Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Historical Background • Published in 1954; takes place during WWII • British boys being sent to the countryside because of threat of atomic bomb being dropped on cities • Their plane crashes on a deserted island; no adults survive, so they have to establish a “society” on their own • As you read, ask yourself: Why is the setting so important? • Golding said after WWII: “It was simply what seemed sensible for me to write after the war when everyone was thanking God they weren’t Nazis. I’d seen enough to realize that every single one of us could be Nazis.”
Psychological Background • Sigmund Freud = psychoanalyst, published during Golding’s lifetime • Developed a theory of human nature that influenced Golding’s writing • Defined “id,” “ego,” and “superego” (all parts of our inner natures)
ID • Impulsive instincts • No thought of “the best way” or “the right way” • Wants instant gratification, no concern for consequences • A newborn only has id; as we get older, it’s still there, but (hopefully!) we learn to control it • E.g. I want that candy, so I’ll just take it from the store.
EGO • Decision-making aspect • Balances desires (id) with realistic expectations of the world • May delay gratification if that’s the most realistic way to achieve the ultimate goal • Not concerned with morals, just wants to find the best way to achieve the goal • E.g. I want this candy, but society will punish me if I just take it, and then I won’t get it in the end. The best way to get it is to pay for it.
SUPEREGO • Conscience; concerned with moral right vs. wrong • Whereas the ego is concerned with setting realistic goals, the superego sets moralistic goals • Allows you to feel pride when you make the “right” decision and guilt when you do something “wrong” • E.g. I want this candy, but it’s not morally right to steal. The right thing to do is to pay for it.
Psyche in LotF • As you read, pay attention to which characters rely on their superego (moral decisions), which only consider their ego (reasonable decisions), and which act on their id (instincts) • Golding said: “The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable.”
Allegory • An allegory is a genre of writing in which the people, objects, and events in the story hold a specific symbolic meaning • In other words, the novel as a whole represents something else • Focus is not on literal plot or characters but on what they represent in the real world
LotF as an Allegory • Literal interpretation: • Plane full of boys crashes on an island; as they try to survive, many conflicts arise • Allegorical interpretation: • The boys represent humankind; the struggles they go through represent universal religious, political, and social issues
Religious Allegory • As you read, ask yourself: • How does Simon represent a Christ figure? • How does Jack represent the devil? • How does Ralph represent the average man, struggling between good and evil?
Political Allegory • As you read, ask yourself: • What countries and/or leaders from WWII do Jack, Ralph, and Piggy represent? • How can you tell?
Social Allegory • As you read, ask yourself: • If the boys represent all of mankind, what is Golding saying about society and/or human nature? • (Hint: It’s a very pessimistic view!)
Symbolism • Pay attention to the following symbols and figure out what they represent as the novel progresses: • The conch shell • Piggy’s glasses • The beast • Fire • The lord of the flies
What’s in a name? • Hebrew word, “baal-zevuv” (Greek translation = “Beelzeboub”) means “chief devil” (Satan) • English meaning: “lord of the flies” (promotes decay and destruction, like the devil) • “Ralph” means “counsel” • “Jack” means “one who deceives” or “one who takes over” • “Piggy” is a nickname, but we think of pigs, who are very intelligent • “Simon” means “listener” • “Roger” means “spear”
Simon’s Hideaway Mountain Castle Rock *Lord of the Flies* Scar Bathing Hole Pig Fire