What is the common theme in Romeo and Juliet, Lord of the Flies, and Of Mice and Men?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The common theme of these three very different works is that fate puts us in difficult situations, but then we have to make moral decisions.  All three of these stories involve seemingly impossible, no-win situations. 

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo falls in love with a girl from a family who is in a death feud with his family.  Romeo’s two choices are to pursue the girl against his family’s wishes or to stop pursuing her.  If he chooses the former, he will likely break ties with his family and never see them again.  If he chooses the latter, he misses out on the love of his life.  Romeo doesn’t care. He wants to marry.  Juliet, of course, has the same decision to make.


My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy. (Act 1, Scene 5)

The two decide to marry in secret, and in this case the impossible choice has disastrous consequences.  Juliet’s cousin Tybalt fights Romeo, and then Romeo is banished for killing him.  Romeo and Juliet end up committing suicide.

In Lord of the Flies, the impossible choice falls upon Ralph.  The story is about a group of boys who land on an island.  There are no adults, and the boys try to make their own society.  They elect Ralph as their leader, but he doesn’t get much done.  A schism develops, and most of the boys end up following a savage boy named Jack.

Ralph doesn’t agree with Jack’s leadership style. He is violent, impulsive, and savage.  However, if Ralph doesn’t join or follow Jack, the boys will remain split.  Ralph doesn’t know what to do, and this leads to the death of the first boy who is killed by the others, Simon.

“It was an accident,” said Piggy suddenly, “that’s what it was. An accident.”

His voice shrilled again. “Coming in the dark—he hadn’t no business crawling like that out of the dark. He was batty. He asked for it.” He gesticulated widely again. “It was an accident.” (Ch. 10) 

Eventually things get worse, and Piggy is killed too.  Things break down to the point where Ralph has nothing left.  He is rescued then, but has been traumatized.

The impossible choice in Of Mice and Men is George's choice to kill Lennie.  It results from Lennie's repeated efforts to touch soft things, which get them run out of Weed and eventually cause the much more serious death of Curley's wife.  

George did not know what else to do.  If he turned Lennie in, Lennie would not know what was happening. He never meant to hurt anyone.  He wouldn't understand why he was being punished if he were sent to jail.  George decided instead to put him out of his misery before he really knew what hit him.