A group of boys are stranded on a deserted island and attempt to govern themselves.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In this article from the Monitor on Psychology, researcher Melissa Dittmann explores the circumstances that drive people to commit immoral acts.
Have students read this text before they begin Lord of the Flies, in order to provide them with theoretical background in which to study character. As students read the book, ask them to consider Zimbardo’s findings on human nature and the social situations discussed in “What Makes Good People Do Bad Things?” How did these social situations contribute to an individual’s good or evil actions? Ask students to take notes on how the social situations in “Lord of the Flies” shape the morality of the boys’ actions.
This text directly examines the way online social networking affects our concepts of identity (Are we truthful about the way we portray ourselves on the Internet? Will this change who we really are?).
Have students read this text after they’ve completed Chapter 4, when the boys don the masks in the novel, in order to explore how masks have the ability to reshape individual identity. Ask students to compare the masks that can be constructed through online identities with the masks the boys in “Lord of the Flies” create with colored clay. What kind of behavior do the masks compel their wearers to take part in? How does the behavior of the boys differ when they are not wearing the masks?
This research article explores the roles that peers play in promoting bullying in adolescence, beyond the role of “bully” and “victim.”
Introduce this text to students after they finish Chapter 4, when Jack mocks and attacks Piggy, to explore the nature of bullying among young adolescents. Ask students to use Espelage’s article to discuss whether they consider Piggy to be a victim of bullying. How do the other boys react to Jack’s treatment of Piggy? Why do students think that Piggy is targeted?
Ira Sher is a contemporary author who writes short fiction. In this story, a man in a vulnerable position asks a group of children for help.
Have students read this short story after they finish Chapter 7, when Robert is treated like a pig by the others boys, to explore what motivates people to be cruel. Why are the boys in “Lords of the Flies” motivated to stick Robert like a pig, and cause him pain? How does this compare to the children’s motivations to leave the man in the well in Sher’s short story? How do the children’s cruel treatment of others make them feel in “Lord of the Flies” and “The Man in the Well”?
In “The Madness of Humanity Part 3: Tribalism,” Marcelo Gleiser discusses what role tribalism plays in our society today, and the different social interactions it promotes.
Introduce this text after students finish Chapter 8, when Jack forms his own tribe, to provide them with information on tribalism and group behavior. Ask students to assess how Gleiser describes the importance of belonging to a tribe, and how the sense of belonging can affect an individual. How do students think members of Jack’s tribe benefit from belonging to his group? How does belonging to Jack’s tribe drive the other boys to extreme behavior, similar to that explored in Gleiser’s article?
In Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” an entire town participates in a ritual that turns surprisingly sinister.
Have students read this short story after they finish Chapter 9, to compare the murder of Mrs. Hutchinson with the murder of Simon. Ask students to discuss what drives the townspeople and the boys in “Lord of the Flies” to kill someone else. How do the boys behave as they attack Simon? How does this compare to the townspeople’s approach to Mrs. Hutchinson’s inevitable death?
The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted by Phillip Zimbardo in 1971. By organizing an exercise that simulated prison life, Zimbardo intended to discover how quickly people conformed to the roles of guard and prisoner. While many people thought that brutality reported among American prison guards had to do with personalities, some thought it had to do with the prison environment.
Have students read this study after they finish Chapter 11, when Ralph and Jack struggle for leadership, in order to examine social roles in the text and the concepts of “leaders” and “followers.” How is Jack’s treatment of the other boys, when he becomes the leader, similar to how the guards treat and view prisoners in the experiment? How does the boys’ response to Jack assuming a leadership role support the findings of the experiment, that people will fill the social roles expected of them? What social roles are the boys of Jack’s tribe expected to fill? How do the social roles that the boys take on contribute to their cruel treatment of each other?
In this overtly dark poem by Frost, a husband and wife grieve differently over their recently deceased child.
Have students read this poem after they finish the book. Ask them to compare the different ways that the parents in the poem and the boys in “Lord of the Flies” deal with death. How does death cause a strain on the relationships in the poem and the novel? How are the boys further divided by the deaths of Simon and Piggy? How do the boys react when they must admit the deaths to an adult at the end of the book? Why do you think they react this way?
In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the remote Andes mountains, forcing the young men to resort to dire measures to survive. Instead of resigning to starvation (and perhaps, listening to their superego), they chose to engage in cannibalism.
Have students read this informational text after they finish the book, to provide them with another example of a group of people stranded in the wild. What challenges do the men in “The 1972 Andes Flight Disaster” face on the mountain? How do these obstacles compare to the obstacles that the boys faced in “Lord of the Flies”? NOTE: “The 1972 Andes Flight Disaster” includes depictions of cannibalism that students may find disturbing.