Lesson 10: Which Is Better?

Getting Started

In the first half of the novel, when Ralph is at the height of his influence, he struggles to get the boys to cooperate on projects including building shelters, establishing water systems, and designating waste systems to keep the food clean and safe. By Chapter 5, he calls an assembly to let the other boys know he is fed up with the general lack of interest in these important tasks:

"We were going to have water brought from the stream and left in those coconut shells under fresh leaves. So it was, for a few days. Now there's no water. The shells are dry. ... Then there's huts. Shelters. ... That shelter might fall down if the rain comes back. We'll need those shelters then. There's another thing. We chose those rocks right along beyond the bathing pool as a lavatory. That was sensible too. The tide cleans the place up. You littluns know about that. ... Now people seem to use anywhere. Even near the shelters and the platform. You littluns, when you're getting fruit; if you're taken short ... you keep away from the fruit. That's dirty! ...That's really dirty. If you're taken short you go right along the beach to the rocks. See? ... This place is getting dirty."

Ralph hopes to build a civilization on the island, and he fails. Jack allows and encourages destructive behavior rather than constructive efforts. How much pain and destruction will the boys tolerate before they challenge Jack's power? How many boys will die as Jack uses violence to maintain his influence?

Stuff You Need

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • journal

Ideas to Think About

  • How does a society maintain order? Are laws necessary?
  • What are the implications for contemporary society?
  • How are violence, power, and control related?

Things to Know

  • Complex societies are called civilizations by historians. Civilizations have common traits such as literacy, skilled trades, social structure, and dense groups or settlements. The characteristics of civilizations -- which include highly developed government, science, and culture -- do not guarantee good behavior.
  • Savagery is the state of being untamed and often fierce. It is often considered to be the opposite of civilized. However, savagery can occur within civilizations.


  • 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)
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, 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)

Introducing the Lesson

Students are reminded of the importance of clean water and safe food sources to civilization and are prompted to recall that Ralph is unable to inspire general cooperation for improvement projects even when he is at the height of his influence. However, it is important to note that history has taught us that the drive and capability to build infrastructure associated with civilized societies is not mutually exclusive or inconsistent with the perverse notion of torture as entertainment. Both were present in ancient Rome. To demonstrate this, students learn what the aqueducts were and are also asked to consider what took place in the Colosseum.