I have to write a paper on Lord of the Flies.  How would I start a paper about theme?I need to know major plot points as well as symbolic meanings.

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jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Focus on a single aspect of the novel. Perhaps a good topic would be the fire. What is it? Why is it so important to Ralph and Piggy especially? What is Jack's original attitude toward the fire? How does that attitude change? What does the fire represent for Ralph and Piggy? How is it later used by Jack and his group?

The fire is one of the central symbols of the novel. Again and again, its importance to the boys is emphasized. It is hope of rescue and salvation, and it gives comfort and warmth. Many see the fire, at least through the eyes of Ralph and Piggy, as belief in a better future or as a symbol of religion.

Here are numerous passages from the book that can help you:


“There’s another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire.”


“You let the fire go out.”

Jack checked, vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him.

“We can light the fire again. You should have been with us, Ralph. We had a smashing time. The twins got knocked over—”

“We hit the pig—”

“—I fell on top—”

“I cut the pig’s throat,” said Jack, proudly, and yet twitched as he said it.


“There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!” He took a step toward Jack, who turned and faced him. “They might have seen us. We might have gone home—” This was too bitter for Piggy, who forgot his timidity in the agony of his loss. He began to cry out, shrilly:

“You and your blood, Jack Merridew! You and your hunting! We might have gone home—”


“If Jack was chief he’d have all hunting and no fire. We’d be here till we died.”


“Can’t they see? Can’t they understand? Without the smoke signal we’ll die here? Look at that!” A wave of heated air trembled above the ashes but without a trace of smoke. “We can’t keep one fire going. And they don’t care. And what’s more—” He looked intensely into Piggy’s streaming face. “What’s more, I don’t sometimes. Supposing I got like the others—not caring. What ’ud become of us?” Piggy took off his glasses, deeply troubled.


Ralph stood back, speaking to himself. “We don’t want another night without fire.” He looked round guiltily at the three boys standing by. This was the first time he had admitted the double function of the fire. Certainly one was to send up a beckoning column of smoke; but the other was to be a hearth now and a comfort until they slept.

Think about it for a while, gather the pieces together, make an outline, and write! Good luck!

Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

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