Lord of the Flies: Teacher Unit Novel Background

Lord of the Flies: Teacher Unit Novel Background


In order to develop a deep understanding of
the unit materials, we will engage in the following modules. The Novel: where we will discuss the genre,
major themes, contextual and background knowledge, and much more. Let’s begin! In this novel unit, students will explore
the novel, Lord of the Flies, in which a group of British school boys are evacuated during
a nuclear war, and their plane crashes on an uninhabited island. Initially, they celebrate freedom from the
adult world, but fear of an unascertainable Beast lurking in the forest stokes competition
over leadership. Quickly, the boys’ ordered civilization
unravels and any hope of rescue seems impossible. The novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding
is the tale of a group of boys marooned on an island. The novel serves as a commentary on the darkness
that exists in all mankind when the rules and norms of civilization are stripped away. Lord of the Flies author William Golding was
born on September 19, 1911, in Saint Columb Minor, Cornwall, England. William received his early education at the
school his father ran, Marlborough Grammar School. When William was just 12 years old, he attempted,
unsuccessfully, to write a novel. A frustrated child, he found an outlet in
bullying his peers. Later in life, William would describe his
childhood self as a brat. After primary school, William went on to attend
Brasenose College at Oxford University. His father hoped he would become a scientist,
but William opted to study English literature instead. In 1934, a year before he graduated, William
published his first work, a book of poetry aptly entitled Poems. In 1935 Golding took a position teaching English
and philosophy at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. Golding’s experience teaching unruly young
boys would later serve as inspiration for his novel Lord of the Flies. Although passionate about teaching from day
one, in 1940 Golding temporarily abandoned the profession to join the Royal Navy and
fight in World War II. During World War II, he fought battleships
at the sinking of the Bismarck, and also fended off submarines and planes. Lieutenant Golding was even placed in command
of a rocket-launching craft. Of his World War II experiences, Golding has
said, “I began to see what people were capable of doing. Anyone who moved through those years without
understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or
wrong in the head.” Like his teaching experience, Golding’s
participation in the war would prove to be fruitful material for his fiction and the
book Lord of the Flies. Lord of the Flies takes place on an unnamed,
uninhabited tropical island in the Pacific Ocean during a fictional worldwide war around
the year 1950. The boys arrive on the island when an airplane
that we are lead to believe was evacuating them crashes. To better understand the idea of evacuating
school children during a war, it is important to learn more about the history of evacuations
during World War 2 and how the author of Lord of the Flies incorporated ideas about the
war, bombings, and evacuations into the novel. When the group of school boys become abandoned
on the island, without adult supervision, they must work together to survive. At first, the boys mimic the society and civilization
from where they came, and choose to elect a leader, a 12 year old named Ralph. Ralph is adamant about establishing a smoke
signal, so a pair of twin boys are assigned the duty to start and watch a signal fire. Another group, the choirboys, elect themselves
to become the hunters, and provide meat for the group. They are led by a strong willed twelve year
old, Jack. Besides these boys, there are several younger
boys, about the age of six, known as the littluns. Simon, an enlightened and spiritual boy and
Piggy, a scientific thinker, quickly become the counsel for Ralph. Jack and the hunters become increasingly consumed
with killing sows. They even begin painting their faces and tracking
the animals. All the boys begin to be fearful of a supposed
beast in the jungle. Their fears are further fueled by the arrival
of a dead man with a parachute that lands on the top of the mountain. The boys begin to see Jack as a protector,
and look to him for leadership, some look up to him, some fear him. As students read the novel Lord of the Flies,
by William Golding, questions start to form about humans and their inherent nature. Are human beings naturally and instinctively
evil? Or are humans naturally and instinctively
good, but become evil when corrupted by society? William Golding once said that in writing
Lord of the Flies, he aimed to trace society’s faults and 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 boys are left without all the rules, authority,
and consequences vanish and raw human nature takes over. In Lord of the Flies, Golding argues that
human nature, free from the laws and rules of society, turns people back to their selfish
and cruel natural instincts. The makeshift civilization the boys form in
Lord of the Flies falls apart under the natural drive of their savagery: rather than follow
rules and work hard, they pursue fun, compete for control, and fall to violence. Golding’s underlying argument in the book
is that human beings are savage by nature. By the end of this unit, students will have
strengthened their contextual knowledge, including: The Invention of the Atom Bomb and Mass Evacuations,
Democracy vs. Dictatorship, The British Empire, Evacuations during World War II, Philosophies
of Human Nature, and Herd Mentality, as they relate to the novel’s setting and symbolical
meaning.

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