LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding

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1 LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding Concept/Vocabulary Analysis Literary Text: Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Penguin Publishing) Summary: A group of school boys are stranded on an unnamed island. At first they maintain their social identities of choir boy, etc. but as time goes on these seem to unravel. The boys survive on fruit and live on the beach trying to keep a fire going for rescue purposes. Ralph is first elected chief and is helped out by the book-smart boy who is nicknamed Piggy. The head choir boy Jack becomes head of the hunters group and eventually becomes jealous of Ralph s power. When Jack breaks away, all chaos ensues. Organizational Pattern: The book is divided up into 12 chapters with notes at the end. Each chapter title gives a clue as to what is going on in the chapter: The Sound of the Shell is where the boys first come together and Ralph becomes chief by calling the boys together with a giant conch shell, Fire on the mountain is the chapter where the boys discover how they can light a fire with Piggy s glasses and plan to keep it lit on the mountain so that they can be rescued, and Painted Faces and Long Hair is where Jack and his hunters begin to paint their faces, a symbol of tribal unity. Issues Related to this Study of Literature Theme Civility vs. Savagery After the boys are marooned on an island, stereotypes emerge among the group. Ralph and Piggy want to keep order among the boys while Jack wants to hunt and bring power to himself. The rest of the boys go back and forth throughout the novel and depending on the circumstances, each has power at a different tiem and over different people but their leadership styles are very different. One of the major themes Golding discusses in the book is the influence of society. Often they remember their time as school boys and mark the differences between then and now. One of the littler boys becomes upset when he can t remember his name and another boy is tempted to throw rocks at another but can t seem to do it. Other boys lose this sense of civility sooner but all seem to have a struggle with it. The Loss of Innocence Being a group of boys, with no other influences on the island but each other, there is not much to keep the boys in check. Eventually they let their primal urges overcome them and Ralph, the head protagonist agonizes over the loss of innocence at the end. There is death, murder, and insinuations of rape among the small group deep topics for such a young group but Golding explores what might happen without cultural mores and societal values to keep things together. Group Behavior Throughout the novel we see interesting patterns emerge, natural leaders come

2 forth and other force their way to the front. Peer pressure is exhibited and survival instincts come into play. Other examples include how Ralph is directed by Piggy, who is really the brains of the operation, and most of the choir boys follow exactly what Jack tells them to do. How do we act differently in groups or by ourselves? Among friends or at work? Lord of the Flies explores differences in organizational behavior, peer management, and group interactions. Other Themes: Biblical allegories Setting The book takes place on an unnamed island off the coast of great Britain, deductively over the Atlantic, but somewhere tropical. There is a lake of fresh water as well as water falls and a beach where the huts are eventually situated. The Scar is the large gash in the forrest where the plane s crash landing happened. There is a mountain of pink rock where the fire is kept and dense forest where pig runs cut through the undergrowth. The occasional clearing where pigs might be staying or the boys will hide out is also where many scenes take place. Conflict Internal: Ralph is the main spokesperson of the story and struggles with how to be a leader, and how the boys behavior changes over time. He wants to keep things in order and he wants to be rescued but he sometimes lacks the know-how to do so and doesn t always respect the knowledge of Piggy. He struggles mildly when the assemblies don t accomplish anything and then when Jack first doesn t keep his responsibilities by keeping the fire going and then when he breaks away from the group, taking most of the boys with him. External: Most often exemplified is the power struggle between Ralph and Jack. Ralph represents goodness and ruling with regard to others while Jack is interested in selfgratification and personal survival. Ralph s first concern is to be rescued while Jack doesn t seem to care and just wants to hunt. Ralph manages with a conch delegating who gets to speak while Jack orders his comrades with an iron fist. Ralph was elected while Jack fought to gain power by coercion or control. This power struggle is first seen when Jack tries to become chief and is jealous when Ralph wins by popular vote after being elected by Piggy. The struggle culminates throughout the story until the climax when Jack elects himself chief and orders the other around, delegating through fear. Symbols The Conch: The conch is the object that brings order to the group of boys and is a symbol of democratic power. Ralph first uses it to call the boys together and the person who is holding it is allowed to speak. Jack first tries to take the conch for power but eventually discards and ignores it. At the end of the book the conch is smashed symbolizing the loss of civilization on the island. Piggy s Glasses: Piggy is the intellectual of the group and his glasses are the key to fire,

3 another symbol for civilization vs. savagery. Intellect is often stereotyped with glasses and it is fitting that Piggy, the smart, reasonable one would be wearing them. Later in the story the glasses are smashed by Jack who is the opposing force to Piggy s Intellect and Reason, Ralph acting as the balancing force between the two. Fire: The fire is an indicator of civic behavior or savage betrayal: in the beginning the boys use the fire as a signal to be rescued but it is eventually abandoned by Jack because he wants to go hunting. Later in the novel the fire is the center of tribal savage activity and is used to smoke out Ralph when they hunt him down. The Lord of the Flies: Embodied in the severed head of a pig and metaphysically speaking to the character of Simon, the Lord of the Flies is a literal translation from the biblical term Beelzebub which is another name for the devil. In the novel it is the idea of evil inside each one of us. Affective Issues Related to the Work Even though half of my class will be female and I doubt any boys will be crash landed on a desert island, the Lord of the Flies is not about survival. From birth we are taught how we should act, and whether or not it s nature or nurture, we all have certain carnal urges we have to learn to control. Overcoming these natural tendencies is an on going process but the success of which allows us to function in a normal society. I believe students, especially at this stage in their lives can understand, and should discuss, why it is important to act civilly and respectfully. In the book there is often mention of adults and authority. Ralph wishes that there were adults, the Littluns cry for their parents, etc. and at this point in their lives, many teenages are questioning authority perhaps for the first time in their lives. While some might try to push the boundaries, literature gives us the opportunity to see what might happen without any circumstantial consequences. The students will be able to connect with characters in a setting they will probably never experience, but that the application of which is very important in their lives: to see the need for structure in society and that morality must come from the individual. Finally, students are also at a time in their lives where social groups emerge and being able to grasp the observation of social structures will be an applicable skill. During the novel there are different social groups that change throughout the course of the book as well as power struggles between characters can be applicable to their lives. Studying the social psychology of the novel will help them recognize how groups form within the different aspects of their lives and hopefully they can gain a greater perspective that will help them feel more in control of their social identity. Vocabulary Issues The book was written in the 1950s so the vocabulary is not too far removed from students

4 today. There are some larger and more advanced words that some students may not be able to piece together out of context but it will be a good opportunity to learn these new vocabulary words. There is also some British slang as the boys, and Golding, hail from the United Kingdom, but that can also be resolved in class. For the most part students should not have a problem with it. Background Knowledge Not much background knowledge is needed to understand the novel on a cursory level, but as the book is largely allegorical it may help to have some knowledge of Protestant beliefs, British culture, and Freudian psychology. None of these need to be in depth but the book contains many biblical implications which can be handled appropriately if the students understand this is Golding s background. British culture is very proper and so the boys resorting to savagery would be more dramatic if there is some background on British culture. Also, a lot of analysis has been made about ties to the book and Freud s writings that came out around the same time Golding wrote the book concerning different psychological urges in the mind. Formally referred to as the psychic apparatus, urges are constantly monitored between the id, ego, and superego each respectfully represented by Jack, Ralph, and Piggy. Teaching students about these ideas will help them recognize them in the novel Implications for Student Diversity This book is largely white, male, and protestant. Students from other backgrounds might have a hard time connecting with this book and as such, would need to have a discussion before hand, as mentioned above, about British culture and protestant beliefs. Females may have a hard time connecting as they are usually more emotionally aggressive when it comes to uncivilized behavior, rather than physical aggressiveness which is exhibited in the book. Even still, I believe all can find satisfaction in coming to understand the rich symbols the novel presents and since all cultures are not immune to war, some interpretations of the novel give the believe Golding was using it as an allegory for the underlying brutality in society as a whole, as in the irony of a war captain eventually rescuing the children, laughing at their games when he is going off to do kill as well. This can open up the discussion about world politics, power struggles, and national issues. Gender Issues See above The Central Question/Enduring Issue How does conflict effect relationships and/or group behavior? Some people come closer through tragedy (like Ralph and Piggy after the crash) and others land on polar opposites from each other (like Ralph and Jack as the novel progresses). Even though in the school Jack and Ralph might have been closer friends

5 because they are both leaders and Piggy the outsider, things changed once placed on the island. Students can talk about experiences they ve had that changed their relationships and how they have adapted to those circumstances. Is societal influence important or necessary? The book reflects a lot on the loss of structure, civilization vs. savagery and the effects that it can have. Students can surmise what would happen if there was anarchy, what if this class were marooned on an island, and why is structure important. Project Ideas Symbolic Symbols. Have students create a symbol for each character and description of why that symbol applies. Model with one character and some symbols in the book to scaffold figurative thinking. Pre-research at the media lab to find out background of text. This will give students to work on their research and technology skills and also provide a frame work for a pre-reading discussion of the book Map of the Island. For visually minded students, a map of the island will help them imagine where they are in the book and help provide a framework for the story to play out in their minds. Scaffolded reading discussing Freud s Id, Ego, and Super-Ego. Modeling reading strategies in a think aloud reading will help the students to apply the research done before the book started and receive instruction on how to analyze the text. 5 Paragraph Essay on theme of the book. As traditional as it may sound, the Lord of the Flies is the perfect novel to scaffold the teaching of a 5 paragraph essay. There are plenty of different interpretations on the text whether religious or scientific, political or social. The text is saturated with literary symbols and analytical gems the students can easily pull out and argue virtually any thesis for.

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