William Golding's dystopian novel Lord of the Flies deals with difficult topics, such as the dark side of human nature, the loss of innocence, and constant tension as characters vie for power. As students follow the story of a group of British schoolboys stuck on a remote island, they will analyze the struggle between the need to maintain civilization and the human desire for power.

This book is largely an allegorical work; students must think about its meaning on multiple levels. While students are reading, it is important that they think not only about what the characters represent in the novel itself, but also what they symbolize in terms of humanity and society as a whole.

As students read Lord of the Flies, they may question what it means to be a human being and begin to think about the separation between society and primal wilderness. Though this book deals with several heavy themes, it remains a manageable work that will provoke thoughtful discussions about human nature and mankind overall.

Find out more about teaching Lord of the Flies with this free guide.

Summary of Lord of the Flies

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 1954
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 770
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-10

In the midst of a wartime evacuation, a group of British schoolboys becomes stranded on an isolated island on which their plane crashes. After a boy named Ralph summons the other survivors, he is elected as their "chief," though Jack, a leader of the boys' choir when they were in England, refuses to submit to his leadership. Soon, Ralph and Jack split the boys into two physical and philosophical "camps," each fighting for control of the island and the other group.

The boys fear a mysterious monster called "the beast," an entity that they believe is also on the island and resort to savage, primitive methods to appease this nonexistent "beast." As their loose system of rules begins to unravel and the island becomes increasingly dangerous, the boys must fight to survive.

Content Warning: Lord of the Flies contains several violent scenes, including the killing of two boys by the other characters. The novel also depicts the ritualistic slaughter of a sow, during which its head is removed and placed on a stake.

What Your Students Will Love About Lord of the Flies

  • The dystopian narrative that is reminiscent of contemporary young adult literature
  • The dramatic, exciting plot
  • Themes like power and human nature that are still important today

Potential Student Struggles With Lord of the Flies

  • Understanding the allegorical meaning of the novel
  • The negative interpretation of human nature
  • Golding's writing style

Learning Objectives for Lord of the Flies

  • Explain how this novel functions as an allegory.
  • Analyze the psychological behaviors depicted in this novel, including mob mentality and groupthink.
  • Discuss the role human nature plays in the novel.
  • Understand the symbolic nature of the character, the "Lord of the Flies."
  • Explain how the novel functions as a loss-of-innocence story.
  • Clarify the symbolism of the different boys and of various objects on the island.

Literary Elements in Lord of the Flies

  • Allegory
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Microcosm
  • Personification
  • Symbolism
  • And more!

Major Themes in Lord of the Flies

Power — The novel explores the struggle for power and control that ensues after the boys form a new society.

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Human Nature — The constant tension between civilization and power provides insights into the darker side of human nature.

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Innocence — Through their struggle to survive on the island, the boys experience a loss of innocence, especially given the violent acts they commit towards each other.

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Other Resources for Lord of the Flies

Order Lord of the Flies Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
Lord of the Flies Paperback Student Edition
Lord of the Flies Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Lord of the Flies AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Lord of the Flies Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Lord of the Flies Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Lord of the Flies Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Lord of the Flies Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set

This free guide was originally posted in September 2017. It has been updated as of September 2019.