Lesson 2: Symbolism in “Lord of the Flies”

In this lesson students first work with the general concept of symbolism. They then focus on four of the most dominant symbols that permeate Lord of the Flies: the island; the conch; the Lord of the Flies effigy; fire.

The island itself is a microcosm of planet Earth, alone in a vast surrounding universe with the capacity to sustain humanity, but also prone to destructive storms. From the start, the conch is associated with order and democratic government; by the end, like the group, it has faded and is shattered. The pig head on a stick is an effigy referred to as the Lord of the Flies, which becomes associated with fear, evil, and mindless destruction by mob mentality. Fire is a powerful force, containing both positive and negative archetypal associations; it provides heat and light, but it is also powerfully destructive.

Even the boys on the island can be viewed as symbols of various types of humankind, potentially destructive of the environment and to one another. Worksheet 4 extends the discussion to consider ways the boys themselves serve as symbols of different sorts of individuals. The teacher version of the worksheet presents sample material on this subject.

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 2 aligns with CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.1.

Guiding Questions

No guiding questions

Learning Objectives

To define the literary term symbol and to analyze William Golding’s use of symbolism in Lord of the Flies