Lord Of The Flies - Themes Revision (BBC Bitesize Revision)

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English Literature


A theme is an idea that runs through a text. A texttext: Any piece of writing. More widely, a text can be anything that conveys meaning - eg, a film, tv programme, advert, website, or image. may have one theme or many. Understanding the themes makes the text more than 'just' a text. It becomes something more significant because we're encouraged to think more deeply about the story - about how it connects to real-life issues, and about what it might mean to us.

The main themes that run through Lord of the Flies are: Things breaking down, War, Violence, Relationships, The Island and Language.

Things breaking down

Golding himself wrote of his novel:

The boys try to construct a civilisation on the island; but it breaks down in blood and terror because the boys are suffering from the terrible disease of being human.

Wiliam Golding

Things breaking down: Jack goes hunting. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/images/lotf_small_19.jpg)

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The central themetheme: A central, unifying idea that runs through a text or performance. in Lord of the Flies is that of things breaking down. This is shown in a number of ways. Violence replaces peace, friends turn into enemies, life ends in savage death. Everything degenerates.


War: A mushroom cloud. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/images/lotf_small_20.jpg)

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War is a running theme in the novel, starting from plane the boys were travelling in.

  • The boys are on the island because the plane that was evacuating them from Britain during a fictional nuclear war was attacked. Piggy reminds Ralph: "Didn't you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb? They're all dead."
  • Ralph is proud of his father - a commander in the Navy. So, the character [character: A person portrayed by an actor in a play; an individual in a narrative or non-fiction text; a real or imaginary individual's personality or reputation ] who tries hardest to keep peace comes from a home that revolved around war.
  • We know that the civilisation from which they were trying to escape is being destroyed. When Roger stops himself throwing stones at the littluns, we're told: "Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilisation that knew nothing of him and was in ruins."
  • The dead parachutist who lands on the island was gunned down during an overhead battle.
  • Ironically, the naval officer who comes to their rescue is himself involved in the war. The boys may have been saved from life on the island, but what sort of life are they going back to?


Violence: The hunters are in a frenzy. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/images/lotf_small_21.jpg)

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Violence is always present. It starts as a game, but grows more horrific throughout the novel. For example:

  • When he first finds out Piggy's name, "Ralph danced out into the hot air of the beach and then returned as a fighter-plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned Piggy."
  • When the first pig is killed, Jack boasts, "You should have seen the blood!"
  • The ritual 'dance' revolves…


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