Lord of the Flies Suggested Essays
Suggested Essay Questions
In his introduction to William Golding's novel, novelist E.M. Forster suggests that Golding's writing "lays a solid foundation for the horrors to come." Using Forster's quote as a starting point, discuss how the novel foreshadows the murders of Simon and Piggy. Focus on two events or images from the novel's earlier chapters and describe how they anticipate the novel's tragic outcome.
Answer: The weather on the island grows increasingly more hostile and ominous as the novel's plot unfolds, Piggy's name suggests that he will be killed like an animal, and so on.
Many critics have read Lord of the Flies as a political allegory. In particular, they have considered the novel a commentary on the essential opposition between totalitarianism and liberal democracy. Using two or three concrete examples from the novel, show how the two political ideologies are figured in the novel, and then discuss which of the two you think Golding seems to favor.
Answer: The contrast between Ralph's group on the beach and Jack's tribe at Castle Rock represents the opposition between liberal democracy and totalitarianism. Golding presents the former as the superior system, demonstrated by the success of the assembly among Jack's group of boys and the ordered system that prioritizes the ongoing signal fire on the mountain, tactics that ensure the welfare of the entire group. Note, though, what happens in both groups over time.
Names and naming are important in Lord of the Flies. Many characters have names that allude to other works of literature, give insight into their character, or foreshadow key events. Discuss the significance of the names of, for instance, Sam and Eric, Piggy, and Simon. What does the character's name say about him and his significance? Use external sources as necessary.
Answer: Piggy's name, for example, indicates his inferior position within the social hierarchy of the island and foreshadows his eventual death at the hands of Jack's tribe. Simon was the name of Peter in the Bible. Jack might be named after John Marcher in Henry James's story The Beast in the Jungle, and so on.
Two major symbols in the novel are the conch shell and The Lord of the Flies (the pig's head on a stick). Analyze one or both of these symbols in terms of how they are perceived by the boys as well as what they symbolize for the reader.
Answer: The conch shell represents liberal democracy and order, as endorsed by Ralph and Piggy. The Lord of the Flies tends to represent an autocratic or a primitive order. Note the "exchange" of these objects at the novel's conclusion when the conch is smashed in Jack's camp and Ralph uses part of the Lord of the Flies as a weapon.
The children stranded on the island are all boys, and female characters are rarely discussed. How does this matter for the novel?
Answer: Gender difference is not explicitly discussed or represented in the novel, although femininity is symbolically present in the novel's representations of nature. Some of the male characters are "feminized" by the other boys when they are considered un-masculine or vulnerable. In a boys' choir, many boys have high voices that can sing parts normally reserved for females. It is unclear whether Jack's tribe would have become so violent (and nearly naked) if girls of the same age were on the island.
At the end of Chapter Eleven, Roger pushes Jack aside to descend on the bound twins "as one who wielded a nameless authority." Focusing on this quotation, discuss Roger's actions in Chapter Eleven in relation to Jack's power and political system.
Answer: Roger's actions towards the twins are unauthorized by Jack, indicating that Jack's own authority is under threat. Golding hints at a shift in the power system among Jack's tribe, which highlights the inherent flaws in Jack's system of military dictatorship.
Jack gains power over many of the boys by exploiting their fear of the mythical beast. How does Jack manipulate the myth of the beast to legitimize his authority?
Answer: Jack exploits the boys' fear of the beast to usurp leadership from Ralph, who stresses a rational approach to the presumed evil presence on the island. Within Jack's tribe, the beast continues to have a powerful symbolic and political significance among the boys, uniting them and ensuring their loyalty to Jack's leadership. When Jack first attempts to break away from Ralph's tribe, his authority is not recognized, but as the boys' fear of the beast increases, an increasing number defect from Ralph's group to Jack's, where the existence of the beast is not only acknowledged but is a central fact of day-to-day life.
By Chapter Three, the boys are divided into two groups: the older boys and the younger boys or "littluns." What role do the littluns have to play?
Answer: Consider especially the distinction between savagery and civilization.
What happens with the "littluns" registers the increasing brutality on the island. The earliest examples of violence in the novel are directed against the littluns, acts that foreshadow the violent events of later chapters. Moreover, characters who are kind to the littluns tend to remain most closely associated with civilization throughout the novel.
The novel's narrative action draws an increasingly firm line between savagery and civilization, yet the value of each becomes an issue in the conclusion, when Jack's fire saves the boys. Using these terms, what is the novel suggesting about human nature, evil, and human civilization?
Answer: The naval officer is a military figure, which reminds the reader that "civilized" societies also engage in violence and murder. Evil seems to be a force that threatens human nature and human civilization--from within. Still, evil is associated primarily with savagery and the worse part of our natures.
How does the novel reflect the Cold War and the public's concerns about the conflict between democracy and communism? Does the novel take a side? (Remember to cite all of your research sources in your bibliography.)
Answer: The Cold War was primarily between the democratic U.S. and its allies on the one hand, and the communist U.S.S.R. and its allies on the other hand. The initial events of the novel, following a group of boys in the aftermath of a terrible nuclear war, reflect and capitalize on widespread anxiety about the arms race for destructive atomic weapons. Ralph comes to represent the West and its values, while Jack comes to represent the enemy.
Lord of the Flies Essays and Related Content
- Lord of the Flies: Major Themes
- Lord of the Flies: Essays
- Lord of the Flies: Lesson Plan
- Lord of the Flies: Questions
- Lord of the Flies: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- William Golding: Biography
- Lord of the Flies Summary
- About Lord of the Flies
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter One: The Sound of the Shell
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Two: Fire on the Mountain
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Three: Huts on the Beach
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Four: Painted Faces and Long Hair
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Five: Beast From Water
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Six: Beast from Air
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Seven: Shadows and Tall Trees
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eight: Gift for the Darkness
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Nine: A View to a Death
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Ten: The Shell and the Glasses
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eleven: Castle Rock
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter Twelve: Cry of the Hunters
- The Lord of the Flies: Biblical Allegory or Anti-Religious Critique?
- Related Links on Lord of the Flies
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources