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In today’s class, we will be talking about Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Enjoy the class!
The plot structure of the novel, Lord of the Flies (1954), by William Golding can be seen to be not so difficult, but not so straight forward. It has some digressive links from the assembly ground to the paradisal landscape, to the mountain tops, to the ‘hunting’ creeper-forest, and to the castle rock, which all bring the book to a complete whole. In an effort to avoid over-embedding the book in complex plot structures that may further scare his readers, Golding artistically unveils the plot of his book within the same and connectively unified setting.
For convenience, as readers, we find the plot structure of the novel divided into three sections. The first deals with the arrival of the boys on the island: Ralph emerging first, followed by Piggy, Sam and Eric, the Choir led by Jack Merridew and others; the assembly gathered by sounds produced from the Conch discovered by Ralph and Piggy; the early decisions about what to do; the emphasis falls on the paradisal landscape, the hope of rescue, and the pleasures of day-to-day events. Everything which includes the actions and lifestyle of all within this part of the book is contained within law and rule: the sense of the awful and the forbidden is strong, as the Conch becomes the seat of authority for one to speak and act. Also, within this part of the book, Jack cannot at first bring himself to kill a pig because of “the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood”. Roger throws stones at Henry, but he throws to miss because “round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law”.
The world in this part of the book is the world of children’s games. The difference comes when there is no parental summons to bring these games to an end. These games have to continue throughout the day, and through the days that follow. And it is worth noting that Golding creates his first sense of unease through something which is familiar to every child in however protected a society is-the waning of the light. It is the dreams that usher in the beast, the snake, the unidentifiable threat to their security.
The second part of the book could be said to begin when that threat takes on physical reality, with the arrival of the dead airman. Immediately the fear is crystallized, all the boys are now affected; discussion has increasingly given way to action. As the narrative increases in tempo, so its implications enlarge. Ralph has appealed to the adult world for help, “If only they could send us something grown-up… a sign or something,” and the dead airman is shot down in flames over the island. As a result, the atmosphere is laced with fear and destruction; the boy’s world is only a miniature version of the adults. By now, the nature of the destroyer is becoming clearer; it is not a beastie or snake but man’s own nature.
The third part of the book, and the most terrible, explores the meaning and consequence of this creation of evil. Complete moral anarchy is unleashed by Simon’s murder. The world of the game, which embodied in however an elementary way, rule and order, is systematically destroyed because hardly anyone can now remember when things were otherwise. When the destruction is complete, Golding suddenly restores “the external scene” to us, not the paradisal world of the marooned boys, but our world. The naval officer speaks, we realize with horror, our wards, “the kid needed a bath, a hair-cut, a nose wipe and a good deal of ointment”. He carries the emblems of power, the white drill, the epaulettes, the gilt-buttons, the revolver, the trim cruiser.
Apart from the above, it can be said that Golding’s plot structure in the book, Lord of the Flies, also runs in sequence through the different sub-titles in the novel (The sound of the shell, Fires on the Mountain, Huts on the Beach, Painted Faces and Long Hair, Beast from Water, Beast from Air, Shadows and Tall Trees, Gift for the Darkness, A View to a Death, The shell and the Glasses, Castle Rock and Cry of the Hunters). Its plot account begins with the resurgence of the children on the island from the countless spots they were scattered to from the plane crash. This resurgence is made possible by the sound of the shell. An assembly was formed, and rules came up on who is Chief and when one should talk. It continues from there to the exploring of their newfound environment. The fruity bushes, the mountain tops and castle rock are discovered. In this flow, the experiences and interest of the individual child are depicted. Ralph, the elected Chief, wants a burning fire on the mountain as signals to the adult world for their rescue from the island, Jack and Roger want hunted meat and fun respectively, Piggy wants proper-thinking or orderliness in every action on the island, and others either go with Ralph or with Jack. The plot continues with the entrance of the thought of a beastie or snake on the island, which eventually leads to the birth of evil or murder on the island, as discussion or dialogue becomes insufficient to direct the actions of the children, and prompt actions become the best alternative: as seen in Jack and Roger who left the fire on the mountain and the building of the hut for hunting, and they went wild.
And this found modus operandi of ‘actions’ instead of dialogue or discussion by Jack brings about the deaths that occurred on the island. Due to his self-centred interest to be ‘Chief’ and own territory with savages under his command, Jack played down the death of Simon, prompted the death of Piggy and stirred the pursuit of Ralph on the island, before the naval officer appears.
In conclusion, the plot account reveals the struggle for office as Chief on the island between Jack and Ralph. And how Jack stopped at nothing to become Chief which started unconsciously unorganized but transformed into a conscious plan through a stream of events that took place between Jack and Ralph, Jack and Piggy, Jack and the Littluns, Jack and the Pig hunt and Party, and Jack and Roger.
The first theme identified in the novel is the betrayal of trust. Piggy told Ralph that he is called “Piggy” by school mates on trust, but Ralph betrayed this trust when he told Jack and other that his name is not “Fatty” but “Piggy”. It was on trust that Ralph allows Jack to continue in the control of the choir when made “Chief”, so that, there will be peace and unity. But this purposive reason is betrayed by Jack, as he hijacks the control of not just the choir group, but also, the entire children on the island. The assembly also betrays Ralph as Chief, and Piggy as one of them. When Ralph counted on their support to build huts and put fire on the mountain, they decided to go with Jack who was able to provide them with pig meat and party. In other words, they rendered the dreams of Ralph for rescue unattainable, just for them to have fun and eat meat. The last but not the least on betrayal is the attitude, Sam and Eric, towards Ralph, by exposing his hide-out to Jack, so that, he will be killed
Other themes in the novel include brutish anarchy; opposition and altercation; carelessness, carefreeness and neglect of responsibility; pain and sorrow; witch-hunting and hatred, among others.
- Give a detailed plot account of the novel
- The theme of betrayal of trust runs through the novel. Discuss.
In his book, William Golding has been able to create a class for his characters: some he calls the littluns, and others, the biguns. Golding undisputedly exhibits his creative prowess by sufficiently having children as his characters to satirically display a miniature and caricature of the real adult world. The amount of personality ascribed to his individual character reveals Golding’s dexterity to mould characters of his work.
His use of characterization betrays the distribution of kids of not more than 13 years of age with tasks of an adult, who acted, in their individual respects, precociously for the writer’s purpose to be attained. Amongst his kid – characters, there is a vivid classification into the major and minor characterization of characters.
The major characters in his book include Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Roger, Sam n Eric, and Simon, while the minor characters are Henry, Percival, Johnny, Robert and Maurice, among others.
Ralph is the protagonist of the novel. He suffers from the antagonist effort of Jack. He is also a round character in the book, whose father is a naval officer. He is 12 years old and has fair hair. He is seen to be uncouth to Piggy at the beginning of the story. He is susceptible and carefree which cost him his position as chief, and almost, his life to Jack. He is not a tactful leader. He is also seen as a tragic – hero in the novel.
Piggy is a protagonist and a flat character in the novel. From the opening of the book, we see Piggy be friendly, intelligent and decorous. And this he maintains in the book, until his end. He has a bad sight. He is a boy of diplomacy who believes in doing things right. He is tactful, and objects every act of indiscipline that emanates from the assembly, especially Jack, towards Ralph as chief. He is an Orphan and stays with his aunt. He has a lower background. He becomes one of the victims of Ralph’s carefreeness to Jack (he died).
Jack is the chief antagonist in the book. He is over-ambitious. He is seen to be rude and assertive from the beginning of the book. He uncontrollable takes to hunting and goes wild, into becoming a savage. He stirs the murder of Simon and Piggy. He is the leader of the choir, that later transform into hunters. He is an archrival of Ralph and abhors Piggy. He is an opportunist and a strategist. He is also a round character.
Roger is an antagonist, a betrayal and enjoys merrymaking. He is a black boy who at the early stage of the book, suggest an election for the office of the chief. He is also mischievous, as he enjoys making Johnny cry, and throws stones at Henry. He is at the forefront of rebelling against the government of Ralph. He is close to Jack.
These are round characters. They are twins and have been with Ralph and Piggy, but later join Jack, forcefully. They are indifferent to the strive between Jack and Ralph. They are talkative. They are younger than Ralph, Piggy, Jack and Roger. They are hardworking in the book but easily amused.
Simon is a flat character, who remains batting and kept to himself by disappearing and appearing on the island. He is a victim of circumstance. He also is indifferent to the struggle between Ralph and Jack. He is stepped upon during the uncontrollable excitement of the party by the Children. He is younger than Ralph and Jack. He is adventurous.
Henry is one of the littluns playing while Roger and Maurice destroyed their excitement. When he left the scene on a lone work, Roger still followed him and threw stones, to miss, at him. He is innocent and felt the protection of his parents, even on the island.
He is also a littlun, who is playing, building a sandy house with Johnny before it is destroyed by Roger. He laughs at Johnny, as he cried.
Johnny is one of the littluns whose sandy built house is destroyed by Roger, and he continues to cry before Percival. He is so emotional.
Robert is one of the biguns, though not so big as Ralph and Jack. He is fully involved in the party and dance of the pig. He is active in the camp of Jack as a savage, enemy of Ralph and Piggy.
Maurice also mimics the pig during the celebration. He is with Roger when they both disturbed the littluns from playing. He also takes to parents’ advice, as he remembers not to be mischievous according to his parents’ advice, and left Johnny and others alone.
Language and style
William Golding in his book did so well to create a distinction for himself and his novel, with the language and style adopted effectively by him. The first peculiarity we are faced with is his style of characterization. In every chapter of the book, Golding gave a succinct subtitle that announces to the reader the presence of suspense which engulfs the reader from the opening of the chapter to the end of it. Also, his use of characterization that has all (apart from the dead airman and the Naval officer who showed up at the end of the book) his characters to be kids. His ability to creatively present these kids with the role played by the individual child betrays Golding’s style as a writer. Still, on his characterization, Golding artistically gave to his kid – characters (each one) diction or a variety of the English Language that portrays and exposes the socio-economic personality of such characters.
In other words, his readers became more conversant with the background (both social and economical) of his characters as they make exchanges among themselves. This is evident in Piggy as he talks throughout the text, and also Ralph, who through his curt manner towards Piggy at the open of the story, made us note that his father is a Naval Office and that he is of a better background than Piggy.
The language adopted by Golding in the novel is chatty and laced with slang, nicknames and neologism. That is, Golding was able to create new words for his characters to effectively and efficiently drive home his purpose for writing. His ability to describe the setting without the help of a map, and also, his characters, that they become identifiable in our real world. His choice for omniscient as his point – of – view also betrays Golding’s uniqueness as a writer.
- Discuss critically the role of Piggy in the book.
- Highlight and critically discuss the significance of Golding’s language and style to the success of the text.
- A short and witty poem is known as (a) a balled (b) an epigram (c) an Epic (d) a lyric
- A literary work that extols one’s virtues and accomplishment is (a) a eulogy (b) a pastoral (c) an elegy (d) an allegory
- The main character in a literary work is the (a) antagonist (b) protagonist (c) narrator (d) villain
- A sonnet may be divided into an octave and (a) tercet (b) quatrain (c) sestet (d) couplet
- “All hands on deck” is an example of (a) metaphor (b) personification (c) metonymy (d) synecdoche
- With reference to the text, Jack and Roger could be said to be coup plotters. Justify this statement.
- William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a satire. Discuss.
- Essential Literature-in-English for SSS by Ibitola A. O., pgs 144-162.
- Exam Reflection Literature-in-English (Drama & Prose) by Sunday Olateju Faniyi, pgs 183-208.
In our next class, we will be talking about Reading and Content Analysis of African Poetry – “The Fence” by Lenrie Peters. We hope you enjoyed the class.
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