Lesson 2: Life on the Island

Getting Started

In the 1940s, British children were used to orderly lives in a society in which rules and expectations were very clear. Children started school at age 4, where they had spots labeled with their names for coats and towels and mugs. Their first lessons were about hygiene and how important it is for health. Eventually, boys and girls had separate lessons to prepare them for the roles they were expected to take on as adults: boys learned to use tools and do repairs, while girls learned to cook and sew.

School followed a daily routine with a specific time for each activity; the routine taught British children to be punctual and to take turns. Orderliness and manners were highly valued in British society. Ralph, Piggy, Jack, and the other boys on the plane that crashes into the island were torn from this kind of familiar, structured world.

Perhaps you can imagine their problems if you have gone camping or even just had a power outage. When the power goes out, we are usually very impatient to get it back. Suddenly our gadgets don't work; the house gets cold and there is not much we can do by candlelight. Without electricity, we realize how much we depend on conveniences. But imagine the power outage being the new normal: what would we do for heat? food? How would we spend our days? Would we grow tired of all the physical work? Who would help the weak?

Would our personalities change if we were forced to accept a new reality?

Lord of the Flies is a novel that examines how the characters change through the pressures of being thrown into an unfamiliar, harsh environment. Novels have an advantage over short stories because they are long enough for readers to observe how characters develop over time and through challenges. The way the boys think and act when they are first stranded gradually shifts as they try to overcome obstacle after obstacle. The English schoolboy training is abandoned in the new reality of daily survival. Who do they become?

Stuff You Need

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Ideas to Think About

  • What makes an individual powerful?
  • How does individual power change in relationships with others?

Things to Know

  • Direct characterization comes from the details an author specifically tells the reader.
  • Indirect characterization comes from the aspects of a character the author shows the reader rather than tells the reader.
  • A clause is group of words that contains a subject and a verb.
  • Clauses that are complete thoughts are independent clauses. All sentences contain at least one independent clause.
  • Clauses that are not complete thoughts are called dependent clauses.
  • Dependent clauses are introduced by words called subordinating conjunctions. Words like "because," "when," and "wherever" are examples.


  • Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute) and clauses (independent, dependent; noun, relative, adverbial) to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing or presentations. (LA)
  • Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme. (LA)

Introducing the Lesson

In this lesson, students are prompted to consider the contrast between 1940s Britain — the world the boys came from — with the rawness of the world on the island. The boys came from an organized world with strict notions of behavior and consequences for dirty, loud, and violent behavior. Chores and schoolwork were required at precise times each day. But on the island there are no grownups to reinforce these notions or uphold these rules. The pull and tug between the two realities puts strain on the boys as they struggle to survive.