LEARNING GUIDE TO:
LORD OF THE FLIES
SUBJECTS — Literature - literary devices: symbol, character development,Age: 13+; MPAA Rating -- R (This rating is undeserved; a more consistent rating would be PG-13); Drama; 1990; 90 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.
Description: This is a film adaptation of William Golding's 1954 novel. Considered allegorical, the story is set on an island where an airplane crash has stranded a group of boys. Absent any adult control, the boys begin to develop rules of behavior and lines of authority in order to survive. The boys work well together at first, but soon divide into two distinct groups: one, atavistic in nature and focused on hunting; the other, cooperative and focused on being rescued. Over time, violence ensues as one group veers into savagery and seeks to destroy the other.
Rationale for Using the Movie: In addition to serving as a treat for students after they have read the book, watching the film can be the basis for the analysis of a work of fiction. The use of character development, symbol, theme, plot (rising action, climax, falling action) and irony can all be easily shown through this movie. For Social Studies classes, the story is a study of the descent of a social group under stress into savagery; accepting leadership from a demagogue who claims to keep his promises and to provide food and security while maintaining power by stirring up fear of the "monster".
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students can improve critical and analytical thinking skills through discussion and through completion of assignments after viewing the film. The assignments will help develop ELA writing skills.
Possible Problems: Minor: There are some incidents of violence and minor use of profanity. The audience is also shown the faces of three dead pigs and the head of one of them is cut off and put on a pike to become, the "Lord of the Flies".
1. What are the themes of this story? What messages are the authors trying to convey? Name one. Suggested Response: There are several themes and different ways of describing them. They include: (1) societies need the wisdom of older people and the rules of civilization to avoid deteriorating into savagery; (2) leadership that uses on fear to gain ascendance leads to savagery; (3) there are conflicting human impulses toward savagery and civilization; leadership can direct society toward one or the other; (4) savagery is the end result of the commitment to self-interest over community interest; (5) societies under stress from war, hunger or other causes, can lose their civilized values and dispense with rules developed over time to protect individuals.
2. How do you think a group of boys marooned on a desert island would really act? Is the story told by Lord of the Flies realistic? Suggested Response: Answers will vary and should be backed up with sound reasoning. A good discussion may address hypothetical situations: What if the people marooned on the island had been members of an athletic team, a group of Surfers from Malibu, young Native Americans from one tribe, girls, a platoon of soldiers with their officers, a mixed group of men and women, inner-city gang members, etc.
3. Jack tells his followers that, "The monster can come at any time in any shape." At one level, he is using fear to control the others, but on another level, the filmmakers are trying to tell us something about fear. What is it? Suggested Response: Answers will vary but a good discussion will include the concept that the monster is fear itself which provides the impetus for the boys to turn on each other and forsake values such as cooperation and community with those outside the group.
4. Some psychologists say that mankind has an innate sense of cooperation and altruism. How does that square with the story told by this film? Suggested Response: The answer is that it doesn't. One of the reasons why this story captivates readers and viewers is that it shows how people can be manipulated to reject cooperation with those outside of the group, classify people as the "other", and reject all types of altruistic behavior. Another point is that there are tendencies in mankind, particularly in males, that are the opposite of altruism which can be brought out and harnessed by an unethical leader.
For 25 additional Discussion Questions, see the Supplemental Materials for this Guide.
Assignments and Assessments:
Most of the discussion questions in this Guide and in the Supplemental Materials can serve as writing prompts. Additional assignments include:
1. In classes that are not required to read the book, teachers may distribute a copy of chapter five from the novel entitled, "Beast from Water". This chapter shows the power of fear in order to galvanize conformity. Students will be able to experience the book's aesthetic and see the contrast between the mundane aspects of living as castaways, such as hair in Ralph's eyes or the attention he pays to his feet, and the fundamentals, such as the manipulation of fear that is causing the group to disintegrate. At the end of the reading, ask students to write an informal essay comparing the manipulation of fear in this chapter to how fear is manipulated today to serve specific ends, whether in society as a whole or in an individual's life.
2. Write a formal analytical essay in which you look closely at the symbols used in the film. Describe the symbol and explain its meaning in the aallegory told by this story. Include, at least, the conch shell, fire, and Piggy's glasses in your choice of symbols.
3. Some critics argue that the story told in Lord of the Flies no longer rings true, that the boy's behavior on the island lacks credibility. The various themes of the film, however, remain important. Divide the students into groups and ask them to come up with a film proposal in which they suggest setting, characters, conflicts and resolution that would be more timely and universal and would serve to express the themes to today's audience. Have students preesent their work to the entire class. Then have the class as a whole serve as potential producers looking to finance a film. Which of the suggested stories would they select as the one most likely to bring in the profits? Evaluate student work according to rubrics ordinarily employed in oral and group work.
For additional Assignments, see the Supplemental Materials for this Guide.
WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Film Study Worksheet for Adaptations of Novels;
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
Many of the lesson plan ideas presented in this Guide and in the the Supplemental Materials relate to the book as well as the film. For suggestions about using filmed adaptations of literary works in the ELA classroom, see Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories and Plays.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
Parenting Points If your child is studying the novel in school you might want to let him or her see the film after the class has finished studying the novel. Be sure your child does not view the film as a substitute for reading the book.