damaged the nation's infrastructure and marked the beginning of a serious decline in the British economy. Wartime rationing continued well into the postwar period. Items like meat, bread, sugar, gasoline, and tobacco were all in short supply and considered luxuries. To turn their country around, the government experimented with nationalization of key industries like coal, electric power, and gas companies as well as the transportation industry. Socialized medicine and government-sponsored insurance were also introduced. Such changes, and the difficult conditions that produced them, suggest the climate of the postwar years in which Golding wrote Lord of the Flies.
(The entire section is 569 words.)
The action of Lord of the Flies takes place during World War II on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Golding deliberately borrows the setting from Coral Island (1858) in order to contrast his theme with that of Robert Michael Ballantyne's Utopian novel. In Lord of the Flies, the marooned schoolboys have survived a plane crash caused by warfare; they are innocent victims of adult violence. The island at first seems to offer them sufficient food, water, shelter, and even the possibility of eventual rescue. The boys build a signal fire on the island's highest spot, hoping to attract the attention of any vessels or aircraft that might venture into the vicinity. But as the novel progresses, the island takes on a malevolent quality. An evil force seems to reside within it, threatening the boys' lives.
(The entire section is 139 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. Who are the first two characters to appear in the story?
2. What do Ralph and Piggy find in the small lagoon?
3. How does Ralph summon the others?
4. Who is elected chief?
5. For what purpose does Jack Merridew want his choir used?
6. What assignment does Ralph give Piggy instead of allowing him to join the exploration expedition?
7. Who does Ralph select to accompany him on the expedition?
8. What weapon does Jack possess?
9. What does Simon call the strange bushes they find?
10. Why does the piglet trapped in the creeper vines escape?
1. The first two characters to appear in the story are Ralph and Piggy.
2. Ralph and Piggy find a conch shell.
3. Ralph summons the others by blowing the conch shell.
4. Ralph is elected chief.
5. Jack wants the choir to become hunters.
6. Ralph tells Piggy to get everybody’s name.
7. Ralph selects Jack and Simon.
8. Jack has a large sheath-knife.
9. Simon calls the bushes candle-buds.
10. The piglet escapes because Jack hesitates to kill it.
(The entire section is 165 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Ralph get the idea for using the conch to speak?
2. Why is Jack so enthusiastic about the possibility of creating rules?
3. Which boy pessimistically introduces the reality that they may never be rescued?
4. Who first mentions “the beastie”?
5. Who is the last to join the boys on the mountain to make a fire?
6. How do the boys start the fire?
7. How does the fire become uncontrollable?
8. Who defends Piggy from Jack for not helping with the fire?
9. How does Piggy first notice a boy is missing, even though he doesn’t know his name?
10. What causes the drum-roll sound the boys hear in the fire?
1. Ralph’s idea for order came from his school back home.
2. Jack is excited at the prospect of enforcing the rules.
3. Roger, the “dark boy,” first suggests this pessimistic notion.
4. “The beastie” is first mentioned by the small boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark
5. Piggy is the last to join the fire makers.
6. The boys start the fire with Piggy’s glasses.
7. The fire quickly spreads when sparks from it ignite the surrounding jungle.
8. Simon defends Piggy.
9. Piggy doesn’t see the boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark.
10. The drum-roll...
(The entire section is 211 words.)
Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
1. What sort of weapon is Jack using to hunt pigs?
2. How does Jack know there is a pig in the creepers ahead of him?
3. How are the boys collecting drinking water?
4. Who helps Ralph with the hut building?
5. How many huts have the boys managed to build?
6. What does Jack claim to feel behind him when he hunts?
7. What does Jack suggest will make him a better hunter?
8. Which boy does Jack view as odd?
9. Where does Simon go in the jungle?
10. When do the candle-buds that Simon sees bloom?
1. Jack uses a five-foot sharpened stick.
2. Jack found the pig’s fresh droppings.
3. They collect drinking water in coconut shells.
4. Simon helps Ralph build the huts.
5. Simon and Ralph have built two huts.
6. Jack claims to feel “the beastie” behind him.
7. Jack suggests painting his face for camouflage.
8. Jack thinks Simon is odd.
9. Simon goes to a hidden clearing concealed in the jungle.
10. The candle-buds bloom at night under the stars.
(The entire section is 164 words.)
Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
1. Which three littluns are playing on the beach as the chapter opens?
2. Who destroys the littluns’ sandcastles?
3. What does Roger do to cruelly bother Henry?
4. What substances and colors does Jack use to paint his face?
5. What item does Piggy suggest they build with a stick?
6. What does Ralph spot on the horizon?
7. Why is the signal fire out?
8. What violence does Jack commit toward Piggy?
9. How did the hunters kill the pig?
10. Who gives Piggy meat despite Jack’s objection?
1. Percival, Henry, and Johnny are playing on the beach.
2. Roger and Maurice destroy the sandcastles.
3. Roger throws rocks at Henry and then hides.
4. Jack uses clay and charcoal to paint his face white, red, and black.
5. Piggy suggests they build a sundial.
6. Ralph spots a passing ship.
7. The signal fire is out because the hunters have elected to follow the camouflaged Jack after a pig rather than tend the fire.
8. Jack punches Piggy in the stomach and smacks him in the head, breaking his glasses.
9. Jack cuts the pig’s throat.
10. Simon shares his roasted pig with Piggy.
(The entire section is 182 words.)
Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
1. What time of day does Ralph unwisely choose for this assembly?
2. Which matters does Ralph intend to address and solve?
3. Who first speaks of the beast in the jungle?
4. Who first introduces the notion that the beast comes from the sea?
5. Which of the boys is the first to denounce the power of the conch?
6. Who does Ralph chastise for wandering in the jungle at night?
7. Which of the boys suggests that the beast could be from the sea because all the creatures in the sea haven’t been found yet?
8. Who recognizes the true nature of the beast on the island, but is unable to express it to others?
9. Who challenges Ralph’s leadership by saying, “You can’t hunt, you can’t sing”?
10. Which two boys desperately try to convince Ralph to remain as chief after Jack breaks up the meeting?
1. Ralph chooses the early evening when the shadows and diminishing light are changing everything.
2. Ralph intends to solve problems with the fire, shelters, and lavatory habits.
3. The littlun Phil first speaks of the beast in the jungle.
4. The littlun Percival first speaks of the beast from the sea.
5. Jack first denounces the power of the conch.
6. Ralph chastises Simon.
7. Maurice suggests the beast could be an...
(The entire section is 279 words.)
Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
1. What falls onto the island during the night?
2. Who is tending the fire when the “beast” is discovered?
3. What makes the “beast” move?
4. What does Ralph tell Jack to do at the meeting when Jack tries to talk out of turn?
5. What do the boys discover when they get to the tail end of the island?
6. Who volunteers to go first and see if the beast is ahead?
7. How does Jack view the island abutment they discover?
8. What do the boys do when they enter the small island?
9. What does Ralph urge them to concentrate on instead?
10. Who leads the boys off the island?
1. A dead pilot parachutes onto the island at night.
2. Samneric are tending the fire.
3. The “beast” moves when wind catches in its parachute.
4. Ralph tells Jack to sit down.
5. They discover a smaller coral island attached to the larger one by a stone bridge.
6. Ralph volunteers.
7. Jack sees it as a potential fort.
8. The boys roll a large rock into the ocean.
9. Ralph urges them to concentrate on the signal fire.
10. Jack leads them off the island.
(The entire section is 184 words.)
Chapter 7 Questions and Answers
1. For what does Ralph long when the boys first stop and rest?
2. Of what does Ralph dream when he contemplates the sea?
3. Who correctly interprets Ralph’s reverie as a longing to be rescued?
4. What do Jack and the boys do when the boar charges?
5. What does Ralph do when the boar charges?
6. Who plays the pig in the boys’ mock pig-killing scene?
7. Which of the boys volunteers to return to Piggy alone in the dark?
8. Which three boys continue to the mountain to encounter the beast?
9. Which part of the beast do the boys see?
10. What do the boys do when they see the beast?
1. Ralph longs for a bath, haircut, and manicure.
2. Ralph dreams of a cottage where he used to live and of rescue.
3. Simon knows what Ralph is thinking.
4. Jack and the hunters dive for cover when the boar charges.
5. Ralph stands his ground when the boar charges and hits it in the snout with his spear.
6. Robert plays the pig and is hurt.
7. Simon volunteers to return to Piggy.
8. Ralph, Jack, and Roger continue up the mountain.
9. The boys see what they believe to be the beast’s face.
10. The boys drop their spears and flee down the mountain.
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. Who calls the assembly to discuss the beast?
2. What lie does Jack tell the others at the assembly?
3. What does Jack do before he leaves the assembly?
4. What is Piggy’s radical idea concerning the fire?
5. What feast does Piggy supply for Ralph and the fire builders?
6. How does Roger help in killing the sow?
7. What do the boys do with the pig after they kill it?
8. Who converses with the pig’s head about the nature of the beast?
9. What does Jack’s raiding party steal?
10. What threat does the beast make to Simon at the end of the chapter?
1. Jack calls the assembly.
2. Jack tells them he and Roger faced the beast while Ralph fled.
3. Jack quits the assembly.
4. Piggy suggests building the fire near the huts instead of on the mountain.
5. Piggy supplies a feast of fruit.
6. Roger pins the sow by driving his spear through her anus.
7. The boys cut off the pig’s head and mount it on a stick.
8. Simon imagines speaking with the pig’s head.
9. Jack’s raiding party steals burning sticks to make their own fire.
10. The beast tells Simon that all the boys will kill him.
(The entire section is 199 words.)
Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. In Simon’s secret place, which source of food do the flies prefer?
2. Where does Simon decide to go?
3. What does Simon do to the figure on the mountainside?
4. Who suggests Ralph and Piggy should go to the party?
5. How is it that Ralph and Piggy’s awkward presence at the party is accepted?
6. What does Jack declare about the conch to Ralph?
7. What is the weather like toward the end of the party?
8. What chant do the boys sing as they dance?
9. Who emerges from the jungle with the secret of the beast?
10. What scares the boys and sends them scattering?
1. The flies prefer the pig’s blood to the blood from Simon’s nose.
2. Simon decides to travel to the mountain and look into the face of the beast.
3. Simon frees the parachutist’s lines from the rock.
4. Piggy suggests that he and Ralph join Jack’s party.
5. The boys all laugh at Piggy and that breaks the tension.
6. Jack declares he will no longer obey the conch.
7. The weather becomes threatening: rain, thunder, and lightning.
8. The boys chant, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
9. Simon emerges from the jungle and is killed before he can reveal the secret of the beast.
10. The boys...
(The entire section is 231 words.)
Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
1. Who is left among the boys that remain loyal to Ralph?
2. What rationalization do Ralph and Piggy arrive at concerning their role in Simon’s death?
3. What does Jack plan to do in order to enable his followers to have another feast?
4. Why is Roger so excited at the prospect of the beating of Willard?
5. What sacrifice to the beast does Jack order?
6. Why will it be so difficult for Ralph’s group to keep the fire going?
7. How does Ralph suggest Piggy contact his aunt?
8. Who does Ralph fight during the attack?
9. What does Ralph’s attacker do to him during the fight?
10. What did the attackers steal?
1. Piggy, Samneric, and some littluns remain with Ralph.
2. Ralph and Piggy rationalize that they were on the outside of the circle and did not really help beat Simon to death.
3. Jack plans to steal Piggy’s glasses to start a fire.
4. Roger is excited because he will be able to indulge his own dark desires under Jack’s irresponsible rule.
5. Jack orders his hunters to always sacrifice the head of their kills to the beast.
6. Ralph’s group cannot keep the fire going because they are so few and Piggy will not help with the physical labor.
7. Ralph suggests Piggy should write a letter to his Aunt....
(The entire section is 238 words.)
Chapter 11 Questions and Answers
1. In the beginning of the chapter, what does Piggy tell Ralph to do with the conch?
2. What reason will Piggy give Jack for the return of his glasses?
3. What does Ralph declare their appearance will be when they approach Jack?
4. Who challenges the boys on their approach to Castle Rock?
5. When Jack appears, what has he been doing?
6. What does Ralph call Jack that provokes a fight?
7. What happens to Samneric after the fight?
8. What is Roger doing during Piggy’s plea for a return to decency?
9. Who releases the rock that kills Piggy and destroys the conch?
10. Who takes over the questioning of Samneric from Jack at the chapter’s end?
1. Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch to call for an assembly.
2. Piggy will tell Jack to return them because it is the right thing to do.
3. Ralph declares they will wear “No paint!” when they approach Jack.
4. Roger challenges Ralph’s approaching party.
5. Jack has been hunting. He has a headless pig corpse with him.
6. Ralph calls Jack a thief.
7. Samneric are disarmed and captured by Jack’s tribe.
8. Roger throws rocks at Piggy.
9. Roger releases the rock.
10. Roger takes over the questioning of Samneric from Jack.
(The entire section is 203 words.)
Chapter 12 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Ralph first hide from his pursuers?
2. Who gives Ralph meat from Jack’s feast?
3. Why did Samneric join Jack’s tribe?
4. What has Roger prepared for Ralph?
5. How does Jack’s tribe flush Ralph from hiding?
6. What does Ralph discover when he flees to the beach?
7. How does Jack appear on the beach?
8. What boy cannot remember his name?
9. Who takes responsibility for the events on the island?
10. Why is the naval officer disappointed in the boys?
1. Ralph hides in the bushes near Castle Rock.
2. Sam gives Ralph some meat.
3. Samneric were tortured by Roger until they joined the tribe.
4. Roger has prepared a stick sharpened at both ends for Ralph.
5. Jack’s tribe flushes Ralph by setting the jungle on fire.
6. Ralph discovers a ship has come to rescue them.
7. When Jack appears on the beach, he has put on his choir cap. Piggy’s glasses are on his belt, but he is not described as wearing his makeup.
8. Percival Wemys Madison cannot remember his name.
9. Ralph takes responsibility by admitting to being the leader. Jack considers speaking up, but is silent.
10. The naval officer is disappointed because the boys did not behave like the good little British...
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Point of View
All novels use at least one perspective, or point of view, from which to tell the story. This may consist of a point of view of no single character (the omniscient, or "all-knowing" point of view), a single character, multiple characters in turn, and combinations or variations on these. Golding uses the omniscient point of view, which enables him to stand outside and above the story itself, making no reference to the inner life of any of the individual characters. From this lofty point he comments on the action from the point of view of a removed, but observant, bystander. Golding has commented in interviews that the strongest emotion he personally feels about the story is grief. Nevertheless, as the narrator he makes a conscious decision, like the British captain at the end of the story, to "turn away" from the shaking and sobbing boys and remain detached. The narrator lets the actions, as translated through the artist's techniques of symbolism, structure, and so on, speak for themselves. Even so dramatic and emotional an event as Piggy's death is described almost clinically. "Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across that square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red."
A symbol can be defined as a person, place, or thing that represents something more than its literal meaning. The conch shell, to take an obvious example in the story, stands...
(The entire section is 752 words.)
Golding's primary purpose is to show that an idealistic view of man is unrealistic and incomplete; to see man whole, one must acknowledge his propensity for cruelty. Therefore, Golding creates a fictional island where all physical needs are met and battle for life's essentials is unnecessary. Then he portrays a group of schoolboys as they shed the vestiges of civilized culture. Without the veneer, the boys do not appear innocent primitives but bloodthirsty savages. Their condition affords a microcosmic view of the "civilized" adult world: they are dropped on the island out of a worldwide holocaust and are "rescued" from their savage, uncivilized manhunt by adults carrying on an equally savage, although "civilized" manhunt with modern military discipline and machinery.
Golding makes this connection between the savage, uncivilized boys and the savage, civilized adult rescuers clear by using a reversal ending, one where the perspective changes dramatically and the reader sees characters and events in a different way. Until the last four pages of the novel, the reader sees the boys as they see themselves; at the end the perspective is that of the naval officer who rescues them. The reader has seen sadistic savages hunting down Ralph; the naval officer sees a group of dirty boys caught in the middle of their "fun and games." He, like most people, has no conception of the depravity they and he are capable of. But the reader sees what he misses. This technique...
(The entire section is 348 words.)
Critics often refer to Golding's novels as religious myths or parables, stories written to illustrate a moral point. Lord of the Flies symbolically relates Golding's idea of what happens when human beings refuse to deal with the destructive forces in their own nature. Golding defines the characters just enough to explain their various responses to the threat of the "Lord of the Flies." Within this group are fairly typical representatives of an English school of the time; that they have no personal characteristics beyond the ordinary serves to emphasize Golding's point that the evil infecting the boys could manifest itself in any normal human being. Yet the novel is not merely a moral fable but a gripping adventure story. Golding skillfully leads the reader through the steps of the developing situation, from the ominous fear of the "littlun" who dreams of "The Beast," to the formation of a savage tribe headed by Jack, to the hunt to find and kill Ralph. Although the transformation of the innocent schoolboys is shocking, it develops so gradually that the situation is believable.
Particularly effective is the eerie and threatening manner in which the evil spirit of the "Lord of the Flies" conies to life. By the time Simon meets "The Beast" for himself, the reader is thoroughly convinced that it is real and more horrifying than any of the boys has imagined. The crucial scene in which the killing of a sow unleashes the savage force within the schoolboy...
(The entire section is 335 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
1. Does the absence of adult supervision account for the boys' behavior?
2. Would the group have behaved any differently if girls had been among them?
3. Why does the group choose Ralph as their leader? Is he a good choice? Why do they end up following Jack?
4. Why do the boys seem less eager to build a fire as time passes?
5. Why do the boys pick on Piggy? Has their behavior toward him changed since they arrived on the island?
6. Discuss the circumstances that led Ralph and Jack to battle for power.
7. Jack becomes a tyrant who encourages his followers to express their most evil desires. Why do the highly proper English schoolboys abandon their civilized heritage for uncontrolled rage?
(The entire section is 118 words.)
Compare and Contrast
- 1950s: Economically, Great Britain was devastated by World War II. Homes, factories, railroads, docks, and other facilities had been destroyed by the German air force. Rationing of bread, meat, sugar, and gasoline continued well into the postwar period. Formerly a creditor, or lending nation, Great Britain for the first time in its history became a debtor nation.
Today: Great Britain has regained economic stability, though not the economic power it had enjoyed before World War II. The discovery of oil in the North Sea and membership in the European Union (despite occasional disagreements) have enhanced Great Britain's economic strength.
- 1950s: Politically, Great Britain was ruled in the immediate post-World War II period by the Labor Party, under which basic industries like coal, electric power, gas, and transportation were nationalized, social security was expanded, and universal health care was made available. With the coming of the Cold War Great Britain sided with its World War II ally the United States against Russian expansionism, although a strong strain of antinuclear activism arose, centered around the placement of American nuclear missiles on British bases.
Today: Great Britain remains politically strong, though a...
(The entire section is 286 words.)
Topics for Discussion
1. The schoolchildren in Lord of the Flies are left alone on the island without adult supervision. Does this account for the change in their behavior? Explain.
2. The group of schoolmates is made up entirely of boys. Do you think a group of girls would have acted differently under the same circumstances?
3. At the beginning, Ralph is chosen as the leader of the group. Is he a poor choice for leader from the beginning? Why does the group stop paying attention to him? Why do the boys begin to follow Jack as their new leader?
4. Why do the boys seem less eager to build the fire as time passes?
5. Who is "The Beast" really? Why does the nightmare that haunts the "littlun" become a reality?
6. Sometimes people do things—especially wrong things—when they are part of a group that they would never do alone. Why is this true? Can you remember any examples from your own experience or from your reading?
7. Why do the children pick on Piggy? Is their behavior in school in any way related to the way they act when they are on the island?
8. Today, some young people join gangs. Do they do this for the same reason that the boys join Jack's tribe?
9. If you were an adult in charge of the boys after they were rescued, how would you treat them? Would you punish them? If so, how? If not, why not?
10. Some contemporary young people attribute their drug and alcohol abuse...
(The entire section is 265 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. In Lord of the Flies, a war breaks out between Ralph and Jack. Explain how their different ideas on the proper conduct of life on the island cause them to battle for power. Discuss whether or not this battle could have been avoided.
2. Choose another book about the life of castaways upon an island, such as Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and compare its themes with Golding's in Lord of the Flies.
3. William Golding wrote a novel, The Inheritors, about a group of peaceful prehistoric men and women whose community is invaded by outsiders. Compare this book with Lord of the Flies.
4. Many episodes in Lord of the Flies are frightening. Discuss how the author uses words to create feelings of uneasiness, fear, and terror.
5. The English schoolboys are products of a very strict way of life, perpetuated in Great Britain for generations. Research the nature of life in English private boarding schools during World War II, and describe how the boys' life on the island at first resembles and then comes to differ from the daily routine of life at school.
6. In Lord of the Flies Jack becomes a tyrant who encourages his followers to express their most evil desires. Compare this fictional event with an actual historical episode. Discuss who is most responsible for the evil in situations such as this—the dictator or the people who follow the dictator.
(The entire section is 231 words.)
Topics for Further Study
- Compare and contrast the attitudes of Piggy, Ralph, Jack, and Simon toward the environment, as shown in the novel. Argue whether there is or is not any hope for environmental conservation as illustrated in the story.
- Research the weather, plant and animal life, and ocean life of a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. Imagine you have been abandoned on the island and write a week-long journal detailing how you would survive there.
- Research actual instances of groups of adults or children being abandoned in the wilderness. Compare the outcomes of these cases to the events that occur in Lord of the Flies.
- Read one of the inspirations for Lord of the Flies, R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island. Compare the characters and events of the two books, and argue which book you think portrays a more realistic outcome. Use examples from the text to support your argument.
(The entire section is 148 words.)
Golding's characteristic use of literary precedents is to parody them by turning them on their heads. Lord of the Flies seems at first to be a boys' adventure story in the manner of R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island (1858), or a survival story like Robinson Crusoe (Defoe; 1719) and The Swiss Family Robinson (Wyss; 1812). But instead of successfully civilizing their island environment, the boys become savages. This use of precedents enables Golding to undercut romantic notions of man's innate goodness and reiterate his major theme — the depravity man is capable of but which he refuses to acknowledge.
(The entire section is 96 words.)
Several Golding novels with similar circumstances and themes may be of interest to readers. Golding's second published novel, The Inheritors, tells of an innocent group of prehistoric men and women killed by the ancestors of modern man. Neanderthal man is destroyed by the Homo sapiens, a species noted in the novel for its malevolent cleverness, its casual annihilation of another species, and its cruelty and arrogance. The Inheritors features a theme that Golding would turn to frequently in his later novels: the benevolent aspects of faith and poetry as compared to the evil effects of technological societies.
Other novels also examine the origin of evil in human lives and its unrelenting power to corrupt individuals and society. In Pincher Martin the struggle between life and death is revealed to be a battle for the survival of the soul. The Spire is the tale of a clergyman who pursues a personal vision of success no matter what the cost to himself or others. Golding explores the corruption of an individual by society in his novel The Pyramid. The Reverend Colley, of Golding's critically acclaimed Close Quarters (1984), is a classic example of the seemingly innocent man who is ultimately destroyed by negative qualities that have existed, unrecognized, within himself for some time.
In 1963 Continental produced a film version of Lord of the Flies. Directed by Peter Brook, the film stars James...
(The entire section is 258 words.)
- Lord of the Flies enjoys the unusual status of being one of the few serious contemporary novels to have been made into a movie twice. The first, directed by Peter Brook in 1963 with an all-English cast, has been described as "compelling," but was only moderately successful at the box office. Available from Home Vision Cinema and Fusion Video.
- The remake in 1990 featured an American cast and was directed by Harry Hook. While well-photographed and "visceral," with R-rated content, it is generally regarded as inferior to Brooks's version. Available from Columbia Tristar Home Video, The Video Catalog, and New Line Home Video.
- An 89-minute sound recording on cassette (JRH 109), book, and study guide, produced in 1984 and featuring excerpts from the novel, are available from the Listening Library, Old Greenwich, CT.
(The entire section is 129 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
- Euripides's ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae, (405 BC), whose influence on Lord of the Flies is widely acknowledged, dramatizes the influence of the worship of Dionysus on the city of Thebes. In the play, King Pentheus tries to stop the Bacchantes' Dionysian ceremony and as a result is taken for a wild animal and killed by his mother.
- Just as Lord of the Flies is a post-World War II response to R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island, so Golding's next novel, The Inheritors (1955), is a realistic response to H. G. Wells's optimistic theory of history as propounded in his Outline of History.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945), like Lord of the Flies, is an allegory influenced by its author's war experiences, and one that probes the nature of man and his attempts to form a just society.
- The view of man and society in J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye (1951), in which a psychologically convalescing young man looks back on his experiences, has often been contrasted with the perspective of Golding's novel, and both books have been campus favorites at different times.
- Praised for its style of its prose,...
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For Further Reference
Babb, Howard S. The Novels of William Golding. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1970. A study tracing the themes in Golding's novels, this is a resource for teachers who wish to introduce students to other books by Golding.
Biles, Jack I. Talk: Conversations with William Golding. New York: Harcourt, 1971. An interview with the author suitable for the mature student reader or the teacher preparing to introduce the author's work.
Johnson, Arnold. Of Earth and Darkness: The Novels of William Golding. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1980. A recent study, geared toward the adult reader, which focuses on the moral dimensions of Golding's work.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Quotations from Lord of the Flies were taken from the following translation:
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Capricorn Books, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1954.
Some information contained in the Overview section was taken from E. L. Epstein’s biographical and critical notes that follow the above edition of the novel.
Baker, James R. "The Decline of Lord of the Flies." In South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 69, Autumn, 1970, pp. 446-60.
Davis, Douglas A. "A Conversation with Golding." In New Republic, May 4, 1963, pp. 28-30.
Dick, Bernard F. William Golding, revised edition. Twayne, 1987.
Fahey, James J. Pacific War Diary, 1942-1945. Houghton Mifflin, 1963.
Green, Martin. "Distaste for the Contemporary." In Nation, Vol. 190, May 21, 1960, pp. 451-54.
Kermode, Frank. "The Novels of William Golding." In International Literary Annual, Vol. III, 1961, pp. 11-29. Also appears in shorter form in Baker & Ziegler (1964), pp. 203-6.
Reilly, Patrick. 'Lord of the Flies': Fathers and Sons, Twayne's Masterwork Studies, No. 106, 1992.
Rexroth, Kenneth. Atlantic Monthly, May, 1965.
Riley, Carolyn, ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism: CLC 1. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1973.
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Bibliography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Baker, James, ed. Critical Essays on William Golding. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988. Twelve wide-ranging essays by critics and part of Baker’s interview with Golding. Includes Golding’s Nobel Prize address.
Dick, Bernard F. William Golding. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Contains a chronology of Golding’s literary career.
Friedman, Lawrence S. William Golding. New York: Continuum, 1993. Sets Lord of the Flies in the context of Golding’s entire body of work. The philosophical first chapter is especially useful in focusing on significant themes and concerns.
Gindin, James. William Golding. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. A biography and survey of Golding’s literary career. Includes an enlightening comparison of Lord of the Flies with R. M. Ballantyne’s nineteenth century novel, The Coral Island.
Reilly, Patrick. “Lord of the Flies”: Fathers and Sons. Boston: Twayne, 1992. Defends the novel from charges of unrelieved despair.
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