How is Lord of the Flies considered a realistic or naturalistic novel? Please use specific examples.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The literary movements of realism and naturalism are closely linked, and much of the setting and the plot of Golding's The Lord of the Fliescontains elements of both movements.

For example, realism and naturalism are both characterized by a pessimistic view of life. This negativity is clear in the...

Check Out
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The literary movements of realism and naturalism are closely linked, and much of the setting and the plot of Golding's The Lord of the Flies contains elements of both movements.

For example, realism and naturalism are both characterized by a pessimistic view of life. This negativity is clear in the narrator's depiction of the behavior of some of the boys on the island. Without adult supervision, they cave in to animalistic instincts and brutality, suggesting that humans have the latent potential to do just that once structured civilization ceases to exist.

As well, in neither literary movement will the reader encounter romanticism, and in The Lord of the Flies, the life of the boys is presented in a stripped-down manner. Nature is not glorified, the boys are not idealized, and while there are some mystical elements in the novel, like when Simon has the conversation with the pig's head, they are presented more as evidence of mental breakdown than evidence of the supernatural.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Literary Naturalism refers to a depiction of humans as a kind of animal (as opposed to a species wholly separate from the rest of the natural world). It emphasizes humanity's relationship with the environment and nature as a whole. In literature, the emphasis is on the specific characters' interactions rather than the more general relations of humankind. However, the actions of the characters can be seen as representative of humanity, a microcosm that can be extrapolated to provide insight into man's relationship with nature and our own primal instincts.

Lord of the Flies is naturalistic in that it portrays what the author believes would happen to people when the artificiality of society is stripped away and they are thrust back into the natural world. The struggle to survive and the increasing violence are symptomatic of the natural state. 

This ties into realism, which is the attempt to portray things as faithful to reality as possible. It is debatable as to whether or not Lord of the Flies actually achieves this, depending on your own views on human nature, but it attempts to portray what would realistically happen were a group of children forced to survive in nature without adults. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Naturalistic writers believe that man is often controlled by forces he cannot control. This is very evident in the novel. First, the boys are forced by a world war to board a plane which is supposed to evacuate them from danger. They had no control over the beginnings of the war and they have no control over the plane, which crashes on a tropical island. After that, the naturalistic elements are represented by the "beast" and the boys' inability to control the natural "beast" which is in them. They try to set up a civilized government with Ralph as the chief. But, little by little, the enticements for evil are too difficult to ignore. After they kill a pig and get a taste for blood, their civilized society begins to break down. The "Lord of the Flies" has the answer to their problem. As he tells Simon, " I am in you." That is why the boys cannot control their own behavior. This leads eventually to murder and almost to the total destruction of the island itself. If the British navy had not been close ( another element they cannot control) and seen the smoke from the fire that is about to destroy them, they would not have been rescued in time to save their lives. But, ironically, the naturalistic elements continue because the boys will be forced off the island and returned to a war over which they have never had any control.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team