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Theme two - Revelation of theme through character and incident

Golding's description of character and events in the novel reveal the violent and savage nature of man.

In small descriptive episodes, Golding relentlessly re-iterates what is the nature of man. Man, as well as having the potential for violence, enjoys power to master, and ultimately to have power of life and death. As the boys become accustomed to life on the island, their behaviour changes. The rules that once governed their existence slowly disappear becoming ever distant memories. While Ralph (and Piggy) struggle to maintain order and control, the primitive and savage impulses that the boys experience begin to govern.

This change in attitude and behaviour is perhaps best seen in the character and actions of Jack. He, more than any other boy in the formative moments of the novel, embraces the opportunity to return to a primitive and savage state.

SQA Higher English Critical Essay paper 2008

Prose – Choose a novel which explores the cruelty of human nature.

Show how the writer explores this theme and discuss how its exploration enhances your appreciation of the novel as a whole.

The violent and savage nature of man

Golding's purpose in writing his novel was to show how he believed man, (the boys on the island), would react to a return to nature in the face of a breakdown in social order. He was writing in answer to books such as "Coral Island" which advocated the noble nature of man and his ability to remain civilised in the face of adversity – when the rules that govern society are removed.

In the first chapters of Lord of the Flies Golding describes what, on the surface, is a perfect desert island. In his descriptions of the island (the setting) however, he hints that all is not as we might expect.

Look at the following mind map to help organise your thoughts.

revelation of theme through character: context - in the early part of the novel the boys see the island as opportunity to have fun away from adults; quote - "Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked round challengingly"; Comment on situation - Jack is first to demonstrate saveageness, e.g. reaction to piglet in chp 2, he is natural hunter; analysis of language - "slammed", "challengingly" indicaet potenial violence to Jack

From here, you can structure and link your ideas into a piece of critical writing. For example:

Following the boys' initial survey of the island, Jack lays bare his intent to kill and provide food for the boys. He revels in his newfound purpose.

Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked round challengingly.

Jack is the first character in the novel to demonstrate the savage nature of man when unchecked by social order, regulations and rule. As early as the second chapter his reaction to the startled piglet indicates the savage potential of the boys in their new environment. The verbs associatd with him are agressive, belligerent – "slammed", "challengingly" ... Jack is a natural hunter who demonstrates his potential for violence early in the novel. He is a strong character that seems to surrender himself to his environment without thinking. Almost everything he does is threatening and aggressive.


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Hazard Perception

Metaphors, similes, personification... test yourself on these and many more English terms with this hazardous game!

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