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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Start Free Trial

Why is the setting of Lord Of The Flies important to the plot?

Quick answer:

The setting is so important to the story in Lord of the Flies because the empty island allows the boys to descend into chaos and lets the author comment on the fragility of Western life.

Expert Answers

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

In addition, the setting is important because it takes the boys outside of the very society of which the novel critiques.  Only by extricating them from the flawed society and placing them in a paradise like the biblical Eden can the author assert that such flaws as violence and intolerance are...

See
This Answer Now

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

Get 48 Hours Free Access

innate, not societally born; however, this does not explain the evidence that they can be and often are societally influenced.   You see, the boys in the novel had still been raised for several years in that society and by different parents with certain positive attributes and also imperfections.  In order to truly prove the innate quality of violence in them, they would have to be untouched by society from birth, which is implausible.  Regardless of the outcome, the author indeed directs his audience's thought toward the nature of man, which is one of the major themes of the novel. 

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

The setting of "Lord Of The Flies" is important to the plot for several reasons. First, because the island is isolated, it forces the boys to create /re-create civilization on their own. Second, because it is so lush, it is like Eden; this is less a plot issue than a symbolic one, but it is important. Third, the practical side of the lushness is that the boys aren't killed immediately (say, by harsh winters). Nor do they have to hunt to survive. They can survive on fruit, at least for a while, and they have spare time and energy to get restless—and they choose to hunt. Finally, and this is more a blend of symbolism and history, there is an expectation of the island as an earthly paradise/vacation site. That's what the rescuing officer means with the reference to Coral Island on the final page.

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

Why is the setting so important in Lord of the Flies?

The setting is so important to Lord of the Flies because it provides the stage for the action and symbolism throughout the novel. By placing the boys on an empty island, William Golding takes away the influence of adults. The lack of grownups seems to represent the absence of a mature, developed perspective. Such a setting produces a vacuum in which violence and barbarity eventually dominate. Piggy and Ralph try to reason with Jack and his unruly faction, but their attempts to create a cooperative, democratic process falter. Minus an authoritative figure, Piggy and Ralph’s rationality stand no chance in the face of Jack’s ruthlessness. To halt the turmoil, someone of stature has to impose themselves on the setting, which might be why the naval officer arrives on the island at the end.

The setting can also be considered important because of how it highlights the vulnerabilities of Western civilization. Separating the boys from their English heritage and their supposedly enlightened values permits Golding to comment on how very few people are fundamentally immune to savage behavior. Placed in the right environment at the proper moment, any person could act in a bestial manner. The setting shows that a peaceful, high-minded mode of life should not be taken for granted.

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

How does the setting affect a character's attitudes, actions, and motivations in Lord of the Flies?

A minor character, Roger demonstrates well the affect of leaving civilization has upon attitudes, motivations, and actions.  In Chapter One of Lord of the Flies, Roger appears as a

slight, furtive boy whom no one knew, who kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy.  He muttered that his name was Roger and was silent again.

Then, in Chapter Two, Roger again appears as he takes the conch and "looked around...gloomily."  He tells the boys,

"I've been watching the sea.  There hasn't been the trace of a ship.  Perhaps we'll never be rescued."

Here Roger emerges as a sinister force.  Perhaps he is prophetic; perhaps he does not desire to be rescued.  For, in Chapter Four Roger's predatory nature is revealed as he stoops to pick up a stone, "that token of preposterous time," and bounce it a few yards to little Henry who sits at the beach's edge watching the small crabs that run in and out with the tide. Yet, as Roger gathers the stones and throws them,

there was a space round Henry...into which he dare not throw.  Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life.

In this passage, Golding writes that Roger's arm "was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins."  Once Roger realizes that the trappings of civilization have deteriorated, and once Jack's leadership becomes stronger and the boys paint their faces--which "Roger understood, nodd[ing] gravely"--and hunt and kill, Roger is in his element.  Now, on the island he can give full vent to his sadistic nature.  For instance, after Jack and his tribe become stronger, Roger uses force and cruelty on the boys to make them comply with orders.  Then, in Chapter Seven as the boys engage in the ritual in which Robert pretends to be the pig, Robert begins screaming; "behind him was [the sadistic] Roger, fighting to get close."  And, as Ralph and Jack climb up the mountain also in Chapter Seven, Roger appears, "uncommunicative."  While Ralph sits on a log, Roger bangs "his silly stick" against it.  Later, he lays behind Ralph as though waiting for some opportunity--now the veritable savage.

Finally, Roger is able to totally release his sadistic nature as, in Chapter Eleven, he leans all his weight on the lever beneath a pink granite boulder, and "with a sense of delirious abandonment," he releases the rock onto Piggy's head.  Completely savage, Roger throws spears and sharpens one on both ends for hunting Ralph.  He intimidates the others; for example,Samneric lie on the ground,

looking up in quiet terror. Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority.

Released from the constraints of society that has conditioned him, on the island the sadistic Roger can act upon his savage urges and delight in his brutality without reprisal.

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

How does the setting of Lord of the Flies affect the story?

Since the setting is a deserted island, the predominate need is survival. So the questions the characters have to face are these: What does it take to survive? Are food and shelter sufficient? Or is there something more? 

A deserted island is a blank slate.  The conflict involves what the definition of survival is.  Ralph's premise is that law and order, a moral system, is necessary for true survival.  That is what he wants to write on this "blank slate."  For others, survival means power--over nature, over others, but not at all over oneself.

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

How does the setting of Lord of the Flies affect the story?

This question has been previously asked and answered. Please see the links below and thank you for using eNotes!

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

To what extent did the setting of place and time affect the main characters of Lord of the Flies?

The reader must also consider the "baggage" that the boys bring to the island. Ralph is the son of an officer in the Royal Navy, and it is a general assumption that children raised in such circumstances are more mature. Ralph definitely thinks that he is more responsible. Piggy has been taught that his intelligence is most important because he is clearly not athletic. He is coddled by his "Auntie" who is raising him because of some unknown circumstances with Piggy's parents. Jack has already been given a leadership role in the choir, and there is a possibility that this clique has given in to Jack's domineering tendencies already.

They are also students, and British school culture factors heavily into their actions on the island. The "outcasts" Piggy and Simon are pushed around, the "leaders" Ralph and Jack are given respect freely, and the young'uns are protected. They are conditioned to be reserved and serious, which is made even clearer by the interaction between the boys and the Captain at the novel's end.

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

To what extent did the setting of place and time affect the main characters of Lord of the Flies?

When we first meet Jack, he is already a totalitarian leader. He demands his choir stay in formation until Simon passes out. Later in the novel, he rules through fear. He uses Roger as his enforcer, but Jack makes the rules and demands they be followed. Because of this one could argue that Jack has not really changed at all because of the setting. Jack was peeved when Simon fainted at the beginning of their time on the island and only allowed the choir to sit down because he realized he would face mutiny if he did not. This giving in to what they wanted helped secure his position as leader, he recognized by giving in the choir was thankful to him. He did not make this move out of a humanitarian effort. Therefore it could be argued that he never showed humanity. If you hold this belief, you could reasonably argue that Jack did not change at all because of the setting.

On the other hand, one could also argue that Jack did have humanity. One could argue he was not a totalitarian leader at the beginning of the novel, before being stranded on the island, but rather a little boy who was scared and trying to keep some semblance of normalicy in a very abnormal situation. Keeping the choir in line was his way of trying to control a world that was spinning out of control (with both the war outside the island, and the fear of being through a plane crash and left without adult supervision). He showed humanity by letting the choir sit down when they arrived with the other boys despite his opposite treatment of Simon, which was obviously a common treatment thus also a semblance of normalicy. He also showed humanity by his inability to kill the first pig.  If you take this second stance, then the setting had a great impact on Jack. Being forced to live without the routine that he clung so desperately to (as with the pig dance) caused Jack to degenerate. At first, this was a slow change, but once it happened, it quickened because of the effect of the setting.

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

In Lord of the Flies, how does the setting function significantly in building the meaning of the work as a whole?

As an allegory, Lord of the Flies examines the question raised by such thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke about the essential nature of man.  Both Rousseau and Locke held with the "state of nature"; in this state, Locke believed that reason teaches men that "no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, and or property."  Rousseau held that man is naturally good, and it is society which corrupts.

William Golding puts these theories of Rousseau and Locke to the test with the Eden-like island where there are no humans present.  On this island, the boys, who have not yet been corrupted by governments and society, live without man-made restraints; furthermore, with no monetary system or social system, they should live harmoniously as no one has more possessions than another. 

With the progression of the narrative, however, it becomes apparent that there is something intrinsic in man that is evil. This "beastie"causes the arm of Roger to throw stones at little Henry in Chapter Four. At first "Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins," so he aims beyond Henry; however, as the narrative continues, Roger's sadistic nature becomes completely inhibited and he is the one to hurl the boulder that strikes Piggy.

These great violent natural tendencies in the boys cause Jack and the hunters to steal Piggy's glasses and the fire, and later to descend into savagery as they dance in a ritualistic frenzy and beat the innocent Simon to death as they chant "Kill the pig!" and later cast Piggy against the pink granite, hurling him to his death.  Without the restraints of civilization,  the fire holds power,  the mountain becomes a place of terror where the boys imagine the "beast" resides, the stones--"that token of preposterous time"--and shattered rocks become deadly weapons. And, rather than using the environment for productive measures such as building shelters and maintaining a rescue fire, Jack and the savages destroy the forest by burning the entire island in their frenzied efforts to kill his enemy, Ralph.

Clearly, then, the setting serves as the tableau against which the intrinsic evil of man is portrayed. The flaw inherent in human nature is depicted naturally on the "Coral Island" of beauty and bounty; it is an island from which there is no civilized escape and man, represented by Simon, must face the evil within himself as the Lord of the Flies tells him, "You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close!"

Last Updated on