Using the Into, Through and Beyond method of organizing a lesson, TWM suggests the following:
1. Divide students into groups of four. Tell them to imagine that they are stranded on a deserted tropical island with unknown hope of rescue. Give the students about 15 minutes to determine, as a group, how they would proceed in each of the following areas. They should spend no more than four minutes on each.
Rules of behavior, governance, and leadership;
- Building shelters and sanitation;
- Finding food and water; and
- Rescue efforts.
There are a variety of ways to proceed from here, depending on how much time is available. One person in each group can be assigned to take notes on how the group decided to handle the issues assigned to them. Another can be assigned to present the decision and the reason for it to the class in a presentation of a limited time period, for example, no more than one minute. The class can then vote on which group had the best solution. If time is adequately controlled this should take no more than one 50 minute class period. In situations in which there is less class time available, students can be assigned to write a journal entry or short paper on the conclusions of their group.
2. Since the central problem in this story stems from the tension between the human urge to cooperate and the drive to compete, any assignment that causes the students to reflect on their own attitudes toward these opposing values is worthwhile in terms of preparing the students for the book or the film. Consider this exercise:
Students are posed the following situation: Six months from now, every student in the class will run a two-mile race. You are in charge of planning the race, creating incentives, training the participants, etc. You have one million dollars. You can use it any way you choose. The rules are simple: everyone must run a “personal best.” You lose the money altogether if there are any slackers.
Divide the class into small groups. Have them work together to develop a plan and then present the details to the class. Have the class decide which plan would be the most effective in getting the best race out of every participant.
Some groups will decide to put all of the money into first, second and third place contestants, stressing competition. Others will spread the wealth around urging cooperation. Others will rent vicious Rotweilers to chase the students around the track. This should be interesting and fun.
3. For classes that are not required to read the book, distribute a copy of chapter five from the novel. (This chapter is entitled, “Beast from Water”.) Select students to read it aloud or read it to them yourself. This chapter shows that fear has a great power to galvanize conformity. Students who have not read the novel will be able to experience the book’s aesthetic and see the contrast between the mundane aspects of living as castaways, such as hair in Ralph’s eyes or the attention he pays to his feet, and the fundamentals, such as the manipulation of fear that is causing the group to disintegrate. A chapter from the novel offers a good opportunity to teach close reading skills as you build interest in the film.
THROUGH (Including Additional Discussion Questions)
Show the film in as few class periods as possible. Unless there is a specific point that you want to make in light of a study of the book or the film, there is little advantage to chunking the movie.
Select three or four discussion questions that will work with your class.
Discussion questions 1 – 4 in the Guide.
5. What purpose lies behind including in the film the character of the injured adult who is dragged ashore in the opening scene?
The injured adult is a symbol of the absence of authority. Since he is feverish and out of it, he cannot play the role society assigns to adults in relationship to children. Students should note how the boys treat the man; they barely pay attention to him and when he seems to recover and runs away, one boy mistakes him for the monster and kills him. This shows the boys’ rejection of authority other than what they can find among themselves and the fact that wisdom and standards of behavior developed over time are absent.
6. This story has been called a tale of “peer pressure” run amok. Do you see peer pressure at work in this story?
There is no one correct answer to this question. A good discussion would include the concept that peer pressure can lead people to immoral and lawless actions, but also that more often than not, peer pressure helps people to act ethically. One of the main reasons that both adults and teenagers act ethically is to gain the approval of friends and associates and to avoid condemnation by them. This is peer pressure, but it’s seldom recognized as such. Few people talk about the concept that peer pressure can also be a force for good.
7. This story poses the question of whether the human spirit is evil unless restrained by rules and civilization. What does the story of Lord of the Flies tell us about this question and what is your personal answer to this question? Justify your conclusion.
There is no one correct answer. A good discussion will include an exploration of whether this society deteriorated due to chance factors such as bad leadership and fear or whether in times of crisis these will always come to the fore.
8. This story poses the question of the role of rules and wisdom in restraining the tendency for society to dissolve into chaos. Give your answer to this question and your justification for that answer. Tell us how the story of Lord of the Flies fits or doesn’t fit with your answer.
There is no one correct answer to this question. A good discussion will cite specific situations and characters from the story.
9. This story is said to have allegorical elements. Describe the allegory.
There is no one correct description. Here is one. The island is the world. The boys marooned on the island are Western societies. The monster is the Soviet Union and/or International Communism.
10. Would the story have been different if the people marooned on the island were primarily adults? Describe how and why?
Answers will vary. Good discussions should include the concept that adults will have had more experience that the boys and better judgment and would hopefully have honored the rules of civilized behavior. Adults would have had years and decades to build habits of civilized behavior. Hopefully, adults would have resisted and stopped the descent into savagery. But there are instances in history in which complex and sophisticated civilizations have lost their course and rejected civilized norms. The primary example is Germany in the 1930s and through the end of WWII. Another is the trials of people accused of withcraft in Europe and America in the 1700s. Examples of policies in U.S. history driven by fear which lead to an erosion of civic principles include the internment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII and the Red Scares of 1917 – 1921 and 1947 – 1957.
11. What does this story tell us about the nature of evil?
Answers will vary. A good response would include at least one of the following: that evil comes from selfishness, from unrestrained pursuit of personal interest, from failure to honor the norms of civilized behavior, from failure to recognize that we are all interdependent and must help each other, and from failure to live by the rules which direct our behavior to help the community.
12. Simon takes the glow stick to the cave and sees the dead captain. He rushes back to the fire to tell the boys. What happens to him and what provoked this event?
The boys are frenetically dancing around the fire pretending to kill one boy who is playing the role of the monster. When they see Simon coming down the beach, they are already in an excited state and think he is the monster. They rush at him and kill him. This shows how irrational, uncontrolled and lawless the boys have become. The combination of fear and the ritual violence provokes their actions.
13. When Ralph and Piggy discuss the killing of Simon, how does Piggy attempt to justify it and what does this justification say about him?
Piggy says to Ralph, “We were scared. It wasn’t our fault. It was an accident. There were too many of them.” These lines suggest that, in spite of knowing it was wrong to kill Simon, Piggy is able to justify the actions because of his fear of Jack’s tribe of boys. It also shows that Piggy is starting to move emotionally to join Jack’s tribe. In fact, Piggy and Ralph didn’t participate in killing Simon. This scene points out that people, rather than nature or monsters are the biggest threat.
14. Piggy talks about joining Jack’s tribe, even though the boys tease him and it is dangerous for him there. Why would he do this?
Many people feel that being alone is worse than a miserable existence in a group. [The next question follows this question in logical sequence.]
15. Piggy is very lonely and wants to be with the other boys. As a result, he tries to reason with Jack’s tribe and explain that they all have to work together. What happens to him when he does this and what is the importance of this to the theme of the story?
Piggy’s need to join Jack’s tribe to be with the other boys and not be isolated from the group gets him killed. Boys from Jack’s tribe throw a boulder on him as he is trying to reason with them. In this sequence the author and filmmakers are demonstrating the uselessness and danger of succumbing to the need to belong to the group. Ralph would not join a savage and uncivilized group and he survives when Jack’s tribe tries to kill him.
16. Piggy complains to Ralph: “We did everything the way grownups would’ve. Why didn’t it work?” Do you agree with Piggy? Explain your answer.
There is no one correct response. The filmmakers put this line into the dialog for a reason. Piggy is generally not a delusional character and speaks truth frequently. However, there is another side to this. Wouldn’t adults have had the maturity to learn to cooperate and to act in a civilized manner? Doesn’t this happen in society every day in millions of ways? If it didn’t, we’d all be living in chaos.
17. Piggy is teased. Every time a child calls him “Piggy” it is a tease. How does it affect him and how the kids treat him?
The teasing is obviously very hurtful to Piggy. In addition, it stresses his difference from the other kids and sets him apart as an “other”. This is the first step in the chain of events that leads to his glasses being stolen and his murder by one of Jack’s tribe.
18. After Simon is killed in the mistaken belief that he is the monster, Piggy and Ralph have a conversation about the Russians. This seems very out of place, but authors and filmmakers usually don’t include comments like this without a reason. What do the Russians have to do with this story?
During the Cold War, when the United States and the countries of NATO faced off against the Russians, there was a great fear of Communists in the U.S. Some political leaders tried to get and retain power by scaring the public about the “monster” of communism. In the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s, this fear resulted in panicked, unreasoning attacks on other citizens. People who held left-wing political beliefs were blacklisted and sent to jail for refusing to disclose the names of people who had attended left-wing political meetings. This is symbolized by the killing of Simon. [However, the political analysis of Jack as a leader is not restricted to a critique of the scare tactics of the red baiters. See the next question.]
19. What type of political leader does Jack represent? Give some examples.
Jack represents any demagogue: overthrowing the civilized order, setting up his own group, reminding the group that he fulfills his promises, giving the group special markings and privileges, enforcing discipline, demanding shows of obedience, and keeping his power and justifying his excesses through fear of the “monster”. His statement, “The monster can come again any time . . . in any shape, just when we’re not ready”, shows a leader building up fear to keep control. Leaders who have used this tactic include: Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin, Joseph McCarthy and many, many, more. Ralph’s statement to the twins that, “If you don’t stand up to him, you’re just another one of his slaves.” is also an indication that the author and filmmakers are making a political statement with this part of the story.
12. The conch shell that Piggy finds serves as an important symbol in the film. Explain the symbol.
Since the shell is used to call the boys to an assembly and then used to maintain order as various speakers are heard, it is a representation of civilized order. As the conflict between Ralph and Jack increases, the shell begins to lose its power, showing the breakdown of order. The shell is crushed by the boulder that kills Piggy.
13. Fires are started using Piggy’s glasses. Later his glasses are broken and then stolen. The theft renders Piggy helpless and sets in motion the events that lead to his death. The glasses are a symbol, telling us something about the boys and the theme of the story. What do the glasses symbolize?
The following are interesting points to raise in a discussion of this question: (1) The glasses bring a bit of the advanced technology of civilization to the natural world of the island. They allow the boys to have fire, which is important for cooking and also for the watch fire. The glasses and their use to create fire suggest that in order to survive, the boys need the benefits of civilization. However, to use technology without harming ourselves and others, we need rules, the rules of a civilized society. (2) The acts of destroying and stealing the glasses are steps in the progressive march of Jack’s tribe toward savagery. (3) Piggy is inextricably connected with his glasses because without them he is virtually blind. (4) One of Piggy’s roles in the story is to be a truth teller and a voice for reason and civilized values. But when the glasses are taken away, it is more difficult for him to be an advocate for truth. (5) The theft of the glasses sets up the confrontation in which the boys of Jack’s tribe murder Piggy and completely silence his truth. In fact, Piggy is murdered as he is trying to get his glasses back by speaking the truth about the need to act in a civilized manner. (6) The murder of Piggy as he is trying to get his glasses back and while he is speaking in favor of civilized values is the final step in the path to the abandonment of civilized norms taken by Jack’s boys. It also signals the effort to hunt and exterminate Ralph, the last and strongest proponent of civilized values. In these several ways, the glasses serve as a symbol for the benefits of civilization and highlight the need for treating each other in a civilized manner.
15. What does fire represent in the several ways it is depicted in the film?
Fire is first seen as a signal to any rescue opportunity that presents itself. When the fire goes out, the boys fear that they may not be saved. Piggy’s glasses enable the boys to start a fire, showing the importance of elements from civilization even against forces of nature. When Jack’s tribe lets the fire go out, the boys steal Piggy’s glasses in order to ignite another fire, thus showing how they will resort to lawlessness to gain what they want.
16. When Ralph is elected to lead the group, he says: “It doesn’t matter who is in charge. We’ve got to work together.” What does this line reveal about Ralph’s sense of leadership?
Ralph’s words show his belief in cooperation and a basic democratic principle. He values the others in the group and respects their opinion but insists that they must conform for survival’s sake.
17. Pigs are a motif. Explain the references to pigs, including the nickname Piggy and suggest what is meant by each reference.
Piggy, the rational, whiney, intelligent, fat boy, does not want to be called Piggy. He tells Ralph this and very soon Ralph, as well as the entire group of boys, is calling him Piggy. This diminishes respect for Piggy; it robs him of his credibility and later of his humanity. As Piggy becomes an “other”, it is easier to rob and then to kill him. This is a traditional device employed by groups to permit them to kill or oppress people thought of as the “other”. Examples of names for people who are to be killed or oppressed include: gook, slant, kraut, nigger, kike, sheeney, wop, etc. In addition, pigs are hunted for food by the boys. They are also used for ritual, as shown in the dance around the fire when one boy plays the part of the hunted pig. The boys paint their faces with pig blood showing their membership in Jack’s group of hunters. At one point Jack cuts the head off of a pig and stakes it in front of the cave where the monster is allegedly holed up. This becomes “Lord of Flies”, a gift to the monster and a fetish that may protect the boys from the feared monster.
18. Does Jack promote disorder? Explain your answer.
Jack doesn’t really promote disorder. Instead he promotes his own order which is antithetical to the principles of morality and what the author considers to be civilized action. Remember when Jack gets the boys to say “The chief has spoken” and reminds the boys that he fulfills his promises.
19. What qualities does Ralph possess that lead him to resist the decent into savagery?
Ralph recognizes the importance of community and caring for others.
20. Can you recall any specific things that Ralph says that demonstrate that he is striving to achieve order?
There are several examples. He says, “We need more discipline. We can’t have kids stealing and running wild. We’re going to have to have rules.” Ralph brings up the idea of punishment for breaking the rules saying there should be a system of demerits. Ralph tries to get the boys to keep the signal fire going instead of playing around or hunting all of the time. He stresses a work ethic.
21. When the boys discuss Jack’s past, what do we learn about his character?
We learn that Jack was sent to military school because he took a neighbor’s car and went joy riding. This shows Jack’s lack of control, willingness to dispense with the rules of civilization, and propensity to take risks.
22. As Jack and the boys are tracking Ralph, they chase him to the beach where a man in military uniform, attracted to the island by the blazing fire, stands ready to rescue the boys. What ironies exist in this last scene?
There are many answers to this question depending upon the student’s familiarity with irony. It is ironic that the savage tribe of boys would virtually destroy nature by causing the fire in order to stop the civilization that Ralph represents when they need nature to survive in their savage state. It is ironic that the boys, who have been unwilling to respond to pleas for order, instantly become orderly in the face of uninjured and powerful adults. It is ironic that the rescue was caused by a fire that was started by the boys who long ago gave up any hope of rescue and intended to use the fire to allow them to kill Ralph, the last representative of civilization on the island. It is ironic that the boys are rescued at the moment in which they were trying to kill Ralph, the character most focused on rescue.
See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
1. Divide the students into groups and assign each group one of the following set of victims of an airplane crash that left a group of boys marooned on a deserted tropical island. Have them work together to determine how they think the victims would act. Would there be significant differences between the behaviors of the assigned group and the behaviors of the boys in the film? Could it be true that culture rather than human nature dictates behavior in a situation such as the one in the film? Students should share their ideas in a presentation before the entire class.
- A team of athletes;
- Native Americans from one tribe;
- Women in general;
- Men in general;
- Male Malibu surfers;
- A mixed group of men and women;
- Male Members of a Detroit inner-city gang;
- Members of Congress, male and female; and
- English teachers, male and female.
In the alternative, students can be required to write a short narrative of what would happen if a group of such people was marooned on a deserted island in the tropics.
2. Some critics argue that the issues and ideas presented in this story no longer ring true. They suggest that the boy’s behavior on the island lacks credibility. The themes of the film, however, remain important. Divide the students into groups and ask them to come up with a film proposal in which they suggest a setting, characters, conflicts and resolution that would be more timely and universal in nature. Present the results of the group work before the entire class. Then have the class as a whole serve as a group of producers looking to finance a film. Which of the suggested stories would they select as the one most likely to bring in the profits?