Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Lesson 1: Characterization in “Lord of the Flies”

Created July 14, 2015


The Lesson


In this lesson, students focus on both direct and indirect characterization in Lord of the Flies. Golding includes direct characterization by stating what he wants the reader to know and indirect characterization by expecting the reader to infer information about these characters from the text.

An unspecified number of boys are stranded on Golding’s island; some remain fairly faceless while four emerge with crystal clarity. Ralph, undeniably a “good kid”, is the protagonist who gets a leadership role. He is ultimately unable to fulfill this vocation and nearly loses his life at the end. Jack, the main antagonist and a rival to Ralph, exudes frustration and a desire to control his fellow castaways. Piggy, who becomes a friend to Ralph, is overweight, asthmatic, with weak vision, and is an immediate victim of teasing; however, when rescue finally arrives, it is too late for Piggy. Simon has a condition that results in seizures; helpful by nature but also independent and a loner, he suffers a terrible death at the hands of the others.

Several of the minor characters display noteworthy characteristics that are sure to pique student interest. Roger, at first in the background, emerges as a sadist. Sam and Eric, indistinguishable and inseparable twins, demonstrate the helplessness characteristic of the group as a whole. Percival, young and terrified, exemplifies the situation of all of the “littluns,” as does the boy with a birthmark, who disappears.

To complete this lesson, students need to have read the entire novel. Part of a three lesson unit on Lord of the Flies, it may be taught in sequence or stand on its own. Teachers may link to the full unit with Guiding Questions, Background and summative Assessment. Lesson 1 aligns with CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.1.

Learning Objectives

  • To analyze William Golding’s use of direct and indirect characterization in Lord of the Flies.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Direct and Indirect Characterization: Simon

Ask students which characters in Lord of the Flies stand out the most in their minds and invite them to give reasons for choices. Then point out that some of the characters seem more part of a crowd than definite individuals. Others emerge clearly as the text develops and William Golding gradually unveils subtle dimensions of character and personality.

Have students brainstorm their impressions of and responses to Simon. Where does he fit in the social fabric of the island? Does the novel present him in a positive or a negative light?

Review or explain the difference between direct characterization (what the text explicitly states) and indirect characterization (what readers can infer from the text even though it is not directly stated). Provide one or two examples (e.g., an author can state that a character is dishonest (direct characterization) or can describe the character filching a wallet from someone’s pocket (indirect characterization). Stress that perceptive reading involves the recognition of what a text implies as well as of what it states directly.

Distribute Worksheet 1, and work through it with the class. Worksheet 1 (teacher version) presents suggested responses. Due to time constraints, teachers may want to break up the class into partners or groups and assign each group one chapter to work on in Worksheet 1. Ask students to provide a quote in support of their inferences about Simon.

Follow-up discussion questions

Why does Simon find himself a secret refuge away from the other kids?

Suggested Answer: He seems to have a need for solitude that the others do not experience. Perhaps he finds some of their behavior tiresome.

What really happens during his dialogue with the Lord of the Flies?

Suggested Answer: Simon is on the verge of a seizure; his mind invents a conversation that reflects his understanding of what is happening on the island.

Why do the other boys kill Simon?

Suggested Answer: They are in a mindless state of fear and “kill the beast” mentality, carried away by the frenzy of the moment.

Point out that the novel gradually moves Simon from the periphery to a central focus, and by the end of chapter 9, readers know him quite well. Ask students to brainstorm a list of words to describe him

Suggested Answers: kind, helpful, insightful, solitary, brave, honest, serious, frightened

Ask students if they notice any patterns regarding what Golding states directly about this character and what he may be inferring about him. 

Answers will vary.

Activity 2. Direct and Indirect Characterization: Other Characters

Divide the class into small groups and distribute Worksheet 2. Assign each group one of the other major characters: Ralph, Jack, or Piggy. Ask the groups to analyze how the character is presented over the course of the novel and to prepare their findings, which they will present to the class as a whole. (For suggested insights into the character Simon, see the teacher version of Worksheet 1.) If time constraints are a concern, teachers may provide students with a list of key scenes for each group to study.

Worksheet 2 (teacher version) offers suggests responses, however, these are by no means comprehensive; students are likely to come up with diverse ideas, depending on their choice of textual passages. Ask students to provide a quote about inferences they make.

Follow-up Questions

How does the reader’s view of each character expand during the course of the novel?

Suggested Answer:

Ralph: Like Simon, he comes to understand that savagery exists within all boys. Despite his determination not to succumb to it, he gets caught up in the frenzy at one point.

Piggy: His intelligence becomes increasingly clear and he shows remarkable bravery when he decides to reclaim his stolen glasses.

Jack: His penchant for authority and violence are linked. He learns how to manipulate the boys’ fear of the beast to control them.

How can indirect characterization complement an author’s direct statements about characters?

Suggested Answer: Dynamic characters change as a result of their experiences.

Which characters in this novel seem especially dynamic? How substantial are their changes?

Suggested Answer: Answers will vary. This is a complex issue that raises additional questions: Do the characters change, or do they become increasingly what they have always been?


Select one specific moment in the text that focuses on one or more characters. First summarize the text and describe the context. Second, state what Golding says directly about the character(s) and include carefully chosen quotations. Third, state what you can infer from the text and include evidence to support your inferences. (Students may elect to configure this assessment into a three-column chart.)

Note: In working with individual students who need assistance, suggest sections of the text that have not been the focus of classroom attention. One possibility is the first meeting in chapter 1, during which Jack refers to Piggy as “Fatty” and Ralph divulges the nickname Piggy desires so much to lose. Another is the incident in chapter 4, when Roger throws stones around—but not directly at—Henry.

When students submit their analyses, it may be useful to post them around the classroom in the order in which events are presented in the text.

The Basics

Time Required

1-2 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Common Core
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > British
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Novels
  • Critical analysis
  • Discussion
  • Expository writing
  • Literary analysis
  • Mary Anne Kovacs