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Thug Notes: Lord of the Flies

Life in this hood is savage, yo! Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

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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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Sketchnotes: Process Your Thinking Visually

An option you have as you complete your Six Pack Sheets is to use sketchnotes, or visual notes, instead of the written details requested for pages 3 (important scenes) and 4 (character information) of each Six Pack Sheet. Your sketchnotes must include the same details outlined on the instructions for each page, but you may opt to present this information in visual instead of written form. Sketchnotes will be graded for content and presentation, but remember—their purpose is to help you recall important details about the text, not to fulfill requirements for an art class. “Stick dude”-level art skills are perfectly acceptable. If you’re an artist, feel free to knock yourself out.

Below are some introductory videos that explain how sketchnotes are created. I encourage you to search for sketchnote examples (both video and images) to decide if they will be a more helpful way for you to process the characters, themes, and ideas of the major works we will be studying this year.

The Basics of Visual Notetaking

The Power of Sketchnotes

Basic Sketchnote Tips

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Short Story Bootcamp: Writing Prep

bootsWe’re in the home stretch of our short story boot camp, and now it’s time for you to put your knowledge to work. You will work with a cohort to discuss and analyze a story from an assigned group. The ultimate objective is to write a paper about the story which uses specific examples from the selected text to answer an AP-style prompt.

Your cohort will complete the following tasks:

  • Read and discuss your story – you may mark your electronic copy either with notes/highlighting in Google Docs or through a PDF markup tool like Acrobat or Kami
  • Select an AP prompt from a provided list
  • Collaborate to plan and write a formal paper – all members of the cohort should assist each other in gathering evidence and refining the paper draft

You and your cohort should confer to select ONE story from your assigned group. You may access/download a copy of your story from the following links:


Gina Berriault, “The Stone Boy

Ha Jin, “Saboteur

Tillie Olson, “I Stand Here Ironing

Alice Walker, “Everyday Use


Sherman Alexie, “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily

Frank O’Connor, “First Confession

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, “The Medicine Bag


Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God

Nadine Gordimer, “Once Upon a Time

Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Gabriel García Márquez, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World


In your cohort, you will first discuss and expand your knowledge and understanding of your selected story. Use the Literary Elements diagram to guide your analysis and discussion. Consider which of the tools are being employed in a way that reveals the author’s overall meaning in the story. For example, John Updike’s “A&P” is successful because of his choice of the first person point of view, which helps to create the indelible character of Sammy the checkout clerk. You can discuss strong characterization, the success of the use of dialogue, diction and syntax choices that reveal tone, how symbols in the story convey meaning—your choices are open. You could also refer to the Exploring and Identifying Theme handout to begin crafting a MOWAW for your story. Remember, a statement of meaning cannot be a single word; it must be expressed in a phrase.

Your discussion and analysis will be used to select a prompt for your final 500-word paper, which will be due next week. Prompts will be made available tomorrow.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God Foldable


Hurston’s novel embodies the philosophy of visual thinking as the narrator says: “There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”

As old Nanny sits rocking Janie in the second chapter, “Mind pictures brought feelings, and feelings dragged out dramas from the hollows of her heart.”  Using construction paper, printed images, colored pencils, or whatever other art supplies you choose, you will visually organize the plot, the literary techniques, and the character changes Janie undergoes. By developing this foldable, we can trace the changes in Janie through the four phases of her life.


Begin with a sheet of 11×17 paper. Fold the paper in half, then fold each edge into the center. Crease along the center to form a booklet. While the paper is still folded into a booklet, print the title, and author’s name, and your name on the outside to make a cover. You may decorate this how you choose.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a frame story, with the beginning and end chapters consisting of Janie’s return to Eatonville and her conversation with Pheoby which frame the flashback segments making up the middle part of the book. Opening the booklet will reveal the opening and closing parts of the frame.

LEFT FLAP: Write about the opening chapter where Janie walks down the street, ignoring the porch sitters as she returns to Eatonville and begins to tell her story to Pheoby. What is your initial impression of Janie? Use illustrations or quotations to explain your perception.

RIGHT FLAP: On the right flap, write about the closing chapter. Janie finishes her conversation with Pheoby, who is amazed by Janie’s transformation. Using illustrations and quotations from Chapter 20, show us how Janie—and your perception of her—has changed.

CENTER SECTIONS: Folding back the flaps will reveal the center, which is creased into four sections. In this novel, Janie journeys through four stages of life in her quest for respect, independence, and wholeness. Each of the four sections of the foldable represents one of those stages. Her life is controlled by others in the first three stages, first her grandmother (Nanny), then Logan Killicks, and Joe (Jody) Starks. After Jody’s death, she is able to make her own decisions leading to her relationship to Tea Cake, and she begins to celebrate her own worth and independence. You will illustrate and explain the stages of her journey, helping you draw conclusions about her character development.


  • Give each section a title that expresses what that section is about.
  • In each section sketch one visual image (a symbol or icon that you think most expresses an important part of that section; it can be an object, a visual image of an event or place essential to this part of the story) that stands out to you, and use colors that remind you of the mood, setting, or characters. Explain the importance of that symbol or image. EXAMPLE: an axe could symbolize that Logan at first chops wood for Janie, but later they fight over his demands that she chop wood and work in the fields.
  • Write about the events in that section, especially the ones that lead to a change in Janie, using quotes from the text. Information in each panel can include where Janie lived, the person who most influenced her life, events of that part of the story, and how Janie changed to meet the challenges of these events and influences. DON’T JUST SUMMARIZE THE STORY. You must use quotes in each section that show stages of Janie’s journey and character development and explain their meaning.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is rich in symbols, imagery, metaphor, and other literary devices. I strongly suggest you complete each section of the project as you finish reading the appropriate chapters. That way, you won’t have to go back and hunt for specifics as you complete each section.

Your project will be graded on its completeness, attention to detail, evidence of thoughtful interpretation, and presentation. This isn’t an art class, so the quality of your art (i.e. hand-drawn vs. pasted images) isn’t the issue, but everyone is expected to submit a neat and professional-looking project.

Untitled painting of Eatonville life, painted c. 1930-40 by Jules Andre Smith, founder of the Research Studio, now known as the Maitland Art Center.

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Thug Notes: Othello

Sex, booze, lies, and revenge–just another day on Cyprus! Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

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Key Scenes in Othello

othello's lamentation

Consider/review these scenes as you complete your Major Works Data Sheet for Othello and prepare for the seminar:
Act I, Scene 3 – Othello and Desdemona’s stories of their love; The Duke’s and Brabantio’s warnings to Othello; Iago’s advice to Roderigo; Iago’s final speech
Act II, Scene 1 – Iago, Emilia, and Desdemona speaking of men and women; Iago’s speeches regarding his developing plan of revenge
Act II, Scene 3 – Cassio’s downfall and Iago’s advice to Cassio
Act III, Scene 3 – Iago plants and waters the seed of jealousy
Act III, Scene 4 – Othello confronts Desdemona about the handkerchief
Act IV, Scene 1 – Iago “proves” Cassio’s betrayal; Othello and Iago make plans
Act IV, Scene 3 – Desdemona and Emilia talk of men and women
Act V, Scene 1 – Iago puts his final plan into action
Act V, Scene 2 – Othello carries through with his part of the bargain; Iago’s plot is revealed and tragedy befalls the cast

Othello’s Lamentation by William Salter, 1857, from the Folger Library Collection


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Many Faces of Othello


On November 1, 1604, Master of Revels Edmund Tilney notes that a play titled The Moor of Venice was performed at Whitehall Palace for King James I. In the four hundred-plus years since, Othello has become one of the best-known and regarded of Shakespeare’s plays. It has also presented a number of questions regarding its central character, Othello the Moor.

During the Elizabethan era, the word “Moor” could have meant several things. Scholar Ben Arogundade notes that “[‘Moor’] was first used to describe the natives of Mauretania — the region of North Africa which today corresponds to Morocco and Algeria. It was later applied to people of Berber and Arab origin, who conquered and ruled the Iberian Peninsula — the area now known as Spain and Portugal — for nearly eight centuries. From the Middle Ages onwards the Moors were commonly regarded as black Africans, and the word was used alongside the terms ‘negro,’ ‘Ethiopian’ and ‘Blackamoor’ as a racial identifier.

othello arabAt the time of performance, London audiences would have been familiar with a man named Abd al-Wahid bin Masoud bin Muhammad al-Annuri, who arrived in 1600 as an ambassador of the Sa’adian ruler of Morocco, Mulay Ahmed al-Mansur. England’s various alliances with the countries of North Africa familiarized the Elizabethan world with their traditions. Islamic and Muslim characters appeared in plays as early as Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great in 1587, and in more than sixty plays from the next ten years, characters described with words like “Moors,” “Saracens,” “Turks,” and “Persians” appeared, including several of Shakespeare’s own. So it is not without historical or literary precedent that some critics believe that the character of Othello is intended to be a North African man of Arab descent.

The far more common interpretation, however, is for Othello to be viewed as a sub-Saharan African with black features. It is this portrayal that is most commonly found in modern productions of the play. From Shakespeare’s time until the early 1800s, this meant that the actor tackling the role would have played it in blackface makeup.

It wasn’t until 1826 that Othello was finally played by a black performer: American actor Ira Aldridge. Aldridge emigrated to London at age 17 to pursue his acting career. But his groundbreaking performance wasn’t without criticism. The 1933 performance in Covent Garden was criticized by the paper The Anthenaeum because of the startling new reality of Ellen Tree, the white actress playing Desdemona, being manhandled by Aldridge. And although Aldridge became quite famous in London and abroad, it took nearly a hundred years before another black actor became attached to the role. According to writer Samantha Ellis, “In 1825, the pro-slavery lobby had closed [Aldridge’s] production and the Times‘s critic had written: ‘Owing to the shape of his lips it is utterly impossible for him to pronounce English.’ No wonder it took almost a century for another black actor to brave the part.”

robesonPerhaps the best-known Othello in the United States is the renowned actor Paul Robeson. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson had built an international reputation not only from his role in the musical Show Boat, but as an athlete and an attorney. Robeson had a commanding physical presence that suited the role perfectly, but his casting against the young British actress Peggy Ashcroft in 1930 was not without controversy. Technical issues like poor staging and difficult acoustics made performing difficult. But no one argued with the power of Robeson’s performance. Ivor Brown, the critic for The Observer, described Robeson as “… an oak…a superb giant of the woods for the great hurricane of tragedy to whisper through, then rage upon, then break.” Audiences at the premiere gave Robeson twenty curtain calls. But, given the societal segregation of the time, Robeson had detractors as well who criticized everything from his interpretation of the role to how he pronounced the words of Shakespeare’s text. Samantha Ellis writes:

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, WA Darlington felt that Robeson was a “really memorable” Othello precisely because he was black: “By reason of his race Mr Robeson is able to surmount the difficulties which English actors generally find in the part.” While other Othellos had seemed illogically jealous, Robeson’s jealousy seemed real, because: “Mr Robeson…comes of a race whose characteristic is to keep control of its passions only to a point, and after that point to throw control to the winds.” It was a “fine” performance and “the much-debated question whether Shakespeare meant Othello to be a negro or an Arab can be left to the professors.” Baughan, in contrast, stated baldly: “I agree with Coleridge that Othello must not be conceived as a negro, but as a high and chivalrous Moorish chief.”

Only the Express‘s critic seemed to think the casting of a black actor was a historic event. He reported overhearing people saying “Why should a black actor be allowed to kiss a white actress?” and his review, subtitled “Coloured Audience in the Stalls,” concluded that Robeson had “triumphed as a negro Moor, black, swarthy, muscular, a real man of deep colour.”

Robeson himself enjoyed playing Othello, and it became his signature role for the remainder of his career. As Ellis notes, “For Robeson, it was more than just a part: it was, as he once said, ‘killing two birds with one stone. I’m acting and I’m talking for the negroes in the way only Shakespeare can.'”

olivier smithDespite the positive reception of an African-American actor in the role, the Oscar-nominated 1965 production (the highest number for a Shakespeare film in history) starring Sir Laurence Olivier and a very young Dame Maggie Smith as Desdemona reverted to type: The famous English actor played the role in makeup. This was the first cinematic Othello to be shot using color film, and Oliver was as meticulous about that as he was about developing the physical character through a deep voice and a special walk. He stated in an interview with Life magazine in 1964 that, “The whole [makeup] will be in the lips and the colour. I’ve been looking at Negroes lips every time I see them on the train or anywhere, and actually, their lips seems black or blueberry-coloured, really, rather than red. But of course the variations are enormous. I’ll just use a little tiny touch of lake and a lot more brown and a little mauve.”

But as well-received as the production was by the Oscar crowd, its release during the height of the Civil Rights Movement dampened its reception with audiences. Arongundade remarks that “…[Olivier’s] blackface portrayal troubled American critics when the film opened there in 1966…sensitivities about black identity were at their height, and many saw Olivier’s chosen aesthetic as outdated.”

othello-james-earl-jonesPerhaps the pushback against the Olivier production opened the door for the now generally-accepted casting of an African-American actor in the role. Famous Othellos of the last several decades include theater luminaries like James Earl Jones, Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne in a stellar 1995 production starring Kenneth Branagh as Iago and French actress Irene Jacob as Desdemona, and young actor Mekhi Phifer in “O,” a contemporary version that transforms the military conflict into a basketball rivalry set in a high school. Other famous actors who have played Othello include Orson Welles, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Eamonn Walker in a 2001 TV movie co-starring Christopher Eccleston (best known as the ninth Doctor Who) as Iago, which transplants the action from Venice and Cyprus to a London police station.
othello reverse

Modern theater companies wishing to explore the themes of Othello in new ways have explored variant casting. A 1997 production of the play in Baltimore starred Patrick Stewart as Othello, the lone white actor in a racially-flipped cast in which every other actor was African-American. Stewart, pictured here with Patrice Johnson as Desdemona, explained, “One of my hopes for this production is that it will continue to say what a conventional production of Othello would say about racism and prejudice… To replace the black outsider with a white man in a black society will, I hope, encourage a much broader view of the fundamentals of racism.” A review in the Baltimore Sun said, “It is a tribute to the concept as well as Stewart’s performance that the initial awkwardness falls away as early as his second scene…Stewart, who possesses a calm assuredness at the start of the play, lets the theater’s predominantly white audience experience how completely foreign Othello must have felt in a society where he was viewed as the outsider.”

wolff othelloSpeaking of foreign: A German production at the Deutsches Theatre in 2001 pushed the boundaries of the character by not only casting a white actor as Othello, but a female one. This more avant-garde production starring actress Susanne Wolff sees Wolff utter her lines in varying costumes progressing from a simple black-and-white shirt and pants ensemble to—believe it or not—a gorilla suit intended to show Othello’s shift from loving partner to a more animalistic creature bent on vengeance. Blogger/reviewer Andrew Haydon says about the production, “Okay, there are two headlines to choose from here: 1) I’ve just seen the best production of Othello I’ve ever seen. 2) I’ve just seen a production of Othello in which Othello is played by a white woman in a gorilla costume. My job, then, is to explain how (2) manages to be (1).”

Ben Arungodade, “What Was Othello’s Race?” and “The 18 Most Memorable Othello Actors Performances
Baltimore Sun review of Sir Patrick Stewart Othello
Jerry Brotton, “Is This the Real Model for Othello?
Samantha Ellis, “Paul Robeson in Othello, Savoy Theatre, 1930
Emily Anne Gibson, “The Face of Othello
Andrew Haydon, “Othello – Deutsches Theatre

Othello Relating His Adventures to Desdemona by Carl Ludwig Friedrich Becker, 1880.

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Thug Notes: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lovers, asses, and fools—you know, everything you become when you fall in love. Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

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Shakespeare: Let It All Out


Some of my favorite comments you wrote about Shakespeare:

“I once got knocked out by being slammed on my head. Compared to Shakespeare, getting knocked out is fun. At least it is quicker.”

“I think Shakespeare is pretty freaking cool, even though sometimes it can be hella hard to translate.”

“His works are a vile thing, equivalent to castration and fingernail-bamboo torture.”

“I bite my thumb at Shakespeare.”

“In every play he kills almost everyone. IN EVERY PLAY. I can’t. I can’t even.”

“Let’s begin with the spelling of his name. It irritates me.”

“Shakespeare is my dog.”

“Shakespeare…to hate him or not to hate him…”

“I’ve always disliked any book that is older than me.”

“I don’t hate Shakespeare. I just don’t understand what he is saying.”

“I absolutely adore the Bard of Avon!”

“He’s a pretty cool guy I guess. His hair is ugly tho. He got MAD CLOUT.”

“OMG I love Shakespeare because of his plots and how it relates to us but that language? Oh no no honey!”

“I like that Shakespeare is Sex, Love, Death. But he has to be extra with his writing.”

“I think reading Shakespeare is like being suffocated with a pillow. I dislike the topics, the vocabulary, and the confusing names—”Mustardseed”? What is that??

“People say Shakespeare is a classic, a legend of the arts, a genius, can never be compared to, he is credited with some of the greatest works of all time, like Biggie.”

“I’ve been told many times that I was going to study Shakespeare. Never have I actually done that. Why? Because whenever it comes to that time, I stop paying attention.”

“Just stop with all of the ‘thou’ and ‘O’ stuff. But I guess it’s just a style, so you keep doing you, man. Shakespeare –> 7/10”

“I feel that people like him because of his name, like identical off-brand shoes to Nike.”

“I’m not a fan of ye olde English because it makes my brain melt out of my ears, but I haven’t read enough Willy to pass an unbiased judgment of him and his work. XOth XOth, Ye Olde Gossip Girl.”

“I’m not in love with him, but I don’t cringe at his name either.”

“When I hear the word ‘Shakespeare,’ I feel like imitating Romeo and killing myself. I also have the burning desire to have Macbeth’s fate (decapitation). I also feel like having the same ending as Julius Caesar: being stabbed thirteen times in the back.”

“Shakespeare and I have a hate-love relationship. I love his work, but the way he writes irks me with a raging passion.”

“So usually when I receive a Shakespeare play to read, I never read it because I feel stupid just trying.”

“Freaked out. Can’t understand. Grade will drop. I do like his stories when I understand them tho.”

“He’s super awesome, he lives up to the hype that surrounds his name. His works are the base of what many other works are written on.”

“Why does everything have to include something sad or love? Why can’t we read about trees or something when it comes to you? Why do I have to think twice as hard to figure out what you’re trying to say? GIVE ME A BREAK, SHAKESPEARE.”

“Meh. He’s chill, not for or against, but he’s for sure overhyped. Meh.”

“You want to know what I think about Shakespeare? You REALLY want to know? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ”

“Raw. Sexual. Ladies’ man. Hat with feather. Poet. Playwright.”

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