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Study Guide : Lord of the Flies: Themes, Motifs, Symbols,

Study Guide

Lord of the Flies : DEFINITIONS


THEMES : Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

SYMBOLS : Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another,

MOTIFS : Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

ALLEGORY : A device which uses characters, events & elements of a story as symbols to represent something else.

Source :  The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (fourth edition)

Lord of the Flies : THEMES

Civilization vs. Savagery

The central concern of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. This conflict might be expressed in a number of ways: civilization vs. savagery, order vs. chaos, reason vs. impulse, law vs. anarchy, or the broader heading of good vs. evil. Throughout the novel, Golding associates the instinct of civilization with good and the instinct of savagery with evil.

Lord of the Flies : THEMES [revision]

Lord of the Flies : THEMES

Loss of Innocence

As the boys on the island progress from well-behaved, orderly children longing for rescue to cruel, bloodthirsty hunters who have no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence that they possessed at the beginning of the novel. Golding implies that civilization can mitigate but never wipe out the innate evil that exists within all human beings

Lord of the Flies : MOTIFS

Christian symbolism 

The novel can be seen as having Christian images and themes, readers could see the Lord of the Flies as a representation of the devil, for it works to promote evil among humankind. 

Lord of the Flies : The novel as an ALLEGORY - Context

QUICK QUIZ : Themes, Motifs and Symbols

Do you know the answers to the following questions on Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in the novel?

Click on the link below and have a go...

1. What do Piggy’s glasses represent?


2. What does the novel suggest is man’s natural state?

3. What can civilization do about the instinct toward evil, according to the novel?

4. What serves as the measure of the boys' connection to civilization?

5. What is the major symbol of order and civilization in the novel?


Lord of the Flies : SYMBOLS

The Conch Shell

Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach at the start of the novel and use it to summon the boys together after the crash separates them. Used in this capacity, the conch shell becomes a powerful symbol of civilization and order in the novel. The shell effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak. In this regard, the shell is more than a symbol—it is an actual vessel of political legitimacy and democratic power. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses a conch, to symbolize a civilized society that regulates itself through democratic engagement. Initially, the boys use the conch to establish a society reminiscent of their familiar British social order, a civil society founded on discourse and consensus. The conch is a symbol of free speech and civil process that even the youngest boy can easily grasp and embrace, but the concepts themselves prove more difficult to adhere to in practice.

Lord of the Flies : THEMES [revision]

Lord of the Flies : SYMBOLS

Piggy's Glasses

Piggy is the most intelligent, rational boy in the group, and his glasses represent the power of science and intellectual endeavor in society.

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