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Lord of the Flies Analysis


“Like any orthodox moralist Golding insists that Man is
fallen creature, but he refuses to hypostatize Evil or
locate it in a dimension of its own.
On the contrary 
Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies,
is Roger and Jack and you and I,
ready to declare himself as soon as we permit him to.”
—from “The Fables of William Golding” by John Peter, 1957

piggy“Lord of the Flies is a very serious book which has to be introduced seriously. The danger of such an introduction is that it may suggest that the book is stodgy. It is not. It is written with taste and liveliness, the talk is natural, the descriptions of scenery enchanting. It is certainly not a comforting book. But it may help a few grownups to be less complacent and more compassionate, to support Ralph, to respect Piggy, control Jack, and lighten a little the darkness of man’s heart. At the present moment (if I may speak personally), it is respect for Piggythat seems needed most. I do not find it in our leaders.”

—E. M. Forster, introduction to Howard-McCann edition of
Lord of the Flies, 1962

lordflies“The South-Sea island setting suggests everyone’s fantasy of lotus-eating escape or refuge from troubles and care. But for Golding this is the sheerest fantasy: there is no escape from the agony of being human, no possibility of erecting utopian political systems where all will go well. Man’s inescapable depravity makes sure “it’s no-go” on Golding’s island just as it does on the various islands visited by Gulliver in Swift’s excoriating examination of the realities of the human condition.”

—from The Novels of William Golding by S. J. Boyd, 1988


Golding himself had this to say about Lord of the Flies in his essay collection A Moving Target (1985):

More than a quarter of a century ago I sat on one side of the fireplace and my wife on the other. We had just put the children to bed after reading to the elder some adventure story or another—Coral Island, Treasure Island, Pirate Island, Magic Island. God knows what island. Islands have always and for good reason bulked large in the British consciousness. But I was tired of these islands with their paper-cutout goodies and baddies and everything for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I said to my wife, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I wrote a story about boys on an island and let them behave the way they really would?” She replied at once, “That’s a first class idea. You write it.” So I sat down and wrote it.

golding2A story about boys, about people who behave as they really would! What sheer hubris! What an assumption of the divine right of authors! How people really behave—whole chapters in that row of books behind my chair do little in the last analysis but agree to or dissent from that first casual remark. How then did I choose a theme? Even then, did I know what I was about? It had taken me more than half a lifetime, two world wars and many years among children before I could make that casual remark because to me the job was so plainly possible.

Yet there is something more. In a way the book was to be and did become a distillation from that life. Before the Second World War my generation did on the whole have a liberal and naïve belief in the perfectibility of man. In the war we became if not physically hardened at least morally and inevitably coarsened. After it we saw, little by little, what man could do to man, what the Animal could to do his own species. The years of my life that went into the book were not years of thinking but years of feeling, years of wordless brooding that brought me not so much to an opinion as a stance. It was like lamenting the lost childhood of the world. The theme defeats structuralism for it is an emotion.

The theme of Lord of the Flies is
grief, sheer grief, grief, grief, grief.

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Survival and The Coral Island

Survival stories have been a popular mainstay of literature stemming back to the oral tradition. The British and American branches of literature are full of them. Daniel Defoe’s 1719 tale Robinson Crusoe exemplifies many of the hallmarks of these tales we find familiar: a stranded hero, a deserted island, meetings and clashes with various native cultures, and eventual rescue, where the hero returns home a changed man for his experience. The book’s popularity spawned an entire subgenre of literature called Robinsonade, all of which contain a stranded hero, a new beginning, encounters with natives, and commentary on society. These influences can be seen in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), a particularly biting piece of satire that uses the castaway motif to savage various aspects of English society, and the modern film Cast Away (2000), in which Tom Hanks plays a stranded Federal Express executive who survives alone on an island in the South Pacific for four years with the help of the contents of FedEx packages that washed up on the island with him, including a personified volleyball named Wilson.

In the Victorian era, one book of Robinsonade rose above all others in popularity, The Coral Island, published in 1858 by the Scottish author R. M. Ballantyne. The Amazon summary for this book reads, “When the three sailor lads, Ralph, Jack and Peterkin are cast ashore after the storm, their first task is to find out whether the island is inhabited. Their next task is to find a way of staying alive. They go hunting and learn to fish, explore underwater caves and build boats – but then their island paradise is rudely disturbed by the arrival of pirates.” 

Clearly, Golding is in familiar territory, which is unsurprising. The Coral Island, one of the first adventure books written for boys and employing a boy as the central character, became wildly popular in Great Britain. The Coral Island has been required reading for British schoolchildren since the Victorian era (Golding will most certainly have read it in school), and the characters of Lord of the Flies reference it in Chapter 3 when Jack, Ralph, and Simon return from their fact-finding mission and confirm they have all been stranded.

Part of The Coral Island‘s popularity was its clear messages about morality and choices. Ralph, Jack, and Peterkin of the story are tested by their isolation, their encounters with pirates, and their interactions with the cannibalistic inhabitants of nearby islands. Through a series of adventures, the boys’ friendship and loyalty are tested and proved, and at the end the three friends, older and wiser, sail back to England together. Ballantyne included them in a sequel, The Gorilla Hunters, in 1861.

Victorian audiences ate it up. In a time when virtue was valued above all else, the purifying adventures of the novel revealed English boyhood at its very best, a trait embodied in Jack’s confident assertion in Lord of the Flies that their group would survive triumphant simply because they were English and therefore the best at everything. However, the book also contains the Victorian fault of viewing its English central characters as superior in breeding and morality to the “savage” native inhabitants of the region, who are dismissed as evil or praised as good based on whether those people have submitted to English values or have adopted Christianity. Golding, as you will see, explores these moral ideas with his characters in quite a different way.

A clear and rather extensive analysis of the literary influences and history of The Coral Island may be found at its Wikipedia entry. And since Golding clearly borrowed many elements of The Coral Island for Lord of the Flies, perhaps that helps us get close to solving one of the little, yet provocative, mysteries of the book: What is Piggy’s real name? (Hint: Who are the three main characters in The Coral Island?)




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Esperanza Onstage

In 2009, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago produced a stage version of The House on Mango Street as part of its Steppenwolf for Young Adults series. Written by Tanya Saracho, the play dramatizes many of the vignettes of the novel, with music and performances bringing the characters and neighborhood to life. The production was directed by Hallie Gordon and featured Belinda Cervantes, Gina Cornejo, Sandra Delgado, Liza Fernandez, Ricardo Gutierrez, Christina Nieves, Tony Sancho and Mari Stratton. Here are three scenes from the production, taken from “Our Good Day,” “The Family of Little Feet,” and “My Name.”

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Judging LOTF by the Cover

Although we’re often warned not to judge books by their covers, that’s exactly what we do. The cover art for a book is the first signal to the reader about the contents within, and a good cover can have a huge influence on whether a prospective reader will not only pick it up, but delve inside. Many readers will judge whether they might like a book solely on how the book appears. Hence, publishers pay close attention to how a book is presented.

Image result for past covers lord of the fliesChristopher King, the art director for the American publishing house Melville House, explored some of the design choices for Lord of the Flies in this post. One of the featured covers is for the 1980 Perigee edition found on the book you’re using, featuring artwork by California artist Barron Storey. Consider the differences between that cover and the current cover of the 2006 update by artist Ben Gibson.Image result for past covers lord of the flies 



In late 2011, the British publisher Faber and Faber, in association with the national newspaper Guardian, launched a cover competition for the centenary edition of Lord of the Flies. Since this edition was intended for the education market, only young artists aged 13-16 were invited to compete.

The official site for the competition included a gallery of past covers of Lord of the Flies in addition to the finalist entries from the contest. Review some of the historical covers in the Melville House post and compare them to one of the galleries from the competition below to see how cover design has changed since 1953. How does each cover reveal a different aspect or perception of the novel?

Gallery of competition entries from The Guardian

Gallery of competition entries from HuffPost UK


In the end, the judges unanimously selected the mixed media work of 15-year-old Sarah Baxter as the contest winner. An interview with Sarah was published in The Guardian. Her artwork was published in September, 2012 when Faber and Faber released the UK education edition of Lord of the Flies.

Explore the artwork further. What has Ms. Baxter included in her artwork that speaks to the plot, characters, and themes of the novel? Do you find this to be a successful cover? Is it intriguing? Would you have selected a different work as the winner? Which cover works better for the novel, the new US cover above, or the British cover? Considering these details can lead you to greater insight into the novel within.

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Othello – Text Sources

Othello CoverTo access a copy of Othello on your device, try the links provided on Canvas.

Download or listen to a streaming audio version of the play at Librivox.

A PDF of the play from the Folger Library may be found here.

The full text of the play may be read online here.

Scenes plus notes may be found here.

If you get truly stuck, the “No Fear Shakespeare” version from SparkNotes, with side-by-side modern English translation, is available here. Use this only if you’re completely lost. Trust yourself first!

The Orange County Library System has tons of Shakespeare resources, including the 1995 Fishburne/Branagh version in both DVD and online streaming formats, the 1965 Olivier on DVD, and the 2001 BBC TV production on DVD.

Use video resources to enhance your reading through YouTube. Shakespeare in performance is very different from tackling the text alone.

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Lit Circles: Novel Choices

In preparation for Literature Circles, please review the following information about the books. You will select a book of your choice and join in a circle with 3-5 members of your class. During class Friday, we will review lit circle procedures, deadlines, and assignments. You will receive a copy of your book at that time, so have your first and second choices in mind.

1984 by George Orwell

1984Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Orwell’s vision of a future in which truth is fluid, privacy is gone, and even your thoughts can be enough to send you to prison ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaidOffred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bnwThe 1931 debut of Brave New World reflected the fears European society held after the Great War and how the explosion of technology and industry would impact individual identity. Huxley’s darkly satiric vision of the future envisions a “utopian” world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order–and what happens when a “savage” asking questions about humanity, society, and love shows up.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

cuckooBoisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Turning conventional notions of sanity and insanity on their heads, the novel tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the story through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them all imprisoned.

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Video Study Guide: The Awakening

Alas, until Sparky Sweets, Ph.D. and the good folks at Thug Notes produce one for The Awakening, we’ll have to look for other sources. This video study guide from Brittany Reads is quite good. Check the file on YouTube for more links.

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Walking Through History: Brontë Country

Walking Through History is a British television show hosted by Sir Tony Robinson, an actor, comedian, children’s book author, and amateur historian best known for his role in the historical comedy series Blackadder. In this episode, Brontë Country, Sir Tony takes a four-day journey across the West Yorkshire moors, visiting not only the Brontë’s home in Haworth Village, but many of the sites mentioned in Wuthering Heights, including the Penistone Crags and Top Withens, the ruin of the house widely believed to be Emily Brontë’s inspiration for the Earnshaw home.


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Wuthering Heights Links


Background Information

Lilia Melani, background information for English 40.4: The Nineteenth Century Novel, Brooklyn College (City University of New York)

Paul Thompson, The Reader’s Guide to Wuthering Heights

Haworth Village

Wuthering Heights on Film

1939 version (Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon)
Nominated for eight Oscars, winning one for Best Cinematography

1970 version (Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall)

1992 version (Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche)

2009 Masterpiece Theatre version (Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley)

2011 version (James Howson and Kaya Scodelario)

Image of Top Withens, commonly believed to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights, from

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Entering Yoknapatawpha County

Former Orlando Sentinel Books Editor Nancy Pate described William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County as “[a] fictional landscape…peopled by rogues and rednecks, farmers and townsfolk, descendants of soldiers, slaves and carpetbaggers. There are whites, blacks, mulattos, people of all ages. They have names like Snopes and Sutpen, Compson and Bundren, Sartoris and Varner, Benbow and McCaslin. They live on old plantations and tenant farms,  in small hamlets and crossroads smaller still. Their stories–many of them intertwining–make up what Faulkner called ‘the tragic fable of Southern history.'”

WF1946MapMuch like English novelist Thomas Hardy, whose “Wessex” is a fictional amalgam of real locations, Faulkner based Yoknapatawpha County on very real places. Faulkner lived for most of his life in Oxford, Mississippi. In Faulkner’s work, Oxford becomes the town of Jefferson, while the real Jefferson County is named “Yoknapatawpha” after the old Chickasaw word for the Yocona River south of town. The county is located in north central Mississippi not far from the Tennessee border. This 1947 map indicates the primary locations of several of Faulkner’s major works, including not only Light in August but also his masterworks Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury.

mapwfThe second map, probably drawn in 1947 for Malcolm Cowley’s Portable Faulkner, is just one of a series that Faulkner created for each of his works. Characters, events, and locations in one work often make appearances in another. As such, many of the maps contain references not only to the current work, but other works that might have connections to it.

Stephen Railton of the University of Virginia has created a series of interactive Yoknapatawpha maps which provide commentary on places in selected Faulkner works. Those maps are available here.
Maps from the Faulkner Collection, Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.

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