Preparing your answer
Before beginning an answer, it is important that you plan it properly so that it is structured to the question. The bullet points that go with the question will help you to do this. You must also refer to the examiner's assessment objectives to ensure you have met the criteria.
Here is a structure that you could use for your answer:
- Introduction. Ralph's character in the earlier part of the novel.
- How Ralph's character changes as a result of his experiences.
- What has become of Ralph by the end of the novel (the extract).
- How this affects the reader's view of Ralph.
- Conclusion. This extract marks the point of Ralph growing up.
Point 3 from the above structure would form the main part of an answer and look in detail at the given extract - as the question asks you to do.
Sample answer 1
Ralph has a realisation at this point in the book. His realisation is that the boys have done terrible things such as kill Simon and set fire to the island. The writer uses a simile here. Ralph also tries to think about what Jack has done but cannot do this. Ralph is covered in dirt and sweat. 'A filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose'. He has no civilisation left and he was once the most civilised. This makes the reader feel sorry for him. Ralph breaks down and cries which Golding says this is 'the first time on the island'. This is odd when you think about the awful time that Ralph has been through but he is so full of emotion that he cannot help it. Soon all the other boys are joining in as well. Ralph is crying because he is guilty of doing some bad things. All of this makes me feel very sorry for Ralph because he has been through a terrible experience.
Feedback comments – Not bad but room for improvement!
- This answer shows a fair level of understanding of the text and an attempt to develop a personal response. However, there is not enough supportive evidence quoted or analysis attempted.
- There is a limited attempt to analyse key vocabulary or literary devices. The use of a simile is noted but it is not explained what this is, what it means or why it is being used.
- There is an attempt to recognise the importance of the boys all crying but why they are doing so is not explored.
- There is a reference to the effect on an audience but this needs development.
- There are some awkward uses of vocabulary. Sentences are correctly constructed and punctuated but not always phrased well.
Sample answer 2
I feel that by the end of the novel Ralph has had some awful experiences but that he has also matured as a person and has a much better understanding of human nature. He thinks back to his arrival on the island and how it was full of 'strange glamour'; now the reality is that it is just 'scorched up like dead wood'. Golding uses an image of deadness and waste here which also shows us how Ralph is feeling inside. Some things that have happened are so awful that Ralph cannot even think about them. Golding cleverly uses ellipsis for an unfinished thought when he writes 'Jack had...'. Ralph also cannot express his feelings in words and just looks at the naval officer 'dumbly'. It is as though language itself has completely broken down. The only sound he can make is crying and soon all the other boys join him; in one sense Ralph is still their leader. All aspects of civilisation have been stripped away from him and Ralph stands there crying with 'filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose'. However, deep inside himself he has realised what Simon knew all along that 'the darkness of man's heart' was the real Beast and that it had been inside them all the whole time.
Feedback comments – Much better!
- There is strong evidence here of a very good understanding of the text and an informed personal response to Golding's writing. References are skilfully woven into the answer. The important image of the burned island is cleverly dealt with and shows an understanding of how Golding uses symbolism.
- There is clear evidence of language analysis and ability to use correct terminology (image, ellipsis).
- The moment when all the boys start to cry could have been explored further. Are they simply joining in with what Ralph is doing or have they had their own moments of understanding?
- A more detailed attempt to look at the general effect of the passage on readers would further improve the answer.
- A well-written answer which uses correct spelling, grammar and punctuation and which aims to develop complex written sentences and use advanced vocabulary.
Using the skills you have learned and revised, try answering the Lord of the Flies question. Time yourself and make sure you are meeting the examiner's assessment objectives.
In his introduction to William Golding's novel, novelist E.M. Forster suggests that Golding's writing "lays a solid foundation for the horrors to come." Using Forster's quote as a starting point, discuss how the novel foreshadows the murders of Simon and Piggy. Focus on two events or images from the novel's earlier chapters and describe how they anticipate the novel's tragic outcome.
Answer: The weather on the island grows increasingly more hostile and ominous as the novel's plot unfolds, Piggy's name suggests that he will be killed like an animal, and so on.
Many critics have read Lord of the Flies as a political allegory. In particular, they have considered the novel a commentary on the essential opposition between totalitarianism and liberal democracy. Using two or three concrete examples from the novel, show how the two political ideologies are figured in the novel, and then discuss which of the two you think Golding seems to favor.
Answer: The contrast between Ralph's group on the beach and Jack's tribe at Castle Rock represents the opposition between liberal democracy and totalitarianism. Golding presents the former as the superior system, demonstrated by the success of the assembly among Jack's group of boys and the ordered system that prioritizes the ongoing signal fire on the mountain, tactics that ensure the welfare of the entire group. Note, though, what happens in both groups over time.
Names and naming are important in Lord of the Flies. Many characters have names that allude to other works of literature, give insight into their character, or foreshadow key events. Discuss the significance of the names of, for instance, Sam and Eric, Piggy, and Simon. What does the character's name say about him and his significance? Use external sources as necessary.
Answer: Piggy's name, for example, indicates his inferior position within the social hierarchy of the island and foreshadows his eventual death at the hands of Jack's tribe. Simon was the name of Peter in the Bible. Jack might be named after John Marcher in Henry James's story The Beast in the Jungle, and so on.
Two major symbols in the novel are the conch shell and The Lord of the Flies (the pig's head on a stick). Analyze one or both of these symbols in terms of how they are perceived by the boys as well as what they symbolize for the reader.
Answer: The conch shell represents liberal democracy and order, as endorsed by Ralph and Piggy. The Lord of the Flies tends to represent an autocratic or a primitive order. Note the "exchange" of these objects at the novel's conclusion when the conch is smashed in Jack's camp and Ralph uses part of the Lord of the Flies as a weapon.
The children stranded on the island are all boys, and female characters are rarely discussed. How does this matter for the novel?
Answer: Gender difference is not explicitly discussed or represented in the novel, although femininity is symbolically present in the novel's representations of nature. Some of the male characters are "feminized" by the other boys when they are considered un-masculine or vulnerable. In a boys' choir, many boys have high voices that can sing parts normally reserved for females. It is unclear whether Jack's tribe would have become so violent (and nearly naked) if girls of the same age were on the island.
At the end of Chapter Eleven, Roger pushes Jack aside to descend on the bound twins "as one who wielded a nameless authority." Focusing on this quotation, discuss Roger's actions in Chapter Eleven in relation to Jack's power and political system.
Answer: Roger's actions towards the twins are unauthorized by Jack, indicating that Jack's own authority is under threat. Golding hints at a shift in the power system among Jack's tribe, which highlights the inherent flaws in Jack's system of military dictatorship.
Jack gains power over many of the boys by exploiting their fear of the mythical beast. How does Jack manipulate the myth of the beast to legitimize his authority?
Answer: Jack exploits the boys' fear of the beast to usurp leadership from Ralph, who stresses a rational approach to the presumed evil presence on the island. Within Jack's tribe, the beast continues to have a powerful symbolic and political significance among the boys, uniting them and ensuring their loyalty to Jack's leadership. When Jack first attempts to break away from Ralph's tribe, his authority is not recognized, but as the boys' fear of the beast increases, an increasing number defect from Ralph's group to Jack's, where the existence of the beast is not only acknowledged but is a central fact of day-to-day life.
By Chapter Three, the boys are divided into two groups: the older boys and the younger boys or "littluns." What role do the littluns have to play?
Answer: Consider especially the distinction between savagery and civilization.
What happens with the "littluns" registers the increasing brutality on the island. The earliest examples of violence in the novel are directed against the littluns, acts that foreshadow the violent events of later chapters. Moreover, characters who are kind to the littluns tend to remain most closely associated with civilization throughout the novel.
The novel's narrative action draws an increasingly firm line between savagery and civilization, yet the value of each becomes an issue in the conclusion, when Jack's fire saves the boys. Using these terms, what is the novel suggesting about human nature, evil, and human civilization?
Answer: The naval officer is a military figure, which reminds the reader that "civilized" societies also engage in violence and murder. Evil seems to be a force that threatens human nature and human civilization--from within. Still, evil is associated primarily with savagery and the worse part of our natures.
How does the novel reflect the Cold War and the public's concerns about the conflict between democracy and communism? Does the novel take a side? (Remember to cite all of your research sources in your bibliography.)
Answer: The Cold War was primarily between the democratic U.S. and its allies on the one hand, and the communist U.S.S.R. and its allies on the other hand. The initial events of the novel, following a group of boys in the aftermath of a terrible nuclear war, reflect and capitalize on widespread anxiety about the arms race for destructive atomic weapons. Ralph comes to represent the West and its values, while Jack comes to represent the enemy.