'Lord of the Flies' Questions for Study and Discussion

How to understand William Golding's famous novel

Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies. Penguin Group

"Lord of the Flies" is a famous and highly controversial. novel by William Golding. An unusually violent version of a coming-of-age story, the novel is viewed as an allegory, exploring the aspects of human nature that lead us to turn on each other and resort to violence.

Golding was a war veteran, and much of his literary career was spent exploring these themes central to an understanding of humanity.

His other works include "Free Fall," about a prisoner in a German camp during World War II; "The Inheritors" which depicts a race of gentle people being overrun by a more violent race and "Pincher Martin," a story told from the point of view of a drowning soldier

Here are a few questions about "Lord of the Flies" for study and discussion, to help improve your understanding of its themes and characters.

Why is the Novel Called 'Lord of the Flies'?

  • What is important about the title? Is there a reference in the novel that explains the title? Hint: Simon is the one who names the pig's staked head. 
  • Central to the plot of "Lord of the Flies" is the idea of order and society being crucial to survival. Does Golding seem to be advocating for a structured society, or against it? Explain your answer using one of the characters as your evidence.

Plot and Character in 'Lord of the Flies'

  • Which of the boys on the island is the most well-developed character? Which is the most poorly developed? Could Golding have done more to explore the boys' backstories, or would that have slowed the plot?
  • Could "Lord of the Flies" have taken place at another point in history? Explore this possibility by choosing a time period and determining how the plot would have played out there. 
  • How important is the setting in "Lord of the Flies?" Would it have been as effective to the plot if Golding had stranded the boys on another planet, for instance? Explain your answer.
    • The ending of "Lord of the Flies" is not unexpected; it seemed likely throughout the novel that the boys eventually would be "rescued." But does the ending satisfy you? What do you think Golding was trying to say by letting us hear the Navy officer's inner thoughts? 

    Putting 'Lord of the Flies' in Larger Context

    • If you were going to recommend "Lord of the Flies" to a friend, how would you describe it? Would you warn them of the novel's violence? 
    • Understanding that the central plot is highly controversial, do you think "Lord of the Flies" should be censored or banned? Does it make sense that it has been banned in the past?
    • Do you agree that "Lord of the Flies" is a companion piece of sorts to J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye?" How do you think Holden Caulfield would have fared on Golding's island with the rest of the boys? 

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