The suitability of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" for the EFL-classroom and possible ways of teaching it

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2009

18 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. The Suitability of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for the EFL-classroom and Possible Ways of Teaching it
2.1. Summary of the plot
2.2. Formal aspects
2.2.1. Length
2.2.2. Linguistic difficulty
2.3. Thematic aspects
2.3.1. The main characters
2.3.2. Important ideas/themes and inherent problems
2.3.3. The Ending
2.4. Aspects related to reception
2.4.1. Availability of the text
2.4.2. Curricular conformity
2.4.3. Methodological material

3. Conclusion

4. Works cited

1. Introduction

Few texts have been taught and dealt with more in school than William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). It has been part of the unofficial `school-canon’ for more than three decades now and therefore it is useful to examine the suitability of this text for the EFL-classroom. This will be done by introducing the criteria for selecting texts given in Engelbert Thaler’s Teaching English Literature, adding some elements from Ansgar Nünning’s and Carola Surkamp’s Englische Literatur Unterrichten. Grundlagen und Methoden and applying both to Lord of the Flies. First, a short summary of the plot will be given before the text will be analyzed with reference to its appropriateness for the EFL-classroom. This analysis will take place in four steps: First, the formal aspects will be taken into account, and then the thematic aspects will be discussed. Thirdly, the aspects related to reception will be illuminated. At the end a conclusion will be drawn whether or not for me Lord of the Flies is a suitable text for the EFL-classroom. In the course of the paper there will be given some hints as to how a certain aspect could be investigated further in the EFL-classroom. These hints are by no means a complete list and several aspects could be added to it. The decision which aspects should be included and which should be left out is up to the teacher who has to decide with regard to the amount of time he wants to spend on Lord of the Flies and with regard to the preconditions in his class.

2. The Suitability of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for the EFL-classroom and Possible Ways of Teaching it

2.1. Summary of the plot

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was published in 1954 and deals with a group of boys who are abandoned on an island to protect them from a nuclear catastrophe. These boys are divided into two groups: the biguns and the littluns. The littluns are boys of approximately six years of age and do not play a major role in the story since they are playing most of the time and do not get involved in the conflicts of the biguns. The biguns are boys between ten and twelve years of age and they are divided into the hunters who are led by Jack and the rest of the group which is led by Ralph. Ralph had been voted chief when they arrived on the island and had beaten Jack in the poll. This is the foundation on which all the conflicts in the story are based. Jack and his hunters separate themselves from the rest of the group and in the course of time almost all boys join Jack’s “tribe” (Golding 175) or are killed by it, until only Ralph remains. Ralph is hunted at the end by Jack and his tribe and they try to kill him. In the end a naval officer appears on the island just in time to save Ralph and to rescue the boys from the island.

2.2. Formal aspects

2.2.1. Length

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has a length of 188 pages (in the Diesterweg edition) which is slightly less than the 200 to 250 pages that are suggested by Nünning/Surkamp (49f). In terms of length it is therefore suitable for the EFL-classroom. Lord of the Flies has another huge advantage: Its 188 pages are divided into 12 chapters which have a length between 9 and 26 pages. For that reason the text can be used for many different approaches. It fits for the “straight through approach” (Thaler 105) in which the students read the whole text before the discussion in class as well as for the “segment approach” (Thaler 105) in which the students read the novel bit by bit. It could also be used for the “sandwich approach”. One could for example invite the students to read the first and the last two chapters and ask them whether they would have predicted this outcome or not.

2.2.2. Linguistic difficulty

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is usually reviewed in the “Sek II” in school. That means that the target group varies in age between ca. 16 and 20 years of age. So in order to determine whether the text is suitable for the EFL-classroom or not, this group has to be used as the measuring stick. Linguistic difficulties can occur on several levels. In this paper Lord of the Flies will be analyzed with regard to its syntactical and semantic content and possible problems it may cause for students.

On the level of syntax Lord of the Flies contains both paratactic and hypotactic sentences. The sentences are not nested which supports the reader’s train of reading. There are none to few sentences in the novel that have to be read several times which arranges for the possibility to read the novel quickly and in one go. Lord of the Flies also contains a lot of direct speech which makes it interesting and easy to read. The use of direct speech is also “helpful in the language learning process because of the personal involvement it fosters in readers” (Collie/Slater 5). It can support the effect that the students are “drawn into the book” (Collie/Slater 6). This also corresponds with what Thaler calls “motivational value” (Thaler 23). To conclude, one could say that on a syntactical level Lord of the Flies should not be too difficult for students in the Sek II.

On the level of semantics Lord of the Flies can help students to enlarge their vocabulary without asking too much of them. Especially fixed expressions like “be off one’ rockers” (Golding 105) or “be cramped into” (Golding 97) can be useful since they allow students to vary their expressions and help them to create more varied and therefore better texts. This corresponds to what Thaler calls “language development” (Thaler 23) and what Collie/Slater call “language enrichment” (Collie/Slater 4). Lord of the Flies could also be used to build a specific vocabulary which is centered around the theme `island’. Possible subtopics could be the coral reef or plants and animals that exist on islands. This could be done in the form of a multi-disciplinary project, English and biology could form a thematic partnership. This would presuppose of course that at least a part of the English course has chosen biology as a subject. Another possibility would be an excursus on the hunting techniques of primitive cultures in order to understand the problems that the boys have in getting meat. This could be done in cooperation with history for example. All these projects/excursions can help the students to get a deeper understanding of the novel.

However, at least in the Diesterweg edition, up to one fifth of the page is donated to footnotes. Although this is not too long, it can stop the reading process as the students may develop the tendency to look for every word they read in the footnotes. Here students have to be made familiar (if they are not already) with the reading style of “reading for gist” (Thaler 49) in order to keep up the motivation for reading the novel. It could also be replied that a vocabulary on the theme `island’ is not useful for students, because it is not “relevant to the life experiences, emotions or dreams of the learner” (Collie/Slater 6). While this is certainly true, it could still be interesting and worthwhile for students if it is not overdone by the teacher. The teacher needs to have a good intuition as to how much time and work is spent on the specific vocabulary.

All in all one could say that Lord of the Flies has semantic potential that can be tapped by the students. The vocabulary is not too difficult and especially the fixed expressions could enrich the students’ language. The text offers some potential for multidisciplinary projects which can deepen the students’ understanding of certain topics. It has to be made sure however that the learning of vocabulary is not exaggerated and kept in sensible limits. On the whole Lord of the Flies does not pose too many linguistic difficulties for students in the “Sek II” and can therefore be regarded as suitable for the EFL-classroom.

2.3. Thematic aspects

Engelbert Thaler gives the following advice to teachers: “In general, look for a well-paced plot, personally relevant content, well-delineated characters, authentic endings, thought-provoking ideas, emotional appeal” (Thaler 63). In this chapter Lord of the Flies will be analyzed with regard to the main characters, to the ideas/problems it brings up and the ending. All this will be done with special consideration of the target group.

2.3.1. The main characters

As mentioned above in the plot summary the main characters are all members of the biguns. In this chapter the protagonist Ralph and the antagonist Jack will be examined further. Both of them are round characters. This makes them interesting and close to real life. In the beginning they are the leaders of the boys. Ralph is voted the chief and he appoints Jack as the leader of the hunters who have two important functions: to provide for meat and to keep the signal fire burning. Jack’s defeat in the poll however leaves its mark on him and is the basis for the conflicts that follow.

Ralph combines many different character traits in his person. He has by no means only positive traits of character. In the very first scene he reveals himself as being somewhat arrogant when he tries several times to abandon Piggy. A bit later he reveals a sneaky side of his when he stabs Piggy in the back and tells his nickname to everybody although he had promised not to do so. After he is appointed chief however he displays also some positive traits of character. His decision to keep a fire burning in order for the boys to be rescued makes perfect sense and the appointment of Jack as the leader of the hunters reveals almost something like political foresight, because he hopes to win Jack over in this way. As the novel progresses Ralph displays also his steadfastness and his leadership qualities when he decides to confront Jack’s tribe in order to get Piggy’s glasses back although he and Piggy do not always get along very well.


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The suitability of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" for the EFL-classroom and possible ways of teaching it
Ruhr-University of Bochum  (Englisches Seminar)
Teaching Literature
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ISBN (Book)
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Lord of the Flies, Teaching, Literature, William Golding, Englischunterricht, EFL-classroom
Quote paper
B.A. Dennis Alexander Goebels (Author), 2009, The suitability of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" for the EFL-classroom and possible ways of teaching it, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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