Lesson 1: The Call

Getting Started

Let's imagine a perfect place. This place would be ideal not only because is it beautiful and populated with good creatures, but also because the weather suits all the activities people like. There would be food sources that are easy to harvest. Everyone would provided for, with little work required. This place would be a paradise.

Now let's add people. How should people behave in this perfect place? In this paradise, people would interact in peaceful, friendly, and productive ways. Everyone would thrive.

The state of perfect social conditions has a name: utopia. In 1516, the term was devised by Sir Thomas More from the Greek ou-topos, a hybrid word that means "no place." The name itself suggests that a paradise of people behaving in a way that creates perfect social conditions is impossible.

The opposite of a utopia is a dystopia. In a dystopia, human wishes are not fulfilled; instead, a dystopian universe is a dangerous, uncomfortable, and stressful place to live. Dystopias may be chaotic, lawless, undeveloped, and savage, or they may be controlled with oppressive, totalitarian violence. Survival is the goal, often at high cost.

One important purpose of literature is to explore ideas in imagined places so people can think through root causes and the possible results of these scenarios. Great literature sparks great discussions. In this unit, you consider the forces in human beings that lead down the path to utopias or dystopias, to thriving or barely surviving.

Popular series of dystopian novels in recent years include the The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, City of Ember, and The 5th Wave. Lord of the Flies was an early model for these contemporary novels.
Many novels labeled utopian or dystopian are set in fantasy worlds, while others are futuristic with science fiction elements. Setting is important in novels that explore utopias and dystopias, because it can intensify the challenges faced by humans.

In 1954, in Lord of the Flies, author William Golding challenged his readers to consider how human nature would react if put to an extreme test of survival. The tropical island setting is realistic — seemingly perfect — not futuristic or fantastic. But on the island, Golding presents a world where youth is forced to lead, even though they are unprepared for the challenge. You will contemplate human nature in this time-honored story of chaos and control — how do humans adapt or degrade in unknown, harsh, or threatening circumstances?

Stuff You Need

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • dictionary
  • glue
  • journal
  • scissors

Ideas to Think About

  • How does a society maintain order?
  • Are laws necessary?
  • How do fear and desire for acceptance influence human behavior?

Things to Know

  • Lord of the Flies was written by William Golding as he grappled to find the root causes of the violence he saw during active duty in World War II. After the war, Golding returned to teaching and writing.
  • An imagined universe that is perfect is called a utopia.
  • The opposite of a utopia is a dystopia. A dystopian universe is a dangerous, uncomfortable, stressful place to live.
  • Know the definitions of the following vocabulary words: incredulous, errant, furtive, susurration, sepals, decorum, discursive, leviathan.


  • Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (LA)
  • Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. (LA)
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone). (LA)

Introducing the Lesson

The lesson introduces the concepts of utopias and dystopias. According to many critics, Lord of the Flies is a dystopian novel. The novel was written by William Golding after he came home from active duty service in World War II.

As Golding sought to explore the root causes of violence in society, he looked to human nature in its rawest form: children in an entirely uncivilized setting. Which aspects of human nature will prevail? The ones that lead people to seek order, cleanliness, and cooperation? Or the ones that lead us to fear, violence, and savagery? Students will explore these questions throughout the unit.

NOTE: Some flex days are included at the very end of the semester, should your child need them. The "Semester Exam" lesson is five days long, which students can use for project completion in addition to studying and exam taking.