Themes and Analysis

Lord of the flies, by william golding.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a powerful novel. It's filled with interesting themes, thoughtful symbols, and a particular style of writing that has made it a classic of British literature.

Lee-James Bovey

Article written by Lee-James Bovey

P.G.C.E degree.

Several key themes are prevalent throughout the book. It is sometimes referred to as a “book of ideas” and these ideas are explored as the plot unfolds.

Lord of the Flies Themes and Analysis

Lord of the Flies Themes

The impact of humankind on nature.

This is evident from the first chapter when the plane crashing leaves what Golding describes as a “scar” across the island. This idea is explored further in the early chapters the boys light a fire that escapes their control and yet further diminishes what might be considered an unspoiled island. Some interpret the island almost as a Garden of Eden with the children giving in to temptation by slaughtering the animals there. The final chapter furthers the destruction of nature by mankind as the whole island appears to have been ruined thanks to the effects of the boy’s presence on the island.

Civilization versus savagery

This can be seen throughout as the boys struggle with being removed from organized society. To begin with, they cope well. They construct a form of government represented by the conch that theoretically draws them together and gives them all a voice. As they break away from society this adherence to the rules they have constructed is evident. Golding’s ideas of what savagery is might be outdated and rooted in colonial stereotypes but they are evident for all to see as the boys use masks to dehumanize themselves and their increasing obsession with hunting leads to an increasingly animalistic nature.

Nature of humanity

Perhaps the biggest underlying theme is the idea of the true nature of mankind. Golding explores the idea that mankind is innately evil and that it is only the contrast between society and civilization that prevents that nature from being prevalent. Of course, this overlooks that civilization is a human construct and if all men’s biggest motivation were their inner evil, then that construct would never have existed. Golding’s views largely spring from his role in the navy where he was witness to the atrocities of war but are also informed by his work as a teacher.

Analysis of Key Moments in Lord of the Flies

There are many key moments in ‘ Lord of the Flies ‘ that highlight the boy’s descent into savagery.

  • Blowing the conch – this introduces us to the conch which acts as a symbol of society and civilization throughout the novel. It is both the device that brings the children together and in theory the object which allows them all to have a say and therefore run a democratic society.
  • The fire gets out of control – This shows the effects that the boys are already having on the island. It also demonstrates how lost the boys are without adults there to guide them as they lose one of the boys and nobody even knows his name.
  • Jack fails to kill the pig/Roger throws stones – both of these events show how the boys are currently constrained by the expectations of society. We see as time passes these restraints are lifted and that firstly, Jack can kill a pig and finally, and perhaps more dramatically, Roger is not only okay with hitting somebody with a stone but taking their life with one.
  • The hunters put on masks – By covering up their faces, they seem to become free from the constraints of society. It is if it liberates them from humanity and allows them to act on more primal, animalistic urges.
  • Sam and Eric find “the beast” – When Sam and Eric feel they have discovered the beast it sets a ripple of panic throughout. This fear sways the boys towards Jack’s leadership as he continues to manipulate the situation to his advantage. If not for this then Simon might never be murdered.
  • Creating of the Lord of the Flies – Successfully killing the pig is itself an iconic moment but then leaving a pigs head on a pole is both a gruesome image (one worthy of the book’s title) and also plays a pivotal role in Simon’s story arc.
  • Simon’s death – Simon is the one character who never seems to succumb to primal urges and therefore his death if looked at symbolically could be seen as the death of hope for boys.
  • Piggy’s death – Piggy’s character represents order and reason. With his death, any chance of resolving the issues between Jack and Ralph vanishes. The conch being smashed at the same time is also symbolic and represents the complete destruction of society.
  • The rescue – This is not the happy ending that one might expect with all the boys crying due to their loss of innocence. There is an irony as well as the boys will not be rescued and taken to a Utopia but rather to a civilization plagued by a war that mirrors the war zone they have just left.

Style, Literary Devices, and Tone in Lord of the Flies

Throughout this novel, Golding’s style is straightforward and easy to read. There are no lengthy passages nor does he choose particularly poetic words to describe the events. His writing is powerful without these stylistic devices. The same can be said for his use of literary devices. When used, they are direct. For example, the use of symbolism (see below) and metaphor is very thoughtful but not hard to interpret.

William Golding also employs an aloof or distant tone throughout the book. This reflects the way that the boys treat one another.

Symbols in Lord of the Flies

The conch shell.

The conch shell is one of the major symbols of this novel. It’s used from the beginning of the novel to call the boys together for meetings on the beach. It’s a symbol of civilization and government. But, as the boys lose touch with their civilized sides, the conch shell is discarded.

The Signal Fire

The signal fire is a very important symbol in the novel. It’s first lit on the mountain and then later on the beach with the intent of attracting the attention of passion ships. The fire is maintained diligently at first but as the book progresses and the boys slip farther from civilization, their concentration on the fire wanes. They eventually lose their desire to be rescued. Therefore, as one is making their way through the book, gauging the boys’ concentration on the fire is a great way to understand how “civilized” they are.

The beast is an imaginary creature who frightens the boys. It stands in for their savage instincts and is eventually revealed to be a personification of their dark impulses. It’s only through the boy’s behaviour that the beast exists at all.

What are three themes in Lord of the Flies ?

Three themes in ‘ Lord of the Flies ‘ are civilization vs. savagery, the impact of humankind on nature, and the nature of humanity.

What is the main message of the Lord of the Flies ?

The main message is that if left without rules, society devolves and loses its grasp on what is the morally right thing to do. this is even the case with kids.

How does Ralph lose his innocence in Lord of the Flies ?

He loses his innocence when he witnesses the deaths of Simon and Piggy. These losses in addition to the broader darkness of the island change him.

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Lee-James Bovey

About Lee-James Bovey

Lee-James, a.k.a. LJ, has been a Book Analysis team member since it was first created. During the day, he's an English Teacher. During the night, he provides in-depth analysis and summary of books.


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Lord of the Flies

By william golding, lord of the flies themes, civilization vs. savagery.

The overarching theme of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between the human impulse towards savagery and the rules of civilization which are designed to contain and minimize it. Throughout the novel, the conflict is dramatized by the clash between Ralph and Jack, who respectively represent civilization and savagery. The differing ideologies are expressed by each boy's distinct attitudes towards authority. While Ralph uses his authority to establish rules, protect the good of the group, and enforce the moral and ethical codes of the English society the boys were raised in, Jack is interested in gaining power over the other boys to gratify his most primal impulses. When Jack assumes leadership of his own tribe, he demands the complete subservience of the other boys, who not only serve him but worship him as an idol. Jack's hunger for power suggests that savagery does not resemble anarchy so much as a totalitarian system of exploitation and illicit power.

Golding's emphasis on the negative consequences of savagery can be read as a clear endorsement of civilization. In the early chapters of the novel, he suggests that one of the important functions of civilized society is to provide an outlet for the savage impulses that reside inside each individual. Jack's initial desire to kill pigs to demonstrate his bravery, for example, is channeled into the hunt, which provides needed food for the entire group. As long as he lives within the rules of civilization, Jack is not a threat to the other boys; his impulses are being re-directed into a productive task. Rather, it is when Jack refuses to recognize the validity of society and rejects Ralph's authority that the dangerous aspects of his character truly emerge. Golding suggests that while savagery is perhaps an inescapable fact of human existence, civilization can mitigate its full expression.

The rift between civilization and savagery is also communicated through the novel's major symbols: the conch shell, which is associated with Ralph, and The Lord of the Flies , which is associated with Jack. The conch shell is a powerful marker of democratic order on the island, confirming both Ralph's leadership-determined by election-and the power of assembly among the boys. Yet, as the conflict between Ralph and Jack deepens, the conch shell loses symbolic importance. Jack declares that the conch is meaningless as a symbol of authority and order, and its decline in importance signals the decline of civilization on the island. At the same time, The Lord of the Flies, which is an offering to the mythical "beast" on the island, is increasingly invested with significance as a symbol of the dominance of savagery on the island, and of Jack's authority over the other boys. The Lord of the Flies represents the unification of the boys under Jack's rule as motivated by fear of "outsiders": the beast and those who refuse to accept Jack's authority. The destruction of the conch shell at the scene of Piggy 's murder signifies the complete eradication of civilization on the island, while Ralph's demolition of The Lord of the Flies-he intends to use the stick as a spear-signals his own descent into savagery and violence. By the final scene, savagery has completely displaced civilization as the prevailing system on the island.

Individualism vs. Community

One of the key concerns of Lord of the Flies is the role of the individual in society. Many of the problems on the island-the extinguishing of the signal fire, the lack of shelters, the mass abandonment of Ralph's camp, and the murder of Piggy-stem from the boys' implicit commitment to a principle of self-interest over the principle of community. That is, the boys would rather fulfill their individual desires than cooperate as a coherent society, which would require that each one act for the good of the group. Accordingly, the principles of individualism and community are symbolized by Jack and Ralph, respectively. Jack wants to "have fun" on the island and satisfy his bloodlust, while Ralph wants to secure the group's rescue, a goal they can achieve only by cooperating. Yet, while Ralph's vision is the most reasonable, it requires work and sacrifice on the part of the other boys, so they quickly shirk their societal duties in favor of fulfilling their individual desires. The shelters do not get built because the boys would rather play; the signal fire is extinguished when Jack's hunters fail to tend to it on schedule.

The boys' self-interestedness culminates, of course, when they decide to join Jack's tribe, a society without communal values whose appeal is that Jack will offer them total freedom. The popularity of his tribe reflects the enormous appeal of a society based on individual freedom and self-interest, but as the reader soon learns, the freedom Jack offers his tribe is illusory. Jack implements punitive and irrational rules and restricts his boys' behavior far more than Ralph did. Golding thus suggests not only that some level of communal system is superior to one based on pure self-interest, but also that pure individual freedom is an impossible value to sustain within a group dynamic, which will always tend towards societal organization. The difficult question, of course, is what individuals are willing to give up to gain the benefits of being in the group.

The Nature of Evil

Is evil innate within the human spirit, or is it an influence from an external source? What role do societal rules and institutions play in the existence of human evil? Does the capacity for evil vary from person to person, or does it depend on the circumstances each individual faces? These questions are at the heart of Lord of the Flies which, through detailed depictions of the boys' different responses to their situation, presents a complex articulation of humanity's potential for evil.

It is important to note that Golding's novel rejects supernatural or religious accounts of the origin of human evil. While the boys fear the "beast" as an embodiment of evil similar to the Christian concept of Satan, the novel emphasizes that this interpretation is not only mistaken but also, ironically, the motivation for the boys' increasingly cruel and violent behavior. It is their irrational fear of the beast that informs the boys' paranoia and leads to the fatal schism between Jack and Ralph and their respective followers, and this is what prevents them from recognizing and addressing their responsibility for their own impulses. Rather, as The Lord of the Flies communicates to Simon in the forest glade, the "beast" is an internal force, present in every individual, and is thus incapable of being truly defeated. That the most ethical characters on the island-Simon and Ralph-each come to recognize his own capacity for evil indicates the novel's emphasis on evil's universality among humans.

Even so, the novel is not entirely pessimistic about the human capacity for good. While evil impulses may lurk in every human psyche, the intensity of these impulses-and the ability to control them-appear to vary from individual to individual. Through the different characters, the novel presents a continuum of evil, ranging from Jack and Roger , who are eager to engage in violence and cruelty, to Ralph and Simon, who struggle to contain their brutal instincts. We may note that the characters who struggle most successfully against their evil instincts do so by appealing to ethical or social codes of behavior. For example, Ralph and Piggy demand the return of Piggy's glasses because it is the "right thing to do." Golding suggests that while evil may be present in us all, it can be successfully suppressed by the social norms that are imposed on our behavior from without or by the moral norms we decide are inherently "good," which we can internalize within our wills.

The ambiguous and deeply ironic conclusion of Lord of the Flies , however, calls into question society's role in shaping human evil. The naval officer, who repeats Jack's rhetoric of nationalism and militarism, is engaged in a bloody war that is responsible for the boys' aircraft crash on the island and that is mirrored by the civil war among the survivors. In this sense, much of the evil on the island is a result not of the boys' distance from society, but of their internalization of the norms and ideals of that society-norms and ideals that justify and even thrive on war. Are the boys corrupted by the internal pressures of an essentially violent human nature, or have they been corrupted by the environment of war they were raised in? Lord of the Flies offers no clear solution to this question, provoking readers to contemplate the complex relationships among society, morality, and human nature.

Man vs. Nature

Lord of the Flies introduces the question of man's ideal relationship with the natural world. Thrust into the completely natural environment of the island, in which no humans exist or have existed, the boys express different attitudes towards nature that reflect their distinct personalities and ideological leanings. The boys' relationships to the natural world generally fall into one of three categories: subjugation of nature, harmony with nature, and subservience to nature. The first category, subjugation of nature, is embodied by Jack, whose first impulse on the island is to track, hunt, and kill pigs. He seeks to impose his human will on the natural world, subjugating it to his desires. Jack's later actions, in particular setting the forest fire, reflect his deepening contempt for nature and demonstrate his militaristic, violent character. The second category, harmony with nature, is embodied by Simon, who finds beauty and peace in the natural environment as exemplified by his initial retreat to the isolated forest glade. For Simon, nature is not man's enemy but is part of the human experience. The third category, subservience to nature, is embodied by Ralph and is the opposite position from Jack's. Unlike Simon, Ralph does not find peaceful harmony with the natural world; like Jack, he understands it as an obstacle to human life on the island. But while Jack responds to this perceived conflict by acting destructively towards animals and plant life, Ralph responds by retreating from the natural world. He does not participate in hunting or in Simon's excursions to the deep wilderness of the forest; rather, he stays on the beach, the most humanized part of the island. As Jack's hunting expresses his violent nature to the other boys and to the reader, Ralph's desire to stay separate from the natural world emphasizes both his reluctance to tempt danger and his affinity for civilization.

Dehumanization of Relationships

In Lord of the Flies , one of the effects of the boys' descent into savagery is their increasing inability to recognize each other's humanity. Throughout the novel, Golding uses imagery to imply that the boys are no longer able to distinguish between themselves and the pigs they are hunting and killing for food and sport. In Chapter Four, after the first successful pig hunt, the hunters re-enact the hunt in a ritual dance, using Maurice as a stand-in for the doomed pig. This episode is only a dramatization, but as the boys' collective impulse towards complete savagery grows stronger, the parallels between human and animal intensify. In Chapter Seven, as several of the boys are hunting the beast, they repeat the ritual with Robert as a stand-in for the pig; this time, however, they get consumed by a kind of "frenzy" and come close to actually killing him. In the same scene, Jack jokes that if they do not kill a pig next time, they can kill a littlun in its place. The repeated substitution of boy for pig in the childrens' ritual games, and in their conversation, calls attention to the consequences of their self-gratifying behavior: concerned only with their own base desires, the boys have become unable to see each other as anything more than objects subject to their individual wills. The more pigs the boys kill, the easier it becomes for them to harm and kill each other. Mistreating the pigs facilitates this process of dehumanization.

The early episodes in which boys are substituted for pigs, either verbally or in the hunting dance, also foreshadow the tragic events of the novel's later chapters, notably the murders of Simon and Piggy and the attempt on Ralph's life. Simon, a character who from the outset of the novel is associated with the natural landscape he has an affinity for, is murdered when the other children mistake him for "the beast"-a mythical inhuman creature that serves as an outlet for the children's fear and sadness. Piggy's name links him symbolically to the wild pigs on the island, the immediate target for Jack's violent impulses; from the outset, when the other boys refuse to call him anything but "Piggy," Golding establishes the character as one whose humanity is, in the eyes of the other boys, ambiguous. The murders of Simon and Piggy demonstrate the boys' complete descent into savagery. Both literally (Simon) and symbolically (Piggy), the boys have become indistinguishable from the animals that they stalk and kill.

The Loss of Innocence

At the end of Lord of the Flies , Ralph weeps "for the end of innocence," a lament that retroactively makes explicit one of the novel's major concerns, namely, the loss of innocence. When the boys are first deserted on the island, they behave like children, alternating between enjoying their freedom and expressing profound homesickness and fear. By the end of the novel, however, they mirror the warlike behavior of the adults of the Home Counties: they attack, torture, and even murder one another without hesitation or regret. The loss of the boys' innocence on the island runs parallel to, and informs their descent into savagery, and it recalls the Bible's narrative of the Fall of Man from paradise.

Accordingly, the island is coded in the early chapters as a kind of paradise, with idyllic scenery, fresh fruit, and glorious weather. Yet, as in the Biblical Eden, the temptation toward corruption is present: the younger boys fear a "snake-thing." The "snake-thing" is the earliest incarnation of the "beast" that, eventually, will provoke paranoia and division among the group. It also explicitly recalls the snake from the Garden of Eden, the embodiment of Satan who causes Adam and Eve's fall from grace. The boys' increasing belief in the beast indicates their gradual loss of innocence, a descent that culminates in tragedy. We may also note that the landscape of the island itself shifts from an Edenic space to a hellish one, as marked by Ralph's observation of the ocean tide as an impenetrable wall, and by the storm that follows Simon's murder.

The forest glade that Simon retreats to in Chapter Three is another example of how the boys' loss of innocence is registered on the natural landscape of the island. Simon first appreciates the clearing as peaceful and beautiful, but when he returns, he finds The Lord of the Flies impaled at its center, a powerful symbol of how the innocence of childhood has been corrupted by fear and savagery.

Even the most sympathetic boys develop along a character arc that traces a fall from innocence (or, as we might euphemize, a journey into maturity). When Ralph is first introduced, he is acting like a child, splashing in the water, mocking Piggy, and laughing. He tells Piggy that he is certain that his father, a naval commander, will rescue him, a conviction that the reader understands as the wishful thinking of a little boy. Ralph repeats his belief in their rescue throughout the novel, shifting his hope that his own father will discover them to the far more realistic premise that a passing ship will be attracted by the signal fire on the island. By the end of the novel, he has lost hope in the boys' rescue altogether. The progression of Ralph's character from idealism to pessimistic realism expresses the extent to which life on the island has eradicated his childhood.

The Negative Consequences of War

In addition to its other resonances, Lord of the Flies is in part an allegory of the Cold War. Thus, it is deeply concerned with the negative effects of war on individuals and for social relationships. Composed during the Cold War, the novel's action unfolds from a hypothetical atomic war between England and "the Reds," which was a clear word for communists. Golding thus presents the non-violent tensions that were unfolding during the 1950s as culminating into a fatal conflict-a narrative strategy that establishes the novel as a cautionary tale against the dangers of ideological, or "cold," warfare, becoming hot. Moreover, we may understand the conflict among the boys on the island as a reflection of the conflict between the democratic powers of the West and the communist presence throughout China, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. (China's cultural revolution had not yet occurred, but its communist revolution was fresh in Western memory.) Ralph, an embodiment of democracy, clashes tragically with Jack, a character who represents a style of military dictatorship similar to the West's perception of communist leaders such as Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. Dressed in a black cape and cap, with flaming red hair, Jack also visually evokes the "Reds" in the fictional world of the novel and the historical U.S.S.R., whose signature colors were red and black. As the tension between the boys comes to a bloody head, the reader sees the dangerous consequences of ideological conflict.

The arrival of the naval officer at the conclusion of the narrative underscores these allegorical points. The officer embodies war and militaristic thinking, and as such, he is symbolically linked to the brutal Jack. The officer is also English and thus linked to the democratic side of the Cold War, which the novel vehemently defends. The implications of the officer's presence are provocative: Golding suggests that even a war waged in the name of civilization can reduce humanity to a state of barbarism. The ultimate scene of the novel, in which the boys weep with grief for the loss of their innocence, implicates contemporary readers in the boys' tragedy. The boys are representatives, however immature and untutored, of the wartime impulses of the period.

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Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Lord of the Flies is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Where had Simon fainted before?

From the text:

“He's always throwing a faint,”said Merridew. “He did in Gib.; and Addis; and at matins over the precentor.”

Quote Analysis. "There was a throb..."

At this point Ralph is once again challenging Jack's authority, Unfortunately all the cards are stacked against Ralph. A storm is brewing and to deflect the boys' fears, Jack orders them to dance around the fire. This communal spectacle of...

How do the boys respond to Jack's call for Ralph's removal as chief? How does Jack react? Respond with evidence from the text.

There is a lot of immaturity here. The other boys refuse to vote Ralph out of power. Enraged, Jack has a tantrum and runs away from the group, saying that he is leaving and that anyone who likes is welcome to join him.The boys don't like the open...

Study Guide for Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies study guide contains a biography of William Golding, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Lord of the Flies
  • Lord of the Flies Summary
  • Lord of the Flies Video
  • Character List

Essays for Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

  • Two Faces of Man
  • The Relationship Between Symbolism and Theme in Lord of the Flies
  • A Tainted View of Society
  • Death and Social Collapse in Lord of the Flies
  • Lumination: The Conquest of Mankind's Darkness

Lesson Plan for Lord of the Flies

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Lord of the Flies
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • Lord of the Flies Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for Lord of the Flies

  • Introduction

the lord of the flies theme essay

Home of The Brave

Home of The Brave

Lord of the flies – sample essay..

Choose a novel in which an important theme is explored. Explain how the author develops this theme throughout the novel.

            The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an effect on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.

             The theme of savagery versus civilisation is first introduced to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the person who first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority amongst the boys. At the first assembly Ralph says “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted”. This suggests civilisation as Ralph is allowing each boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be given the chance to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have created the island to be a democratic place which shows a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.

             Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be associated with Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a  “snake thing” but by the end of the novel it has become “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be bad omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However at this stage of the novel the beast is quite insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boys fear of the beast grows so to does the beast itself until it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a strong status as a Lord although it is over something pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.

             One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilisation is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This suggests savagery as the boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they don’t care about it. This is particularly clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done thus showing them becoming savages. 

             We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation developing further when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is really scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now completely open for the boys. This is the first true piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys becoming savages.

             A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he said and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still someone with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.

             In conclusion The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he wants to enforce rules and let everyone have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. Through the boys actions Golding shows us that we need rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions properly.

27 thoughts on “Lord of the Flies – sample essay.”

AWESOME thanks guys!!

This essay was really helpful and thought provoking. I noticed a comment about how this essay could improve and I understand that this essay follows Scottish Qualifications, but I just have two suggestions to improve it.

At the beginning of Paragraph 4 it states “One of ways”. I think that perhaps the author meant “One of the ways”.

Also, in Paragraph 5 the author uses “We”, it may be different in Scotland, but I learnt that in essays one does not use personal pronouns.

Other than that it was really well written <3 Thank you!

I’m sorry you didn’t find the essay any help. There are mistakes in this as it was written by a National 5 class and is an exact sample essay as written by the pupils (equivalent to GCSE) and as a result of that there are some errors. It does talk about the same thing over and over again – civilisation versus savagery – but it is supposed to as this was the focus of the essay question. When writing a critical essay you need to pick out things from the text that answer the question. You will notice that different things are picked out from the text that relate to the fight between civilisation and savagery – whether this is the symbols used in the book or the actions of some of the characters. Once this has been selected to speak about you need to lift evidence from the text to support what you are saying and then explain it to your readers. I hope this has helped you understand the point of the essay a bit better.

Ms Davidson

Is this essay meant to be for a GSCE course? I am doing an essay about it now and I’m in year 8.

This text is being used by students in a Scottish Secondary School for their National 5 English qualification. They sit their exam at the equivalent age to those studying GCSEs. It doesn’t really matter what age you are when you study the text, it’s more to do with the levels of analysis you go through whilst studying the text. This essay would be a minimum pass at National 5 in Scotland. It is written by students and is simply an example of what students could write in their exam.

Hope that’s helped, Ms Davidson

I was desperate to know what to write in the conclusion but then this conclusion gave me some help, Thank you

Thank you so much!! The points in this essay are extremely helpful and I was able to interlink them in my GCSE exam today. Very helpful source!!

You are very welcome!

I’m glad you found it useful!

Thanks so much I have this 5 paragraph essay that’s due and you helped me so much for idea wise

WOOOOW amazing thank you so much


this is gold as I have to write an essay on lotf and was having troubles finding main quotes the had good techniques paired to them and this helped a lot

Is this a full mark piece ?

This would probably get 15-16 out of 20 at National 5 in the Scottish system. Hope that helps.

Glad it was useful!

Thank you so much this was so extremely helpful. You are a lifesaver!

I’m glad I found this essay because i got an A on my school essay. THANK YOU SO MUCH 🙂

I wanted conflict between ralph and jack ONLY

You can change the points and the link backs (the first and last sentence in each paragraph) to focus on the conflict between Jack and Ralph if you need to. Each symbol talked about here is either associated with Jack or Ralph. Also Jack and Ralph link to the wider theme of the book with each boy respectively representing civilisation or savagery. This essay can be used to help you structure the one you need to write.

I am writing a paragraph and i need to write about the theme, charecters/groups… i cant start the paragraph with the answers, i need an intro, what can i do for an intro, i am a bit stuck

I’m not sure I understand your question Sarah. Your paragraph seems to include an awful lot of things. What is the overall point you are trying to talk about? If you were looking at the theme of civilisation then you could start with a simple sentence saying “The Lord of the Flies explores the theme of savagery versus civilisation”. If you are focusing on a particular character then begin with “The Lord of the Flies uses one of it’s main characters Jack/Ralph to explore certain ideas within the text.” I hope this helps. Ms Davidson

This helped me soon much!I’m so happy that I got an A+!My teacher was so happy.

That’s excellent!


I need help with that essay lotf essay why should a leader read lotf base on ralph.

Take a look at the essay based on the character Ralph. Adapt it the first sentence in each paragraph (your POINT) so that it focuses on Ralph being a good example of being a leader, or how they can learn a lesson from him doing something that shows him being a bad leader. Then adapt the final sentence (your LINK BACK) so it responds to him setting an example (or not!) for leaders.

I was reading through the comments and you mentioned that the essay would be about 15-16 marks out of 20, and was wonder what improvements could be made to get the last few marks?

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Lord of The Flies — Main Themes In The Lord Of The Flies


Main Themes in The Lord of The Flies

  • Categories: Lord of The Flies Novel William Golding

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Published: Feb 8, 2022

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the lord of the flies theme essay

the lord of the flies theme essay

Lord of the Flies

William golding, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Human Nature Theme Icon

The " beast " is a symbol Golding uses to represent the savage impulses lying deep within every human being. Civilization exists to suppress the beast. By keeping the natural human desire for power and violence to a minimum, civilization forces people to act responsibly and rationally, as boys like Piggy and Ralph do in Lord in the Flies . Savagery arises when civilization stops suppressing the beast: it's the beast unleashed. Savages not only acknowledge the beast, they thrive on it and worship it like a god. As Jack and his tribe become savages, they begin to believe the beast exists physically—they even leave it offerings to win its favor to ensure their protection. Civilization forces people to hide from their darkest impulses, to suppress them. Savages surrender to their darkest impulses, which they attribute to the demands of gods who require their obedience.

Savagery and the "Beast" ThemeTracker

Lord of the Flies PDF

Savagery and the "Beast" Quotes in Lord of the Flies

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  1. Lord of the Flies: Mini Essays

    Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel in that it contains characters and objects that directly represent the novel's themes and ideas. Golding's central point in the novel is that a conflict between the impulse toward civilization and the impulse toward savagery rages within each human individual. Each of the main characters in the ...

  2. Lord of the Flies: Critical Essays

    When Lord of the Flies was first released in 1954, Golding described the novel's theme in a publicity questionnaire as "an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature." In his 1982 essay A Moving Target, he stated simply "The theme of Lord of the Flies is grief, sheer grief, grief, grief."

  3. Lord of the Flies Themes and Analysis

    By William Golding. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a powerful novel. It's filled with interesting themes, thoughtful symbols, and a particular style of writing that has made it a classic of British literature. Article written by Lee-James Bovey. P.G.C.E degree.

  4. Lord of the Flies Themes

    Within the larger battle of civilization and savagery ravaging the boys's community on the island, Lord of the Flies also depicts in great detail the relationships and power dynamics between the boys. In particular, the novel shows how boys fight to belong and be respected by the other boys. The main way in which the boys seek this belonging ...

  5. Lord of the Flies Themes

    Discussion of themes and motifs in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. eNotes critical analyses help you gain a deeper understanding of Lord of the Flies so you can excel on your essay or test.

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    Lord of the Flies, William Golding's first novel, was published in London in 1954 and in New York in 1955. Golding was forty-three years old when he wrote the novel, having served in the Royal ...

  7. Lord of the Flies Themes

    Civilization vs. Savagery. The overarching theme of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between the human impulse towards savagery and the rules of civilization which are designed to contain and minimize it. Throughout the novel, the conflict is dramatized by the clash between Ralph and Jack, who respectively represent civilization and savagery. The differing ideologies are expressed by each boy ...

  8. Lord of the Flies: Critical Essays

    Get free homework help on William Golding's Lord of the Flies: book summary, chapter summary and analysis, quotes, essays, and character analysis courtesy of CliffsNotes. In Lord of the Flies , British schoolboys are stranded on a tropical island. In an attempt to recreate the culture they left behind, they elect Ralph to lead, with the intellectual Piggy as counselor.

  9. Civilization Theme in Lord of the Flies

    Civilization Theme Analysis. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lord of the Flies, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Although Golding argues that people are fundamentally savage, drawn toward pleasure and violence, human beings have successfully managed to create thriving civilizations for thousands of ...

  10. Lord of The Flies': Civilization Vs Savagery as The Main Theme

    Civilization vs Savagery in the Lord of the Flies. The theme of civilization, as opposed to savagery, is first delivered to us through the image of the conch shell, which we companion with Ralph, as he's the person who first makes use of it, and will become the elected chief of the lads.

  11. Lord of the Flies: Critical Essays

    Get free homework help on William Golding's Lord of the Flies: book summary, chapter summary and analysis, quotes, essays, and character analysis courtesy of CliffsNotes. In Lord of the Flies , British schoolboys are stranded on a tropical island. In an attempt to recreate the culture they left behind, they elect Ralph to lead, with the intellectual Piggy as counselor.

  12. Essays on Lord of The Flies

    2 pages / 693 words. Introduction William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is a compelling exploration of human nature, revealing the dark underbelly of civilization and the inherent capacity for violence and savagery within each individual. This essay will delve into the theme of manslaughter in the novel, focusing on...

  13. Human Nature Theme in Lord of the Flies

    William Golding once said that in writing Lord of the Flies he aimed to trace society's flaws back to their source in human nature. By leaving a group of English schoolboys to fend for themselves on a remote jungle island, Golding creates a kind of human nature laboratory in order to examine what happens when the constraints of civilization vanish and raw human nature takes over.

  14. Lord of the Flies

    The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery.

  15. Main Themes in The Lord of The Flies

    In the novel, Lord of The Flies, by William Golding, he portrays many themes throughout the book.Several boys are stranded on an island and have to figure out how to survive. Golding tries teaching us about loss of innocence, civilization versus savagery, power versus leadership, and last of all, good versus evil to demonstrate how, when the boys are left to survive on their own, all hell ...

  16. Lord Of The Flies Thesis Statement

    Quick answer: Arguable thesis statements for an essay about Lord of the Flies may include the idea that the boys are essentially savages underneath a thin veneer of civilization. Other potential ...

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  18. Savagery and the "Beast" Theme in Lord of the Flies

    The " beast " is a symbol Golding uses to represent the savage impulses lying deep within every human being. Civilization exists to suppress the beast. By keeping the natural human desire for power and violence to a minimum, civilization forces people to act responsibly and rationally, as boys like Piggy and Ralph do in Lord in the Flies.