Lord of the Flies

This study guide will help you analyze the novel Lord of the Flies (1954) 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.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:

The longer the boys are alone on the island, the more violent they become and the more evil acts they commit. They start by damaging the island itself (setting fire to it and hunting the pigs) and they eventually start attacking each other, resulting in murder.

Simon, who represents goodness, recognizes that the beast the boys fear is actually some evil inside themselves. This is made clear in Simon’s imaginary conversation with the Lord of the Flies (a complex symbol for evil and the devil): “ ‘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?’ ” (p. 158)

Ironically, the boys are afraid of the beast, but the more they try to appease it by dancing or leaving sacrifices, the more the evil becomes real inside them. Eventually, the boys completely abandon their invented social order and become savages under Jack’s evil dictatorship. First Simon and Piggy are murdered, then Jack orders the boys to hunt and kill Ralph. 

Eventually, saved by the sudden arrival of an adult, Ralph cries over “the end of innocence” and “the darkness of man’s heart” (p. 225). However, it arguably remains unclear whether the boys have become evil in spite of the “civilization” they have abandoned (and are simply evil at heart), or because of that civilization (which has itself collapsed in nuclear war). The boys are arguably acting as extreme versions of what they have been taught to be at their upper-class schools. They are used to having rules at school, so they replicate them on the island. At school and on the island, the older boys bully the younger ones, and they are encouraged (or encourage each other) to repress their emotions. At school, they are given an outlet for their repressed emotions in the form of violent sports (such as rugby); on the island, they release their repressed emotions through violent acts of hunting and dancing. 

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Lord of the Flies

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