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Lord of the Flies | Study Guide

William Golding

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Lord of the Flies | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


How has Jack become a true dictator in Chapter 11 of Lord of the Flies?

Like a dictator, Jack is hungry for power, which he demonstrates in the first chapter when he declares his desire to be chief. When Jack loses the vote to Ralph a second time, he gives up on democracy and effectively seizes power: first, by leaving the meeting and abandoning the conch shell—both signaling a rejection of the existing social order—and second, by calling on the other boys to follow him, setting up a rival social order. By Chapter 11 Ralph is powerless, yet Jack is not satisfied. Ralph remains a potential threat to his rule as the only credible rival, and therefore he must be destroyed. Jack does this by having Samneric (loyalists to Ralph) seized, and by attempting to kill Ralph. Because he is a total dictator, Jack will not stop until Ralph is dead.

How does the attempt to smoke out Ralph bring into question Jack's leadership qualities in Lord of the Flies?

Jack is surely intelligent in some ways as he is able to manipulate situations and get what he wants. However, Jack shows a lack of wisdom and foresight when he sets fire to the forest. While this action can achieve the short-term goal of leading to Ralph's capture, there are long-term repercussions. The fruit trees provide the boys with sustenance and shade. Without the trees, the boys will eventually starve. A fire can conceivably destroy all the animals on the island, too, resulting in no meat. Jack is only concerned about his immediate needs, however. A leader needs to consider both the near term and the long term. Jack shows he is unable to do that.

What is the significance of Roger sharpening his stick at both ends in Lord of the Flies?

The two-pointed stick suggests Ralph might be treated like the pig's head, with his own head impaled on one end of the stick while the other end is thrust into the ground. The stick also indicates something about Roger's decline. More than any other character in the novel, Roger succumbs to the evil inside. His cruel acts are done for no other purpose other than to satisfy his bloodlust. The boy who once threw stones at other boys, but purposely missed, later kills intentionally. The two-sided sharpened stick indicates Roger is a complete savage. He shows no mercy or compassion.

Why does Ralph try to convince himself that Piggy's death was an accident, and how does that impact him in Lord of the Flies?

With the deaths of Piggy and Simon and the capture of Samneric, Ralph is left on his own, afraid and lonely. While hiding from Jack and his crew, Ralph assesses his situation. He tries to reason away Piggy's death, similar to the way Piggy reasoned away Simon's death. He tells himself, "No. They're not as bad as that. It was an accident." This view is his only way to retain hope of surviving on the island and ending his loneliness. After Piggy convinces himself that Simon's death was an accident, he is able to summon the courage to go to Jack's group and try to resolve the situation. Similarly, Ralph thinks about going to Jack's group after convincing himself that Piggy's death was an accident. He is desperate to escape his loneliness and wants things to be as they were.

How does the naval officer show his naiveté when he addresses the boys in Lord of the Flies?

The naval officer is drawn to the island by seeing the smoke from the fire Jack set. He jokingly asks if the boys have been up to a war on the island, though he suspects they have been having "fun and games." The naval officer himself is involved in a war. He approaches the island on a boat fitted with machine guns, and his hand is on his revolver. Yet after sizing up the boys and the island, he has no clue of what happened there. He finds it hard to believe that people were actually killed there. Despite his own participation in a war, he is naive in that he cannot believe that boys can be just as cruel and evil as adults.

Whose innocence is Ralph crying for at the end of Lord of the Flies?

Ralph is crying at the end of the novel for the end of his own innocence and, by extension, humanity's innocence. While Ralph will return to civilization and to his family, he will never again be the same young boy who first landed on the island. He has witnessed himself do unspeakable things, and he cannot pretend he is incapable of savagery. In addition, his experience has taught him that every individual is capable of evil. This experience has served as a coming of age after which Ralph will never see himself or the world in the same way.

In Lord of the Flies, how does the naval officer view Jack, and why is it surprising to the reader?

The naval officer sees Jack as a "little boy ... [with] remains of a ... cap ... [and] red hair." Over the course of the book, Jack has become a domineering, very powerful figure. Jack's actions make it easy to forget he is just 12 years old—a young boy. The naval officer's view of Jack reminds the reader of these facts. Jack's youth doesn't excuse him; on the contrary, that even a little boy could stoop to such a level and act so savagely makes the book even more shocking. It reminds the reader that everyone is capable of evil and that to believe in a peaceful future is naive.

What links Piggy and Simon in Lord of the Flies and ultimately leads to their deaths?

From the very beginning, both Piggy and Simon are outsiders. Their outsider status makes them more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the group. Piggy is an outsider due to his asthma, poor physical condition, and his ties to the adult world. His references to his aunt and his insistence on reason cement his tie to the adult world. He becomes the butt of jokes and is laughed at repeatedly. Simon, too, is an outsider. The first thing the reader learns about Simon is that he faints regularly. While he is originally in the choir, he does not follow Jack. Though he gravitates toward Ralph's crew, he does not fit in there, either. Both Ralph and Piggy think Simon is crazy. Ultimately, Simon seems most content when he is in the forest alone.

Why would Piggy have, or have not, made a good chief in Lord of the Flies?

Piggy has a number of traits one would want in a leader. He is intelligent, shows foresight, and is willing to listen to others. Ralph often consults Piggy, wishes to be able to think like him, and uses his ideas. Despite these traits, Piggy would not have made a good chief. Because he has always been treated as an outsider, Piggy does not think like others in his age group and therefore cannot fully appreciate their needs or perspectives. A good leader must recognize the needs of those he serves and understand their points of view. Piggy, not really part of the boys' society, doesn't have emotional intelligence; he cannot read the others accurately. Early in the book, Ralph pulls Piggy's leg and smiles about it; Piggy "saw the smile and misinterpreted it as friendliness." Piggy also lacks charisma. Even when he has a good idea he is often ignored or even derided. He is unable to get his point across and can't convince others to act in a way he feels they should. A good leader must inspire those around him or her. His lack of charisma is linked to his lack of imagination. He proposes building shelters at the outset. It is a sensible idea, but not one that captures the boys' spirit. Even his strength, which is his rationality, is limited. He suggests to Ralph that they make a sundial because he wants a sense of order by measuring time, but what real purpose would a sundial serve? He cannot fully fathom the evil that develops, and he certainly can't see how to combat it. After Jack takes his glasses in Chapter 10, Piggy's response is to go to Jack's camp and reason with him. Nothing could be more useless to attempt.

What is the historical context of Lord of the Flies, and how does it impact the novel?

Lord of the Flies was written just a few years after World War II, which saw the death of millions upon millions of people. That war was ended by the use of two atomic bombs. While it brought an end to a deadly war, this atomic bomb weapon again cast a pall over the world when its threatened use dominated international relations. World War II was followed by the Cold War, which was raging at the time when author William Golding wrote the book. The period was full of tension and the threat of destruction of entire countries (and perhaps the planet) should a nuclear war break out. Both periods were also times of a conflict between democratic and authoritarian governments, reflected in the conflict between Ralph and Jack for authority on the island. Golding did not exempt democratic governments from criticism for brutality and savagery, however, as evident by Ralph's participation in Simon's murder. Golding, who fought in World War II, was deeply impacted by his experiences in the war. He came away from the war believing that all men are capable of evil and that there is a thin line between civilization and savagery. These themes are apparent in the text.

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