Lord of the Flies – Teaching Resource from Guardian Teacher News



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Beast from the air

This chapter divides comfortably into three sections:



  • the aerial battle and the twins' discovery

  • the assembly

  • the search party at Castle Rock

The aerial battle and the twins' discovery

Ralph has appealed to the adult world for help: "If only they could send us something grown-up ... a sign or something." (Chapter 5) and the dead airman is shot down in flames over the island. His parachute becomes tangled in the trees on the mountain top. The darkness is deep and disturbing. Sam and Eric had fallen asleep though they should have been on watch. When they wake up they hastily look for wood because the fire is out. They know how angry "waxy" Ralph would be with them. Suddenly they see something white and horrible moving in the jungle. They dash down the mountain to tell the others they have seen a terrible monster.



The assembly

Ralph calls an assembly but nothing can calm the overwhelming terror: "... the darkness was full of claws, full of the awful unknown and menace." The twins speak disjointedly and only serve to increase the mood of panic and terror. Ralph clings desperately to the conch in order to try and establish some order. Jack shouts: "Conch! Conch! ... we don't need the conch any more."



The search party

Jack, Ralph and Simon go in search of the beast. Golding communicates his ideas through the reflective Simon.

Simon, walking in front of Ralph, felt a flicker of incredulity - a beast with claws that scratched, that sat on a mountain top, that left no tracks and yet was not fast enough to catch Samneric. However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick.

In this last sentence, Golding (through Simon) defines humanity and expresses the horror of our inherent evil. Jack, who is becoming more and more entrenched in violence, madness and power, sees this unexplored part of the island as the ideal place for a "fort". He and his hunters forget everything in the mad delight of heaving and pushing rocks into the sea. Ralph struggles to stop their violent game and eventually the search continues.

The theme of evil intensifies: It is understood by all the boys, except Simon, to be something outside themselves, something they can see.


Activity






As the school counsellor you have to write a comment on each boy to give the new principal of the school a basic insight into his character.

About Jack Merridew you may have written:

"Jack Merridew is an impatient boy who often behaves like a bully. He thrives on games that are dangerous and unruly, and he is also very hostile to criticism."

Now write an appropriate comment for Simon and Ralph.





Suggestion

Ralph is a very talented boy. He is good at sport, he takes pride in his appearance and he seems to be developing the right qualities for leadership.

Simon is a gentle youngster who often struggles to speak fluently. He often wanders off alone, he tends to daydream, and he suffers from epilepsy.

Suggestion

Ralph is a very talented boy. He is good at sport, he takes pride in his appearance and he seems to be developing the right qualities for leadership.

Simon is a gentle youngster who often struggles to speak fluently. He often wanders off alone, he tends to daydream, and he suffers from epilepsy.

Answer

nostalgia 1

sadness 1

delight 2

guilt 2

panic 3

longing 1

horror 3

excitement 2

fear 3

Now given his conflicting behaviour, what is your final attitude to Ralph?

Sympathetic / hostile

Sympathetic: Ralph is not an evil youngster, he is struggling to cope in an alien environment and is disturbed because he knows the fire and rescue and rules are the right priorities and not Jack's violent savagery.

Hostile: Ralph is not quarrelsome or malicious. If he were, then we would feel hostility towards him.

A gift for the darkness

This chapter must be read with great care. It is complex and essential to the unfolding of the novel.




  • Jack calls an assembly and insists he should be the leader. When the boys do not support him, he goes off alone. The boys are at a loss about what to do. Most of them drift off and join Jack.

  • Piggy and Ralph begin to make a fire on the beach. There is a desperate need to do something in order to avoid dealing with the irrational force of the beast.

  • Simon has disappeared.

  • Jack and his hunters kill a sow. The description is disturbing and horrific in its violence and sexual overtones.

  • Jack tells Roger to "sharpen a stick at both ends" and the head of the pig is offered as a gift for the beast.

The final part of the chapter deals with Simon's confrontation with the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Flies speaks to him in the voice of a schoolmaster. "Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill. You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are?" Here Simon confronts his own evil - his own inarticulate "maybe it's only us" from Chapter 5.

Theme

Fear and darkness is central to both Chapter 8 and Chapter 9. The "gift" for the darkness is the Lord of the Flies which is the Lord of Evil that lives in the darkness of man's heart.




Activity






If we accept that Lord of the Flies is a fable, don't you think that its moral or message is revealed in this chapter? In one sentence, how would you explain its moral?

Click to see if you agree with the answer offered here.





Answer

Evil lies within man whose nature is inherently depraved.



The shell and the glasses

  • Piggy and Ralph are deeply disturbed by Simon's death.

  • Piggy tries to rationalise their involvement: "It was an accident."
    "We was on the outside. We never done nothing, we never seen nothing."

  • Jack consolidates his authority and his dictatorship.

  • Roger is becoming more and more excited at the "possibilities of irresponsible authority."

  • Jack and his hunters sneak up on Ralph and Piggy when they are sleeping and steal Piggy's specs.

Theme

The fact that Jack and his hunters have no interest in stealing the conch makes it perfectly clear that savagery has replaced any thought of civilisation, and any regard for reason.




Castle Rock

  • Ralph and Piggy and the twins go to Castle Rock as they want to recover Piggy's glasses.

  • Piggy carries the conch with great care.

  • Jack is defiant and hostile. He orders his tribe to capture the twins.

  • While Jack and Ralph fight, Piggy starts shouting "I got the conch!"

  • Piggy desperately tries to reason with these savages:

    • "Which is better - to be a pack of painted niggers like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?"

    • "Which is better - to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?"

    • "Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?"

  • Roger, confident in his position as "executioner" and full of raging intent, dislodges a huge rock that strikes Piggy such a blow that Piggy is knocked to his death. The conch explodes and "ceased to exist".

  • Ralph runs off in terror.

Activity






Look at the list of words and expressions below. They are all to be found in Chapter 11. They echo others that were in previous parts of the novel. Can you remember where these expressions and events occurred earlier? Do they have the same significance now as before?

  • Roger throwing stones (Chapter 4)

  • painted faces (Chapter 4)

  • waxy (Chapter 6)

  • playing the game (Chapter 8)

  • "you're acting like a crowd of kids" (Chapter 2)





Cry Of the hunters

  • Violence and cruelty are the governing principles of the island.

  • Ralph is now the pig.

  • Jack and his hunters pursue the wounded and terrified Ralph through the island.

  • They smoke him out by setting the whole island on fire.
    "Roger sharpened a stick at both ends."

  • Ralph runs out to the beach, falls, staggers to his feet before his "rescuer" - a naval officer.

  • The naval officer's comments are hollow and ridiculous.

  • Ralph weeps uncontrollably.

Lord of the Flies ends with the officer gazing at the cruiser, preparing to re-enact the age-old saga of man's inhumanity to man.


The Setting

Lord of the Flies is set on an isolated tropical island. Golding's island is a 20th century island, inhabited by English boys just as smug about their decency, just as complacent and ignorant as the boys in Ballantyne's story. However whereas the boys in Ballantyne's novel live in harmony, chaos and anarchy are central to Lord of the Flies.

Man's relationship with nature

There is an intense awareness throughout the novel of man's physical surroundings. The island and the sea are described beautifully, but often by Golding rather than the boys, because it is clear that nature has no connection with the human actions. The physical surroundings do nothing to advance or detract from man's awareness of his predicament. When one of the characters observes his surroundings, his view is always coloured by his mood. When Ralph is desperately frightened, half despising the idea of the existence of a beastie, and half terrified at the prospect of meeting one, the sea becomes mysterious and menacing. "Then the sleeping (huge monster) breathed out - the waters rose, the weed streamed, and the water boiled over the table rock with a roar." Simon identifies with the natural beauty of the island, while Jack exploits the island for his savage hunting. At the end the entire island is destroyed as Jack pursues Ralph relentlessly.

In this way, Golding is making his own attitude clear. Man is alone in his quest for the knowledge of evil, and his isolation is enforced by the relentless ebb and flow of the sea. The departure to sea of Simon's body is related with a lingering sense of wonder, but no problems are solved. The natural surroundings are the same as they were before, and so is the human situation.

Effects on the island

The island's beauty has suffered because of the air-crash. The violence of the tube hitting the natural surroundings creates a scar, a disfigurement. Even before Ralph is named, he comes across the effects of the crash and its impact on the island. "The fair boy reached out and touched the jagged end of a scar trunk." Piggy reinforces the destruction by commenting: "It wasn't half dangerous with all them tree trunks falling." Piggy's use of the negative is his way of conveying the huge danger and disruption. The damage has been immense to the island, causing a huge gash in the trees.

The violence latent in Jack is unleashed on the island as he fanatically assumes the role of the hunter. The pigs' peace and comfort is shattered by the bloodthirsty hunters. The peaceful description of the pigs "sensuously enjoying the shadows under the trees" becomes squealing creatures "crashing away through the forests."

Hygiene

Fruit causes terrible diarrhoea, the boys suffer from chronic stomach-aches, and as the rules disintegrate, the entire island becomes littered with excrement. Ralph, in a desperate effort to reinstate hygiene, tries to remind the boys that initially they had chosen "those rocks right along beyond the bathing-pool as a lavatory & That was sensible too. The tide cleans the place up."



Piggy's sensible suggestion

Piggy's sensible suggestion that they need to be rescued excites the boys, and they run off to make a fire on the mountain. However, for the boys, the fire is fun, a game, and they set a large area of the island on fire. "Beneath the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame."

The objective of the fire as a means of rescue is soon forgotten as the fire becomes part of Jack's savagery and killing of pigs. Piggy is extremely distressed that the rescue fire is dead when a ship passes and he shouts at Jack. In fury, Jack attacks Piggy and one side of his glasses shatters. Thus, reason is reduced to one eye, and the fire becomes more and more unrelated to ideas of rescue. At the end of the novel, Jack, in his relentless pursuit of Ralph, sets the island on fire. "Smoke was seeping through the branches in white and yellow wisps, the patch of blue sky overhead turned to the colour of a storm cloud, and then the smoke billowed round him."

Eden has become a raging inferno.



Appearance

Appearance

Simon is one of the choristers. Although regarded as "queer" and "batty" by the boys, Simon is friendly and helpful. He definitely emanates a certain awareness that is seen when Ralph intuitively includes him in the first expedition he undertakes with Jack. Golding describes him as a "skinny, vivid little boy, with a glance coming up from under a hut of straight hair that hung down, black and coarse."



Attitude to nature

Simon participates fully in this glamorous adventure; however the difference in the three boys is clearly conveyed by their reaction to certain bushes on the island. Simon sees them "like candle buds," an indication of his fragility and spirituality. Jack slashes at them viciously and Ralph responds literally: "You couldn't light them ... They just look like candles". Simon is caring and helpful. He picks the fruit for the "littluns" and helps Ralph to build the shelters.



Intuition

Simon is not afraid of the forest. He likes to wander off alone. He is intuitive, introspective, otherworldly, his central insight is gained in a vision or trance. Simon is the first child to register fully what the island and its jungle are like in themselves. He is outside the hunter mentality, the leader mentality, outside even himself. He exists in terms of his sensitivity to what is outside him. Like a clairvoyant, he repeatedly tells Ralph: "You'll get back to where you came from."



Reaction to the beast

When the fear of the beastie intensifies, Simon battles to communicate his feelings. Stuttering and uneasy, he only manages to say cryptically "... maybe it's only us." Golding then intrudes into the narrative: "Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind's essential illness." When Simon accompanies Jack and Ralph in their pursuit of the beast, the voice of Golding again dominates:

Simon walking in front of Ralph, felt a flicker of incredibility - a beast with claws that scratched, that sat on a mountain-top, that left no tracks and yet was not fast enough to catch Sam and Eric. However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick.

In the novel, the barbaric slaughter of the sow prefigures the death of Simon. When Simon accidentally interrupts the re-enactment of the pig hunt, he is mistaken for the beast and killed. Only Simon hears the cynical message of the Lord of the Flies, the spirit of evil personified by the pig's head, assuring Simon that "everything was a bad business."

It is the Lord of the Flies who expresses through Simon the horrifying nature of the beast:

"Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!" said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. "You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are?"

Simon's fate underlies the most awful truths about human nature: its blindness, irrationality, blood lust.



The character of Piggy is firmly grounded in reality by his nickname, one which immediately conjures up a physical appearance: fat, clumsy, generally good-natured and not very good at games. From this naturally follows the extension into excessive rationality, yoked with such physical discomforts as myopia, asthma, diarrhoea, and sweat. It is right that he should have a lower-class tone and ungrammatical diction, should be associated with the civilised values of Auntie and the sweet shop, and should be the voice of reason. At every turn, Piggy fulfils one of the requirements of realism in a novel.

Symbolism

Yet, Piggy is just as firmly grounded in the symbolism of the book. It is ironic that the pig is first the beast, then the food left for the beast, and then the Lord of the Flies, and at the same time the name given to the most rational being on the island. The irony attached to the name becomes even more intricate as the novel progresses. Piggy denies that there could be a beast: "Course there isn't a beast in the forest. How could there be? What would a beast eat?"

"Pig"
"We eat pig"
"Piggy!"

And it is Piggy whom they ultimately destroy. The boys do indeed eat the pig and Piggy is destroyed by the pig-eating beast that lurks deep in each one of them.



Reason vs reality

Piggy's reason cannot control the boys, his belief that science can explain everything makes him unable to comprehend the reality of the Beast, his democracy crumbles before the onslaught of the brutal Jack. Piggy may be the brains in the novel but the beast in Roger, who smashes Piggy's skull, makes those brains useless. Piggy naively believes that if only they would behave like grown-ups all would be well; if a ship carrying grown-ups would spot them they would be saved. This is a comforting view of the book, since it seems to endorse the view that our civilisation is rational and peaceful. To take such a view is, however, to fall into what Golding suggests is one of the most dangerous of errors: to attempt to deny that the Beast is in us and to limit its existence to some other time, place, or group of people. Piggy's faith in grown-ups is shown to be sadly misplaced.



Glasses metaphor

Piggy's glasses are a symbol of political insight and rationality. As an inadequate leader, Ralph depends on Piggy's judgment. Ralph must "see" through eyes that themselves need corrective lenses. Although Piggy's vision is imperfect, even with glasses, it is all Ralph has. While the lenses remain intact, Ralph can at least go through the motions of statesmanship, but the smashing of one of the lenses diminishes Piggy's effectiveness and the theft of the other by the hunters renders Piggy useless and Ralph helpless.

In the killing of Piggy, the implications of his nickname are fully brought out; what they hated about him turned into "red stuff", welling out of an "opened head".



Prefect vs savage

The perfect prefect becomes the perfect savage. From the outset, the choir is associated with evil. We first see the choir as "something dark" in the haze. The marching choir, and the way Jack treats them, recalls an army of authority, arrogance and callousness, rather than the holy singing their uniform suggests.



The hunter

Jack rediscovers in himself the instincts and compulsions of the hunter that lie buried in every man. On all fours like an animal, he learns to flare his nostrils and assess the air, to cast across the ground for spoor.



Other forces

Ralph is fair-haired, with "a mildness ... that proclaimed no devil". Jack, on the other hand, is satanic, his hair is red (conferring on him associations with the devil), he is dressed in black, and his eyes stare ahead angrily. Jack thinks that evil and destruction are live forces. In a world of power there are powers at work that are stronger than men. But these powers (Beast, Devil or God) can be appeased by ritual, ceremony, sacrifice. At the feast that Jack stages to tempt as many as possible to join him, the sense of his own power has given him a newly sinister quality behind his paint. He has ceased to be Jack; he has become the Chief. Personality is overcome by power, and he loses his name.




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