Understanding Lord of the Flies: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Lord of the Flies: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Lord of the Flies: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Lord of the Flies: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

A seemingly simple tale of schoolboys marooned on an island, Lord of the Flies has proven to be one of the most enigmatic and provocative pieces of literature ever published. This casebook probes the many layers of meaning in the novel, examining its literary, philosophical, historical, scientific, and religious significance. Beginning with a literary analysis that explores the universality of the novel's characters, the story is considered as subversion of the adventure tale, comparing it to such classics as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. From these literary depictions of savagery, this study delves deeper, confronting the long-running philosophical and biological debates about human nature that have absorbed such influential thinkers as Rousseau and Darwin. The full meaning of Lord of the Flies is further contextualized by tracing historical views on civilization, from the Victorian perspective, to the very real horrors of World War II. This casebook integrates analysis and primary documents, with excerpts from materials as diverse as the Bible, the writings of Darwin, and war crimes interviews, to explore the very nature of human aggression and evil. This book will spark students to consider intriguing connections between Golding's masterpiece and broader concepts of civilization, altruism, political leadership responsibilities, and the history of western imperialism.

Excerpt

Few novels as brief as William Golding Lord of the Flies raise as many fascinating questions. Are human beings evil? How does evil arise? What is the nature of isolation? What is the origin of superstition and religion? Why and how do we choose our leaders? What are a leader's responsibilities? The list could continue for several pages and still barely scratch the surface, yet each is a significant question worthy of consideration. How, then, does a teacher "cover" such a work in the practical confines of class time, and why should we venture outside the text to investigate its historical background, when the text itself is so rich?

In answer to the first question, I can relate an anecdote that one of my professors, Dr. Sid Lester, told in class when I was studying for my own teaching certificate. He said that a teacher of his acquaintance addressed his American history class on the first day of school and said, "I have been told by the district that we have to cover this entire text by the end of the year." He laid the book, a social studies text, on his desk, and put another book on top of it. "There," he said. "I've covered it." He then proceeded to teach a year of brilliant, in-depth lessons on a selection of subjects.

The moral of the story is that no one can adequately cover Lord of the Flies. I read the book twice in high school, once in college, and so many times during the preparation of this text that I have . . .

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