Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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Based on chapter one of Lord of the Flies, what do you think some of the novel's themes might be?

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Douglas Horley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Whilst Lord of the Flies contains some of the most dynamic themes in English Literature, they are not so readily accessible from the first chapter. Indeed, a prediction of themes to come from a reading of the first chapter would be more related to a coming of age novel with a similar setting to The Coral Island. We have a group of British boys still in the age of empire who are quite happy to find themselves marooned on a tropical island with all the promise of freedom and adventure that could bring. They have already organized themselves into a leadership hierarchy and are excited by the prospect of island life, "A kind of glamour was spread over them and the scene and they were conscious of the glamour and made happy by it. They turned to each other, laughing excitedly..." (p. 33).

Chapter One therefore suggests some old fashioned coming of age themes such as learning the importance of hierarchy and teamwork, rising to challenges presented to us and maintaining our learned, civilized values in even the remotest of locations. As we later learn, the themes of the novel are actually an inversion of those. The utopian society promised in chapter one eventually becomes a dystopian nightmare. There is in fact a hint of a possible dark shift in themes to come at the end of chapter one. Jack is unable to bring himself to stab a piglet and feels a fleeting sense of shame. He covers for it by vehemently promising that next time there would be no mercy, "He snatched his knife out of the sheath and slammed it into a tree trunk......He looked round fiercely, daring them to contradict" (p.41). Free of the constraints of civilization and in the struggle to adapt to a new environment could we later see the embracing of barbarity and a complete breakdown in social order?     

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