Lord of the Flies by William Golding
– A Study Guide

30 April 2024

Download Faber’s abridged Educational Notes for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for free and read extracts from this comprehensive study guide


First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is a novel that has captivated schoolchildren for decades. A teacher himself, Golding clearly understood what excites and interests children. It is not only a gripping story, with strong, sympathetic characters, it also raises timeless and profound questions.

Part of its lasting appeal, particularly in schools, surely arises from the way it tackles universal issues. The novel is a catalyst for thought-provoking discussion and analysis, particularly concerning the capabilities of humans for good and evil and the fragility of moral inhibition. The boys’ struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks that we take for granted. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be. Effective teaching and learning can ensure that discussions about such concerns – as vital today as ever – are made relevant to today’s students.

This abridged educational edition encourages original and independent thought from students, as well as guiding them through the text. The introductory material includes a biographical section on William Golding and provides information about the novel’s historical context, which will be ideal for students completing GCSE and A-Level courses. At the end of the text there are chapter summaries, comprehension questions, discussion points and activities that inform the teaching and learning of the text. There is a glossary of less familiar words and phrases. This edition includes William Golding’s essay ‘Fable’, which gives an insight into the author’s view of the novel. For advanced students, it also includes essays introducing readers to some theoretical interpretations of the text. All of these are intended to inspire and generate creative teaching, learning and love of the novel.

English Department of Loxford School of Science and Technology, 2012

In 2012, a group of young, idealistic teachers from Loxford School of Science and Technology found themselves washed up on the island of Lord of the Flies . . .

Unlike the boys in this classic novel, however, we worked collaboratively and with passion and respect for a text that has never not been on secondary English curriculums. Revisiting the study materials we created, it has been remarkable to note how its themes make the text even more potent for students today.

The dangers of political division, violence wielded by ill-equipped leaders, the loss of innocent lives in the face of campaigns for territory – all these issues continue to make Lord of the Flies a vital, humanising tool. It enables our students to reflect with sensitivity and objectivity on the often-terrifying forces that we ourselves face. Following a time of lockdowns and invisible threats, the metaphors at the heart of the novel hold great significance for young people: they can identify with the trauma experienced by the boys and reflect on what their own decisions might have been.

To get lost on this island again has been a delight. Each new generation of students demonstrates to me every day that savagery need not be our default mode and that they are certainly not waiting for the grown-ups to come and rescue them.

Lucy Aminzade, January 2024

Chapter One: The Sound of the Shell


The novel opens with the description of a fair-haired boy (Ralph) and a boy who is ‘shorter’ and ‘very fat’ (Piggy) moving through a jungle.

Their discussion reveals that they and some other children have been in a plane crash and may be stranded on an island without any adults. They find a conch (a type of seashell) and Ralph blows it like a trumpet. Other boys, including a group of choristers led by Jack, appear on the beach. The boys vote for Ralph as their chief. Jack, Ralph and a boy called Simon set off to explore. They discover that they are indeed on an uninhabited island. While returning to the others they find a trapped piglet. Jack hesitates when he is about to kill it and it escapes. Jack claims that next time, the pig will not escape.

Discussion Points

  1. Discuss the social hierarchy established in the first chapter. Who has the most power? How do you know? How does Golding use language to show this?
  2. What would a world without adults be like?
  3. ‘You’re no good on a job like this’ (p. 32). Discuss the concept of bullying, prejudice or
    class-based discrimination in Chapter One.


  1. If you were to elect a class leader, who would it be? Students write and perform a persuasive speech on why they should be ‘chief’ of the class. Complete a hustings or election session and discuss the final decision.
  2. Create a manifesto of rules and regulations that the class must abide by. Students use the conch rule for a group-based discussion.
  3. Imagine that the teacher has not turned up for today’s lesson. Students write a script based on what they think would happen.
Portrait of author William Golding, black and white

Golding’s Life and Influences

William Golding was born in 1911, a period still characterised by a harsh division between social classes. However, there was also an emerging socialist movement in which politicians and writers were critical of social inequality. Golding would have been aware of this during his childhood in Marlborough, Wiltshire, since his father, Alec, was a teacher with openly socialist views. Golding’s mother, Mildred, campaigned for women’s right to vote.

After leaving Marlborough Grammar School, Golding attended the University of Oxford where he studied Natural Sciences for two years before transferring to English Literature. Golding married Ann Brookfield, an analytical chemist, in 1939 and they had two children, David and Judith.

In the autumn of 1935, Golding was employed as a teacher of English and music at a school in Streatham, which followed the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner schools did not conform to the traditional patterns of teaching and learning and instead emphasised the role of the imagination.

In December 1940, Golding left his second teaching post at a boys’ grammar school, Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, to join the navy where he served until the end of the Second World War in 1945. His service during the war gave him direct experience of the human capacity for brutality. Golding himself said that these horrors lay behind his descriptions of the behaviour of the boys on the island.

After the war, Golding returned to Bishop Wordsworth’s School where he remained until 1961. Writing always remained his primary passion and focus; however, teaching gave him further invaluable insights into human behaviour.

In Lord of the Flies the narrative suggests that evil is inherent within all of us. We cannot be certain about Golding’s religious beliefs, but some critics have seen the novel as an allegory depicting Man’s fall from grace. However, it could also be read as a critique of the growing cruelty and destruction that mankind is capable of inflicting, which Golding witnessed first-hand during wartime.

Download the Study Guide

These abridged study materials © Faber & Faber Ltd, 2017, can be printed for private study use only. Not for commercial use or resale.

Full study notes available within Lord of the Flies: Educational Edition (9780571295715).

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William Golding

An educational edition of Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s debut novel, now a classic, fully revised and updated with supplementary material.

Teaching Resources: download Faber’s abridged Educational Notes for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, for free, and read extracts from this comprehensive study guide.