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.

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

  1. 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!

  2. Hi there,

    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

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

  4. Hi Ronan,

    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

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

  6. 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!!

  7. 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

  8. Hi Anna,

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

    Ms Davidson

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

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