Lord of the Flies - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz will test you on character in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Lord of the Flies is populated by a large group of schoolboys, although the reader, like the boys themselves, is never sure exactly how many there are. The key characters are Ralph, at twelve, one of the oldest boys on the island; Piggy, whose knowledge is vital to the survival of the others and whose real name is never given; Jack, the leader of the hunters; and Simon, first seen fainting after being made to march in the heat. Each of these four boys is well-characterised, while also symbolising particular human tendencies. Ralph holds to ideals of fair play, collective responsibility and confidence in the world governed by adults. Piggy trusts in evidence, knowledge and rules. Jack revels in the visceral pleasures of hunting and the mechanics of brute survival. Simon is attentive, observant and thoughtful.

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The characteristics of the other boys are less detailed, allowing them to stand more generally for groups. Samneric represent the boys who are torn for a while between the two rival camps; the very young Percival represents the mostly unnamed little boys; and Roger embodies the cruelty of the choirboys-turned-hunters. The adults remain unnamed: Ralph’s father, Piggy’s aunt, the pilot, the naval officer.

Whenever you read a work of fiction, pay close attention to the way in which characters interact with each other and how the author reveals their private thoughts. How do the characters change over time? What clues does the author give you to show how a character is developing? The timescale of Lord of the Flies is relatively condensed: we know that the boys are on the island just long enough to grow malnourished; their hair becomes overgrown and their clothes ragged. Even in this short span of time, however, characters appear to change dramatically. Do the characters develop, or are they revealed through the adversity they face?

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in Lord of the Flies.

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  1. For which of the following does Piggy argue when he lectures the boys at Castle Rock?
    Piggy argues passionately for the rule of law and the value of being "sensible". By killing him the boys in Jack's group choose a hierarchy based on violence over a common consent to rules and to Ralph's leadership
  2. Who can no longer repeat his name at the end of the novel?
    The very young boy, Percival Wemys Madison, announces his full name when he introduces himself. When the boys are rescued at the end of the novel, Percival cannot report his own name to the officer
  3. Which of the following characters demonstrates a taste for physical cruelty?
    Jack uses Roger's enjoyment of cruelty to frighten the other boys and keep them loyal to his group
  4. Which of the following is NOT true of Samneric?
    Sam and Eric, the twins, are so similar and so frequently together that they earn the nickname "Samneric", short for "Sam and Eric". They are terrified of the dead parachutist and consequently abandon the fire on the mountain. The twins are loyal to Ralph until captured and are fearfully subordinate to Jack's tribe by feeding Ralph and warning him of the hunt
  5. What gives Jack his air of authority when he first meets the rest of the boys on the island?
    Jack is head boy and chapel chorister; his command of the choir makes him seem like a good leader. The other boys on the island vote for Ralph, however, when asked to elect a chief
  6. What does Ralph regret at the end of the novel?
    When Ralph cries for the very first time since arriving on the island, he weeps for "the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy"
  7. When we first meet Ralph, he is known as which of the following?
    Each of the characters is presented to the reader as a first, physical impression. This technique shows the reader how the boys first perceive one another
  8. Who best understands the real source of danger on the island?
    Simon knows that the beast which everyone fears is really the boys' own potential for violence
  9. Which of the following is correct of Ralph?
    Ralph becomes distressed when the other boys seem to abandon the aim of escaping the island, for example by allowing the fire to go out
  10. Which of the following adjectives does NOT describe Piggy?
    Piggy respects the rule of law and shares Ralph's focus on improving the boys' chances of escaping the island. He occasionally shows fear, but is courageous when confronting Jack's tribe

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