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         LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY for Lord of the Flies


Literary analysis essay prompt:

Lord of the Flies fits the definition of allegory:  an extended image in which people, things, and actions stand for meaning beyond the novel’s literal meaning and action. 

By representing one thing in the form of another, Golding shapes the whole novel into a single abstract idea—a microcosm of lawlessness, anarchy and savagery in human society.  William Golding' has described his novel, Lord of the Flies, as “a fable in which the characters are symbols for abstract ideas.”  His overall goal is to express his own moral truth—that evil is an integral part of humanity.

Explore these ideas by analyzing one of the major characters (Ralph, Jack, Piggy, Simon, and Roger) in terms of his distinctive character traits and the human quality he might symbolize. Trace his character development throughout the novel.  Use your yellow character circle for textual evidence.

1.     What assumptions are given in the prompt about what Golding believes:




2.    Highlight all verbs in the prompt which give you directions on what to do in your essay writing.


3.    Complete the following:  I am going to analyze the character of _________________.

4.    Give your initial reaction to the character by completing the following sentence about one of his “distinctive character traits”:

 {Name of Character}, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, is… {adjective that describes his distinctive character trait}.

Write your sentence here:



For the following questions 5-9, cite page #s in the novel.  MLA format puts page numbers in parentheses.


5.    What does the character do that shows he/she fits the description you have given?


6.    What does the character say that shows he/she fits the description you have given?



7.    How do other characters react to your character?  How do their reactions show he/she fits the description you have given?




8.    What does the narrator say about your character that shows he/she fits the description you have given?



9.    How does the character change over time?  (Remember that your essay prompt asks you to “TRACE” the character’s development from the beginning of the book to its end.)






10.      What abstract idea or human trait might your character represent?  Remember that the island could be a microcosm for society or government, so try thinking about your character’s place in the bigger idea of group dynamics, effective government, or the disintegration of society and order.



11.      Build a sentence that looks something like this:

{Name of Character} represents/symbolizes {abstract noun} in William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies.

Write your working thesis here:



Here is my sample essay (thesis highlighted) about  Golding's use of the island as a symbol in the novel:


Ms. Youmans

Period 3


                                                                      The Island as a Symbol in Lord of the Flies
                Can a society function without rules or order?  William Golding's Lord of the Flies proposes one outcome. English boys who are evacuated from their atom-bombed country find themselves stranded on the island with no adult supervision.  This island, in fact, represents society as a whole, and its occupants are the members of so-called "civilization."  Golding creates a setting that represents society, the boys are its citizens, and what happens to these boys on the island reveals Golding's pessimistic view of what is in store for humanity.
By using the island as a symbol of society, Golding reveals his theme of society unraveling due to the defects of human nature, not any one political system.

        The boys on the island take roles which parallel many of the social functions of society.  For example, in the first chapter, Ralph wins the vote to become leader.  He suggests to Jack, his opponent, that the choir, which Jack leads to the assembly, “'could be the army'” (23).  From choir to army seems like an unusual jump in function, but in Golding’s allegory, where the island represents society, an army is a logical, necessary component of national security.

         The island on which the boys find themselves actually presents no serious challenge.  In the first chapter, Golding establishes that the island is a paradise of flowers and fruit, fresh water flows from the mountain, and there is a source of meat.  Golding uses this ideal paradise to show that it is the nature within the boys that causes destruction, not society (or the island) itself. Even when society provides everything one needs to flourish, the individual will still manage to destroy order. However, the creepers on the island symbolize the obstacles that the boys must overcome for survival.  Golding writes "that the boys had to thread through them like pliant needles" (26).  When Simon, Jack and Ralph explore the island and reach the top, Ralph declares, "'This belongs to us'" (29).  Golding is showing how man, the European explorer, must selfishly claim newly discovered territory as his territory.  All three boys "savored the right of domination" (29). Golding is criticizing this possessive attitude toward society and the planet.  That the boys are British is important because Britain was the dominant world power until World War II.  In the next chapter, Jack declares that "'we're not savages.  We're English, and the English are best at everything'"(42). Golding is making a statement about the imperialist countries and their supposed right to dominate.

        Quickly, in the next chapter, the boys start a fire that rages out of control, leaving one boy missing.  This careless, destructive act, although coming from good intentions and wanting to build a rescue fire, represents how society can so easily destroy its environment in the name of technology and science.  It is, after all, Piggy's glasses that begin the fire, and as mentioned earlier, his character represents the scientific community, full of good intentions, but capable of creating the atom bomb. As Golding writes, "Life became a race with the fire..."(41).  Think of Einstein and Oppenheimer, two great minds, who eventually come to regret their roles in the development of nuclear energy.  The "beast," a cause of much fear among the younger boys, first appears in "Fire on the Mountain."  n Chapter Five, the prophetic Simon rises to announce to the crowd of boys that there is a best, but "'it's only us'" (89). The beast is actually a part of humanity--nothing that roams outside or on the island. When Simon later faces the dripping head of the pig, his gaze is "held by that ancient, inescapable recognition." (138).  The beast is born out of the human heart. The beast taunts Simon with the words, "'I'm part of you...I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are as they are?''" That the beast is only man himself is confirmed when Simon finds the dead body of the parachutist on the mountaintop.

To be continued..