This study guide will help you analyze the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective. The quotes from the study guide are taken from the 1997 edition, published by Faber & Faber.
Presentation of the text
Title: Lord of the Flies (1954)
Author: William Golding
William Golding (1911-1993) was a British author best known for his debut novel Lord of the Flies. Golding initially studied the natural sciences at university before switching to English literature. He served in the armed forces during WWII and then started working as a teacher, where he was perhaps inspired to write Lord of the Flies by watching his pupils' behavior. The novel was initially rejected by several publishers but was eventually picked up by Faber and Faber. Although not initially a success, the novel later became one of the most popular books of all time. Its depiction of the violence of children and of the easy collapse of civilization makes it a controversial novel.
The novel has been adapted into an English movie twice; there is a version from 1963 directed by Peter Brook and another from 1990 directed by Harry Hook.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
Golding often uses similes in Lord of the Flies to compare the boys to animals. Early on in the novel, Ralph sees the boys as insects: “There, too, jutting into the lagoon, was the platform, with insect-like figures moving near it.” (p. 27). This imagery is repeated by Piggy later: “ ‘How could I with them little ’uns running round like insects?’ ” (p. 46). These similes are a link with Simon’s later encounter with the Lord of the Flies; they imply that the boys are losing their individual identities as human beings and are becoming savages.
Jack and Piggy later openly worry that the boys are becoming like animals:
‘If I blow the conch and they don’t come back; then we’ve had it. We shan’t keep the fire going. We’ll be like animals. We’ll never be rescued.’
‘If you don’t blow, we’ll soon be animals anyway. I can’t see what they’re doing but I can hear.’
The dispersed figures had come together on the sand and were a dense black mass that revolved. (p. 99)
This transition to savagery is particularly evident in Jack, who is repeatedly described through animal similes. When he is hunting, he is described as “dog-like, uncomfortably on all fours yet unheeding his discomfort” (p. 48) and as “ape-like” (p. 49). Jack becomes increasingly animal-like over the course of the novel as he loses his humanity: “Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms: authority sat on his shoulder and chattered in his ear like an ape.” (p. 165)