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Essay Questions For Lord Of The Flies

Essay Questions For Lord Of The Flies

















































Lord of the Flies

What does it mean to say that Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel? What are its important symbols?

Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel in that it contains characters and objects that directly represent the novel’s themes and ideas. Golding’s central point in the novel is that a conflict between the impulse toward civilization and the impulse toward savagery rages within each human individual. Each of the main characters in the novel represents a certain idea or aspect of this spectrum between civilization and savagery. Ralph, for instance, embodies the civilizing impulse, as he strives from the start to create order among the boys and to build a stable society on the island. Piggy, meanwhile, represents the scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization. At the other end of the spectrum, Jack embodies the impulse toward savagery and the unchecked desire for power and domination. Even more extreme is Roger, who represents the drive for violence and bloodlust in its purest form. Furthermore, just as various characters embody thematic concepts in the novel, a number of objects do as well. The conch shell, which is used to summon the boys to gatherings and as a emblem of the right to speak at those gatherings, represents order, civilization, and political legitimacy. Piggy’s glasses, which are used to make fire, represent the power of science and intellectual endeavor. The sow’s head in the jungle, meanwhile, embodies the human impulse toward savagery, violence, and barbarism that exists within each person. Throughout Lord of the Flies, Golding uses these characters and objects to represent and emphasize elements of the themes and ideas he explores in the novel.

Compare and contrast Ralph and Simon. Both seem to be “good” characters. Is there a difference in their goodness?

Both Ralph and Simon are motivated toward goodness throughout the novel. Both boys work to establish and maintain order and harmony with the rest of the group and are kind and protective in their interactions with the littluns. However, as the novel progresses, we get the sense that Ralph’s and Simon’s motivations for doing good stem from different sources. Ralph behaves and acts according to moral guidelines, but this behavior and these guidelines seem learned rather than innate. Ralph seems to have darker instinctual urges beneath: like the other boys, he gets swept up by bloodlust during the hunt and the dance afterward. Simon, on the other hand, displays a goodness and kindness that do not seem to have been forced or imposed upon him by civilization. Instead, Simon’s goodness seems to be innate or to flow from his connection to nature. He lives in accordance with the moral regulations of civilization simply because he is temperamentally suited to them: he is kind, thoughtful, and helpful by nature. In the end, though Ralph is capable of leadership, we see that he shares the hidden instinct toward savagery and violence that Jack and his tribe embrace. Although Ralph does prove an effective leader, it is Simon who recognizes the truth that stands at the core of the novel—that the beast does not exist in tangible form on the island but rather exists as an impulse toward evil within each individual.

How does Jack use the beast to control the other boys?

Jack expertly uses the beast to manipulate the other boys by establishing the beast as his tribe’s common enemy, common idol, and common system of beliefs all in one. Jack invokes different aspects of the beast depending on which effects he wants to achieve. He uses the boys’ fear of the beast to justify his iron-fisted control of the group and the violence he perpetrates. He sets up the beast as a sort of idol in order to fuel the boys’ bloodlust and establish a cultlike view toward the hunt. The boys’ belief in the monster gives Lord of the Flies religious undertones, for the boys’ various nightmares about monsters eventually take the form of a single monster that they all believe in and fear. By leaving the sow’s head in the forest as an offering to the beast, Jack’s tribe solidifies its collective belief in the reality of the nightmare. The skull becomes a kind of religious totem with extraordinary psychological power, driving the boys to abandon their desire for civilization and order and give in to their violent and savage impulses.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Of all the characters, it is Piggy who most often has useful ideas and sees the correct way for the boys to organize themselves. Yet the other boys rarely listen to him and frequently abuse him. Why do you think this is the case? In what ways does Golding use Piggy to advance the novel’s themes?

2. What, if anything, might the dead parachutist symbolize? Does he symbolize something other than what the beast and the Lord of the Flies symbolize?

3. The sow’s head and the conch shell each wield a certain kind of power over the boys. In what ways do these objects’ powers differ? In what way is Lord of the Flies a novel about power? About the power of symbols? About the power of a person to use symbols to control a group?

4. What role do the littluns play in the novel? In one respect, they serve as gauges of the older boys’ moral positions, for we see whether an older boy is kind or cruel based on how he treats the littluns. But are the littluns important in and of themselves? What might they represent?

Lord of the Flies 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.

How To Cite http://www.gradesaver.com/lord-of-the-flies/study-guide/essay-questions in MLA Format

Ross, Jeremy. A. Kimball, December 8, 2006, and A. Kissel, ed. «Lord of the Flies Essay Questions». GradeSaver, 18 August 2007 Web. Cite this page

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies Questions

Bring on the tough stuff — there’s not just one right answer.

Solving Quadratic Equations by Factoring


  1. Why does Golding end Lord of the Flies with the rescue of the boys? Does this ending change the realistic nature of the novel?
  2. Check out the scene where we meet all the boys in Chapter One. How do the various introductions of each character set up the story that follows? Are there any big surprises?
  3. Do the chapter titles do anything for you?
  4. How could this novel be described as an allegory. If it is an allegory, what message does Golding seem to want to get across to his readers? What allegorical roles are the characters playing?
  5. What is the role of religion in the lives of the boys? Is their religion based on Christianity, or does it seem more pagan?
  6. Lord of the Flies was published in 1954, although it is set in some fictional future. In what ways does its message seem to speak to the violence that is present in 1954? What about violence today?
  7. Only one female voice is presented (very briefly, and in recap) in this novel, that of Piggy’s aunt. Would this story have been different in any important ways if there had been both boys and girls on the island? In other words, is this a story about the capacity of humans for violence, or is it a story about the male capacity for violence? Or is there simply not enough evidence to make an argument either way?
  8. Similarly—why does it matter that these are kids? Would adults in the same situation act any differently?
  9. How are the characters in Lord of the Flies presented as both «heroic and sick» (6)? As both sane and insane? As both good and evil?
  10. What role does fear play in Lord of the Flies. How does fear affect the boys as the story progresses?

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