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.
Chapter 1: “The Sound of the Shell”
1. Examine the characters of Ralph, Jack, or Piggy in terms of what they possess that link them with their past lives, and what their emerging roles on the island are. Is there any indication which of these characters may be advancing more rapidly toward savagery than the others? Support your conclusion.
2. What is the symbolism of the conch? Why does it seem to have so much power? What characteristics does it have in common with what it appears to symbolize?
Chapter 2: “Fire on the Mountain”
1. What is the significance of the boys’ first attempt at the fire? How does the result foreshadow events to come? What is the result of the fire? Why are the creeper vines significant? How does the fire’s result mirror the boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark’s fear?
2. What is the meaning of the beast that makes its first appearance in this chapter? Discuss how it is portrayed, and the others’ reaction to it. Does this foreshadow its later significance? How does the beast become real to the boys?
Chapter 3: “Huts on the Beach”
1. Trace the path of Jack’s success as a hunter and Ralph’s
growing ineffectiveness as a leader. Compare their emerging viewpoints in their argument together on the beach. What does this say about the two boys and their roles as civilized young men?
2. What divisions are becoming apparent among the boys on the island? Trace the characters and who they are allied to at this point. Discuss these alliances and why they are occurring.
Chapter 4: “Painted Faces and Long Hair”
1. Examine Simon’s actions in this chapter and compare them to Roger’s. Both boys are outsiders like Piggy, yet seem to be accepted. Based upon these observations, present an argument for whom they will eventually ally themselves and explain why.
2. What is the significance of the camouflage paint that Jack puts on? How does it affect his personality? Why will it make him a better hunter? In what ways does it hide his personality? In what ways does it reveal his personality? Discuss its symbolic meaning as well as the others’ reactions to it.
Chapter 5: “Beast From Water”
1. Trace the references to the beast in the novel thus far. Parallel that with the diminishing sense of order on the island and the boys’ gradual embracing of Jack’s savagery. What is the true nature of the beast on the island that Simon is unable to verbally define?
2. Discuss how and why Jack disrupts the meeting. What is at the core of the power struggle between he and Ralph? What techniques of anarchy and...
(The entire section is 1129 words.)