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Lord of the Flies | Study Guide

William Golding

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Lord of the Flies | Discussion Questions 51 - 53


How does the society of the boys in Lord of the Flies both reflect and depart from the society of the British public boarding school?

The society on the island replicates that of a British boys' boarding school of that era. It is an all-male society marked by bullying, evident in the behavior of Jack toward Piggy, several boys toward Simon, and the older boys toward the littluns. There is also sexualized violence, shown in the chant "spill her blood" and the triumphant "right up her ass" that the hunters proclaim after they kill the nursing sow. Another feature of boarding school that appears on the island is the power of the charismatic leader like Jack. Boarding school can be seen as an island of the lost, where one is ripped away from parents and left at the mercy of a child-dominated society. Unlike a boarding school, the boys' society on the island is absent any form of adult supervision or control. In Chapter 4 when Roger throws stones at Henry but deliberately misses him, his actions are constrained by "the taboo of the old life" imposed by "parents and school and policemen and the law." As time passes, those constraints disappear. Roger does more than throw stones at Piggy; he rolls a boulder down on him, killing him.

What is wrong with the society that Ralph and Piggy try to create in Lord of the Flies?

Ralph and Piggy's society is doomed to failure because it is a bit one-dimensional and because it lacks a legitimate locus of authority. The challenge posed by Jack's own desire for authority puts external pressure on that society, but it has inherent weaknesses. Ralph and Piggy try to construct a society that is purely functional. As a result, their ideas fail to take hold. They push practical goals—building shelters, maintaining the fire—but these goals fail to captivate the boys' imaginations and spirits the way Jack's fascist band does. The one gesture toward the importance of symbolism is the decision to associate the conch shell with the right to speak. That idea takes hold and works for a while because it acknowledges the importance of symbolic meaning. Their functional society also fails because it cannot deliver on its promised functions. The shelters are not fully built, and they are not rescued. Neither of these failures is entirely Ralph and Piggy's fault (as Ralph tries to build shelters) and the possibility of rescue is beyond their control. Nevertheless, their inability to achieve their stated goals contrasts with Jack's success in providing meat.

In Lord of the Flies, what is the significance of the hunters' chanting "cut her throat" and "spill her blood," as well as their killing a nursing sow?

Both the chant and the act of killing a sow while she is nursing her young reflect the underlying gendered attitudes of the boys on the island. Socialized in an all-boys school and stranded on an island with no females (either adult or child), the boys' perspective reflects the aggression and violence they were taught to associate with maleness—traits that also reflect the war blazing in the world at large. There is little nurturing behavior on the island, the exception being Simon's climbing a tree to bring littluns fruit too high up for them to reach. It is true that Jack also provides food when he distributes meat, but his action is public, whereas Simon's is more hidden, and reflects an attitude of a ruler generously granting gifts to his humble followers. In their descent into savagery and violence, the boys kill females, symbolically rejecting values they associate with women.

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