Lord of The Flies In The Language Classroom—Evil or Human Nature


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How can teachers use William Golding's Lord of the Flies in the Language Classroom. The discussion topic could be human nature or evil part in minds. We would like to cultivate our students to have critical-thinking ability.

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Lord of The Flies In The Language Classroom—Evil or Human Nature

  1. 1. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen Lord of the Flies in the Language Classroom— Evil or Human Nature Cindy Chia-Hui Shen cindy422@tp.edu.tw Department of English Instruction, Taipei Municipal University of Education I. Introduction Recently, the use of English picture books in teaching in a foreign language has drawn a great deal of attention from researchers, who suggest that children can naturally acquire novel words from reading storybooks (Blok, 1999; Brett, Rothlein, & Hurley, 1996; Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Huang, 2001; Lin, 2003; Nantz, 2002; Tyan & Shen, 2006). As for the adolescents, discovering the connections between their own personal stories and reading stories of human experience can help them define themselves within a larger world. One way to help adolescents do this is to expose them a quality literature from a wide variety of cultures and times, and engage them in discussion and writing about how the people, events, and stories in these works compare to their own lives and experience. Take William Golding’s Lord of the Flies as an example, this is a story about two groups of young children in completely opposite way and the main theme of the novel is about the “reciprocal relationship” between the “good” and the “evil,” just like William Blake’ poem ‘Song of Innocence and Experience.’ Students can discover these connections by thinking about their own 1
  2. 2. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature stories. There are three sections in this article. The first section is the introduction of this novel and the author. The second section focuses on the critics of Lord of the Flies, especially in the evil and human nature, and at the third section is the application of using Lord of the Flies as the teaching material, and to investigate its effects on adolescents’ language learning and cultivate their positive attitude and characteristic development. II. Introduction of Lord of the Flies and the author William Golding Lord of the flies is a fable, a story with a moral. It also contains elements of allegory; on one level it is an adventure story of boys on an island, and on another level it shows us that evil resides within ourselves. The struggle between Ralph and Jack represents the struggle between democracy and totalitarianism, two opposing ways of organizing society. During the Second World War, Golding served with the Royal Navy and was profoundly affected by his experiences. After the war he taught at a boys’ school in Salisbury. Years later he said that writing the book was ‘like lamenting the lost childhood of the world.’ In 1962 he retired from teaching to become a full time writer. He was inspired to write Lord of the Flies because he found the students he taught 2
  3. 3. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen during his 20 years as a schoolteacher to be ripe material for probing the mind of a child. In addition, R. M. Ballantyne’s Coral Island (1857), an adventure novel about shipwrecked boys that Golding had read as child, provided him with plot ideas that he eventually incorporated into Lord of the Flies. III. The investigation of human nature in Lord of the Flies William Golding wrote the novel Lord of the Flies with the intent to include certain elements of moral behavior for readers to absorb. He utilized specific symbols found scattered in the novel to portray his intended message to all those who read his work of literature. He built his message into the novel in the form of adventure. The actions done by characters in the novel eventually create Golding’s message to the reader. Lord of the Flies is an adolescent literature mainly discussing the transformation of one’s external physical appearance and also mental state and behavior. This novel further demonstrates the psychological struggles when human beings are looking for the instincts and the primitive parts in their minds. In moral philosophy, evil is described as the absence of good that ought to be found in one man and in the actions he performs. Traditionally there have been three different conceptions of human nature: the 3
  4. 4. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature classical, the Christian and the modern view. The classical view identifies man’s rational faculties with good, sees the mind as immortal and the reason as identical with God while regarding his sensual desires and appetites as evil (Niebuhr 6-7). Evil is the defeat of reason by the body, which forces man to act in accordance with the animal passions. It can be said that Golding describes the moral of the book in relation to the scientific mechanics of society. The boys on the island view this ideal in the form of the “beastie.” The “beastie” is an unseen figure on the island, which is symbolized of the dead parachutist. This fear, however, represents the potential evil found in humans. In addition, Kinkead-Weeks (1984) identifies three explanations of evil in Golding’s novel. First are Piggy and Ralph. They believe in “the essential goodness of people and the island. If things ‘break up,’ it is the fault of individuals who deviate because there is something wrong among them.” Jack, on the other hand, thinks “evil and destruction are live forces.” In a world of power, there are powers at work (Beast, Devil, or God) which are stronger than men, but these powers can be propitiated by ritual, ceremony and sacrifice.” Finally, there is Simon who declares that the first and the second explanations are simultaneously right and wrong. “There is evil, but it is not either outside men or 4
  5. 5. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen confined to certain men, it is inside of everyone” (Kinkead-Weeks 45). It is Simon’s explanation that Golding obviously favors. In the novel Jack first appears leading the choirboys. After Ralph is elected Chief, he gives the choir to Jack to lead and Jack decides that they will be hunters (Golding 15-19). Jack, the leader, is recast, not as an innocent boy, but as a criminal element that is dangerous. Jack spends the first night around the campfire telling ghost stories to make the other boys scream and cry. It is Jack, and not the imaginations of the little’un, who installs fear into the boys. He then uses their fear as leverage to scare the others into joining the safety of the hunter-tribe. The novel, in contrast, has the beast invented and perpetuated by the imagination of the youngest boys. The novel makes us sympathize with Jack ‘Who thinks Ralph oughtn’t to be chief?’ He looked expectantly at the boys ranged round, who had frozen. Under the palms there was deadly silence. ‘Hands up,’ said Jack strongly, ‘whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?’ The silence continued breathless and heavy full of shame. Slowly the red drained from Jack’s cheeks, then came back with a painful rush. He licked his lips and turned his head at an angle, so that his gaze avoided the in embarrassment of linking with another’s eye. 5
  6. 6. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature ‘How many think-’ His voice trailed off. The hands that held the conch shook. He cleared his throat, and spoke loudly….The humiliating tears were running from the corner of each eye. ‘I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you.’ (Golding 139-140) In this scene we see Jack as the outcast boy. He’s not so much bad as desirous of fitting into the group. There is pathos in his tears. Golding’s novel shows that the fear of ourselves is pervasive among us all and evil is a universal characteristic of men. Golding is trying to tell us that evil is stronger than good and even is the best thing to have evil in humans. The whole novel is about the struggle of good and evil which take the roles of symbols. Ralph takes part in one of the hunts (122-126) which serves as “a revelation of his own darker side; he discovers in himself the excitements, the ‘fright and apprehension and pride’ the others have known” (Kinkead-Weeks 41). The theme in Lord of the Flies is that children are savage at heart, ultimately reverting back to an evil and primitive nature. As a reader, I realize that despite the strong sense of civility that has been instilled in these children throughout their lives, they have shown the underlying savage side existent in their inner minds. The author William Golding tries to convey a message that it is threatening for human beings due to the irrationality and urge for destruction. That is, the novel demonstrates that it is 6
  7. 7. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen not difficult to revert back to the evil nature inherent in man. Furthermore, in the novel, Simon is a peaceful person who tries to show the boys that there is no monster on the island except the fears that the boys have. In other words, Simon tries to state the truth about there is a beast, but it is only us. It is understandable that young children would have fears of monsters, especially when it is taken into consideration that the children are stranded on the island which is far away from their home. The sense of fear about beasts or an unknown future make people do something may be extremely out of orders. Fear is an emotion that is instinctive and active in humans from the very beginnings of their lives. This revelation uncovers another weakness in humans, supporting the idea or belief that a human being is pathetic and savage at the very core of his existence. “It was dark. There was that -- that bloody dance. There was lightning and thunder and rain. We were scared!” This describes how the boys have gone beyond the point of fun and games. They are no longer boys playing on the island but a bunch of savages. Additionally, the struggle between two groups illustrates human’s fear of losing control, which is another example of selfishness and weakness, a part of human nature. The fear of beasts is natural and the fear of losing power is inherited. The author points out that any type of uncontrolled fear contributes to human’s instability and 7
  8. 8. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature will ultimately lead to spiritual desperation. The island represents the isolation of human beings a frightening and mysterious state. The novel leads us to see the darkness of human nature, even though it is a release from adults’ control and the main characters are young children. They seem to be forced to become mature and behave as adults, and this island is symbolized as a small society, in which there is a hierarchical relationship within them. These children not only kill animals, but also kill their partners. The bloody things are the results of violence and war. “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” This expresses the increasing intensity of the boys’ savagery. The paradoxical concepts of morality and evil, and rules and savages among human beings make us start to think the identification of ourselves. Ultimately, their fragile democracy is replaced by a tribal community based on fright and superstition. At the end of the book, the paradisal place has become a burning inferno. Ralph, the protagonist, echoes Golding’s own grief when he weeps “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart…” (223). With the respect of pedagogical implication, adolescents, being active and responsive readers, need to be encouraged to think what is the meaning of life and they should start to make further reflections, listen to their own inner voices, and have 8
  9. 9. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen critical thinking since life is a journey, which may accompanied with lots of adventures and challenges. They should start to choose the appropriate way to their destination because evil is not simply the manifestation of something animal or primitive, but a complex human phenomenon. IV. Pedagogical implication and application in the language classroom In the L1 learning environment, there have been lots of teachers use adolescent literature as one of the reading materials in class. For example, a high school teacher named Arver (2007) sets up a virtual world to augment students’ reading of Lord of the Flies. Students in her class interact as additional characters, discuss, and solve problems based on the circumstances of the story, and complete classroom assignments within a virtue environment. In addition, based on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, there are great number of lesson plans designed to help students that, not only on a literal level, i.e., the novel deals with what happens to a group of boys stranded on an island, but also on a symbolic level, i.e., it investigates what happens to civilized people when the social structures of civilization disappear. The main activity in the lesson could involve students forming groups to present arguments and to judge who was responsible for the events on the island. It includes objectives, materials, procedures, adaptations, discussion questions, evaluation methods, 9
  10. 10. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature extension activities, annotations of suggested readings and web links, vocabulary, and related academic standards and benchmarks addressed in the lesson plan. The lesson plan could also contains a description of a video clip related to the lesson, comprehension questions related to the video clip, and answers to those comprehension questions. Helen and Tuomas (2002) suggested that teachers can discuss with colleagues how drama can be used in the teaching of English as a foreign language. Students can be encouraged to dramatize William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Another suggestion raised by Sunderman (1999) indicated that teachers can divide students into several groups to have collaborative works. Teachers can pose questions for students to grapple with and debate. The process of students talking, analyzing, quoting passages, evaluating, and questioning were much more important than the answers. For example, the theme of the day could be “conflict” and the discussion questions could be ‘What conflicts arise in this novel?’ ‘What cause the conflicts to arise?’ ‘Are the conflicts resolved?’ ‘If yes, how are they resolved?’ ‘Are the boys’ conflicts similar to the conflicts you encounter?’ Group discussion for an initial brainstorming session and then students can debate Ralph’s strength as a leader vs. Jack’s leadership qualities. Ralph is strong, mature, and confident, and he acts and speaks with self-assurance and consideration for others; his first priority is to be 10
  11. 11. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen rescued. On the other hand, Jack is immature, selfish, careless, and motivated by blood lust. His priorities are hunting and sustaining his image and position among the boys. They can analyze Ralph’s inner struggle, i.e., to have fun on the island or to work to be rescued. They can further debate who was responsible for Simon’s death. And Piggy’s death symbolizes the total destruction of culture, civilization, and reason by evil and violence. Teacher can further guide them to think the inter-relationship between person vs. person, person vs. nature, and person vs. self. In terms of evil and human nature, we can describe the religious imagery in Lord of the Flies: the forces of good and evil, a fall from grace, a savior, and eventual redemption. And we can ask students to dramatize the distinctive character traits and the human quality of each major character (Ralph: practical; represents desire for common sense, responsibility, desire for normal, civilized life, embodiment of fears suffered by man, savagery of man; Jack: red-haired, authoritative, natural leader, Satanic, animalistic; Piggy, knowledgeable, rational, logical, parental, scapegoat, wise, chubby, inactive; Simon: epileptic, kind, bashful, visionary, Christ-like, e.g., “Ralph stirred uneasily. Simon, sitting between the twins and Piggy, wiped his mouth and shoved his piece of meat over the rocks to Piggy, who grabbed it. The twins giggled and Simon lowered his face in shame.” This quotation reveals that Simon is kind and sincere. Teachers can guide students 11
  12. 12. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature how to write their own scripts through group discussion. Finally, readers and instructors can find a rich education resource pack of drama scripts, character analysis, and reading comprehension questions, and questions for discussion written by Cadbury (2008) on the Pilot Theatre website. After reading Golding’s Lord of the Flies and some critics and application of this novel, I think I will read this novel for my EFL young learners in the near future. My teaching objectives will be presented as follows: The novel highlights key themes in literature through the use of important literary elements. Students will gain an understanding of the influence of literature on their daily lives, society in general and the world as a whole. There are three main themes discussed in class, i.e., the loss of innocence, the presence of evil in mankind, the fear of the unknown and the instinct of humans to struggle for power and control. Through an understanding of the context in which the novel was written, the exploration of the text itself, and the literary elements used by Golding throughout, students will find the key themes illustrated in a variety of ways. Focusing on Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies as the basis for the unit, student work will center around the major themes which allow for the interpretations of such questions as: “How do people lose their innocence? When does this take place? Is it sparked by one event or something bigger? What are the ways this loss manifests 12
  13. 13. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen itself in human nature? What causes people who are seemingly ‘civilized’ to commit evil acts? Are men born evil or is evil a trait that men acquire? What initiates evil deeds? Are men themselves to blame for evil behavior or is there an outside influence? What causes fear? Why do we fear that which we do not know? What are some of mankind’s reactions to fear? What is the relationship between our fears and our behavior? What makes man struggle for power? What are some of the ways that men have struggled for (and gained) power in the past? Does evil behavior accompany the acquisition of power? How do we judge our leaders? What right do we have to judge human nature (if any)? How do leaders deal with power? With fear? With evil? Does the struggle for power correspond with the ‘loss of innocence’? How?” These interpretive questions lend themselves to critical analysis and personal expression and provide the foundation for the study of Lord of the Flies throughout the unit. Students will explore these major themes and, in turn, interpret the questions that correspond to the themes through their study of the literary techniques. Moreover, through participation in group performance, such as role-play or drama performance, and personal writing assignments as their reading journals, students will learn to recognize and analyze Golding’s use of plot, theme, characterization, foreshadowing, symbolism, irony and satire. Students will use these literary elements as the foundation for formulating reasonable responses to the questions raised by the major 13
  14. 14. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature themes presented in the novel. Most important, the activities, such as teamwork and practice in public speaking for developing confidence and self-esteem, will broaden their views and minds toward the diversified human characteristics in one society. It is important to highlight the educational process by participating in a real-world connection as a very rewarding experience for young people, offering opportunities for personal development in many areas. Last but not least, daily lessons will also focus on building core knowledge of literary terms and concepts in order to provide students with the necessary skills on which to build their interpretations and opinions. Incorporating “mini-lessons” into the unit plan that illustrate the core content of the English Language Arts curriculum provides a scaffolding for students to build on in order to formulate personal responses founded in the principles of literary writing and expression. In brief, providing students with the knowledge, concepts and skills necessary to come to grips with the essential questions raised will completely prepare them for formal and informal assessment of the major themes presented in Lord of the Flies. 14
  15. 15. Cindy Chia-Hui Shen Reference Arver, C. M. “Are You Willing to Have Your Students Join Ralph, Jack, and Piggy?” English Journal (High school edition) 97.1 (2007): 37- 42. Atkins, J. “Two Views of Life: William Golding and Graham Greene.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 13.1 (1980): 81-97. Blok, H. “Reading to young children in educational settings: A meta-analysis of recent research.” Language Learning 49 (1999): 343-371. Brett, A., Rothlein, L., & Hurley, M. “Vocabulary acquisition form listening to stories and explanations of target words.” The Elementary School Journal 96 (1996): 415-422. Cadbury, H. “Pilot Theatre’s Resource Pack for Lord of the Flies.” York Theatre Royal. 28 Sept. 2008. <http://www.pilot-theatre.com>. Dickinson, D. K., & Tabors, P. O. (Eds.). Building literacy with language: Young children learning at home and school. Baltimore: Brookes, 2001. Elliott, R. (1990). “Encouraging reader-response to literature in ESL situations.” ELT Journal 44.3 (1990): 191-198. Golding, W. Lord of the flies. New York: The Penguin Group, 2006. Helen, L., & Tuomas, H. “From Page to Stage: Lord of the Flies.” Forum 40.1 (2002): 12-15. Huang, C. C. “An investigation of ESP students’ vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension.” Selected Papers from the Tenth International Symposium on English Teaching (pp. 435-445). Taipei, Taiwan: Crane, 2001. Kinkead-Weekes, Mark & Ian Gregor. William Golding: A Critical Study. Faber and Faber: Boston, 1984. Larry, R. J. “In Case You Teach English: Case Studies in the English Classroom.” ERIC DOCUMENT Reproductive Service ED427324. Lin, H. L. (2003). Integrating English children’s picture books with teaching children English as a foreign language in a 9-year joint curricula plan for elementary and junior high schools. English Teaching & Learning 27 (2003): 15-30. Nantz, L. Q. “Developing a literature-based elementary ELT curriculum for Taiwan.” In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Symposium on English Teaching (pp. 484-493). Taipei: Crane Publishing Company, 2002. Niebuhr, Reinhold. The Nature and Destiny of Man. V.1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964. Olsen, K. Understanding “Lord of the Flies”: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002. ERIC DOCUMENT Reproductive Service ED 479863. Sunderman, W. L. “Reading, Living, and Loving Lord of the Flies.” English Journal 15
  16. 16. Lord of the Flies: Evil or Human Nature (High school edition) 89.2 (1999): 49-54. Tyan, N. C., & Shen, Y. P. “An action research: how a primary school teacher uses English picture story books to facilitate students’ English learning.” In Proceedings of the Twelfth International Symposium on English Teaching (pp. 561-569). Taipei: Crane Publishing Company, 2003. Williams, R. C. Lord of the Flies: An Ethnological Study of Dominance Ordering in a Group of Human Adolescence. Denver, Colorado: Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, 1975. ERIC DOCUMENT Reproductive Service ED14751. Xiao-Chun, G.. “Lord of the flies: A survey of evil humanity.” Sino-US English Teaching 4.12 (2007): 61-65. 16