Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Start Free Trial

Can you connect Jill Bolte Taylor's TED Talk "My Stroke of Insight" with Lord of the Flies characters?

Expert Answers

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

In her TED Talk entitled "My Stroke of Insight," Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, speaks about her experience having a stroke. She also speaks, while holding an actual brain, about the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain.

She explains, "our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies" (see the link to the transcript of her talk below). The right hemisphere is connected to what is happening at that moment, and it processes the sensory information related to that moment. In many ways, Jack in Lord of the Flies typifies the right side of the brain, as he is concerned with the bodily movements of hunting and with the here-and-now, rather than the future. For example, he does not care whether the boys are rescued or not, and he is not rational or linear in his thinking. He instead concentrates only on the moment and his sensory experiences of the moment.

Jill Bolte Taylor also speaks about the left hemisphere of the brain. She says, "our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past and it's all about the future" (see the link to her video and the transcript of her video below). In many ways, Piggy in Lord of the Flies exemplifies the left brain's emphasis on order and rational thinking, as well as its focus on the future. He wants to get rescued, and he spends his time thinking rather than hunting. He is rational and civilized, and he does not take part in sensory experiences but instead focuses on intellectual experiences.

The speaker in this TED Talk also mentions the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain and helps them communicate with each other. Ralph in Lord of the Flies is like the corpus callosum, as he is the intermediary between the savagery and immediate action of Jack, the hunter, and the careful, rational thinking of Piggy. For example, Piggy is the person who convinces Ralph to use the conch, the symbol of order, to call the boys together. Ralph does not think of using the conch on his own, but when he does so, he engages in a left-brained experience of the world. However, Ralph also delights in stabbing pigs and hunting, so he has moments of engaging in a more sensory, right-brained approach to the world. Therefore, Ralph is like the intermediary between the two halves of the brain, the corpus callosum. You may have other reactions and connections to the TED Talk.

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

Write a reflection on Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk "My stroke of insight" and make connections with the characters in Lord of the Flies.

In this TED talk, Jill Bolte Taylor describes in detail a brain hemorrhage that she suffered in 1996. In the talk, she describes how the brain is divided into two hemispheres—the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere—and she explains the function of each half. The left hemisphere in the brain, she says, is "all about the past and all about the future," and its purpose is to form the sense of self that we know ourselves by. The left hemisphere essentially creates our ego, our fundamental identity, from the collection of moments which make up our past and in anticipation of the moments which might make up our future. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is "all about the present moment," and it processes information in the form of energy filtered through all of our senses.

At the end of the speech, Taylor says that we can choose which hemisphere to "step into" at any given moment. We can choose the consciousness of our left hemisphere where we become "a single individual," separate from everybody else, or we can choose the consciousness of the right hemisphere where we are connected to everyone and everything else through the energy that we all feel and decipher as sensations, where we, thus, can "be at one with all that is."

In Lord of the Flies, Jack and Ralph can be interpreted as representing the two sides of the human brain or, more broadly, the two sides of human nature. Jack represents the left hemisphere, which is all about the self and the projection of the self onto the world. Ralph (and also Piggy) represents the right hemisphere, which is all about realizing that we are connected to everyone else and that, as Taylor might put it, we are all a part of the same energy. Indeed, one of the morals of Lord of the Flies is that we should be less egocentric, less concerned with consolidating and bolstering the self, and more concerned with connecting to the energy that binds all of us together. This latter state of being is what Taylor, in her TED talk, calls nirvana: a Buddhist term meaning a total transcendence of the self and a consequent loss of suffering and desire.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Write a reflection on the TED Talk "Jill Bolt Taylor—My Stroke of Insight." Can you make connections with the characters in Lord of the Flies?

Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk entitled My Stroke of Insight looks at the ways in which our different brain hemispheres function and how they interact. She does this by discussing a stroke that she suffered, and how she was impacted during and after. The left hemisphere controls logic; it is the half of the brain that works well with math and science, as they are methodological and rational. The right hemisphere is focused on creativity and expression, and controls things such as insight and holistic thought.

In some ways, Piggy is similar to the left hemisphere of the brain. He represents the reason and intellect that can be found in civilized society, and he is responsible for the democratic elements that the boys adopt on the island. He is always thinking of ways to improve the society that the boys establish, both from an organizational standpoint and from a scientific standpoint. He also rationalizes everything he does, including his part in the death of Simon. Piggy does his best to have an answer for every problem that presents itself along the way.

Simon, on the other hand, can be characterized in a similar way to the right hemisphere of the brain. He is empathetic towards the younger boys, and unlike everyone else on the island, he is able to look at nature not as a resource but as a source of beauty and wonder. While the other boys try to figure out how to take advantage of the trees on the island, for example, Simon is off discovering flowers and meditating. He connects with the beauty of the island in a way that is not scientific or rational. He also displays quite a bit of insight, as he is able to recognize "the Beast" for what it is, the evil and darkness within the boys.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on