How can I develop the theme of dealing with crises/challenges in To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies?Our class has been given an assignment to construct a speech based upon two texts. ...

How can I develop the theme of dealing with crises/challenges in To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies?

Our class has been given an assignment to construct a speech based upon two texts.  We must construct a thesis about how people deal with crises/challenges, showing similarities and differences in our responses.


This is my thesis:

When humans are faced with a crisis or challenge, they reveal their innate qualities - qualities both good and evil which coexist within the heart, but in differing levels in each person, and emerging at different boundaries.

However, I'm still stuck with main points. How do we use main themes in our body of main points?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The key difference between what occurs with the Finch children and the children of Lord of the Flies is the fact that the restrictions of civilization are absent on the island where the boys find themselves.  For instance, earlier in the novel, Roger wants to hurl stones at little Henry who plays on the shore, but he only throws the stones outside an imaginary boundary around the little boy:

Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life....Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins. (ch. 4)

Yet, in the later chapters, with the conditioning of civilization absent, it is Roger who hurls the pink granite rock upon Piggy's head, sending the representative of rationality to a brutal death.  And, the other boys such as Jack don the masks of savagery, releasing their inherent evil and become killers.

With only the mature-appearing and rational Piggy, representative of the adult world, who says, "How can you expect to be rescued if you don't put first things first and act proper?" the conditioning of civilization soon wears off the boys, and many of them degenerate to their innate evil nature in Golding's novel. 

However, in To Kill a Mockingbird, the children are constantly reined in by their father, Atticus Finch, as well as other adults who possess civilized wisdom, such as Calpurnia and Miss Maudie.  (There is a passage in which Miss Maudie tells the children that their father is "civilized in his heart."--unlike the "white trash," Bob Ewell).  Scout herself underscores this influence of the adults as she states at the end of the novel that she and Jem have learned all they need to know.

Therefore, it is the influence of civilization that controls how much of one's innate nature is exerted in one's action, the level of one's behavior.  This is Atticus's exhortation to the jury when he says in Chapter 20:

There is one way in this country in which all men are created equal...That institution, gentlemen, is the court.

Perhaps, then, to support your points you can discuss the characters of Piggy, Ralph, and the intuitive Simon (who, like Atticus and Miss Maudie and Mr. Raymond Dolphus is civilized in his heart) and compare them to characters in Harper Lee's novel. The sadistic Roger can be likened to the degenerate Bob Ewell, who is reined in only by laws. 

In other words, use the characters and their actions which reveal their natures to demonstrate your main points.  The thesis suggested by the previous post is a one that certainly will work well with this approach.

sboeman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good thesis topic (and good stories to support it!).  I would recommend, however, if it's not too late, to perhaps restate your thesis into something like "Good and evil coexist in the hearts of every human to some extent, and these innate qualities are revealed when people are faced with a crisis or challenge."  Reword it as you see fit-just a suggestion.

There are a couple different approaches you could take for your body paragraphs.  I would suggest finding some similar situations between the two texts that demonstrate both good and evil traits.  For example, the lead for body paragraph #1 might be something like "When no immediate danger or threats are present, people tend to be civil to each other."  You can then support this with examples from the texts, like how the the Finch kids are nice to the new kid in town and how (most of) the boys on the island initially make an attempt to create some reasonable, safe society.

For the remainder of the body paragraphs, again I would recommend thinking of connections between the novels that show the good and evil in humans.  Try starting paragraphs with sentences like "People also tend to be nice to each other when...", "However, when people feel threatened, they may begin to show more evil traits", "They also may become evil to others if...", etc.

Do your best to include many specific examples from the novels.  Wrap it up with a strong conclusion and you'll have yourself a well-developed essay!

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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