Lord of the Flies - Dialogue

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at dialogue in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. In literature, dialogue is the term for any direct speech. Dialogue is a significant part of characterisation because it gives the reader important information about different characters. If you devote your attention to the style and content of each character’s speech, you will soon form a mental impression of that character. Another important aspect of dialogue is the way in which it instigates action, develops plot and encourages characters to change – or demonstrates how they have changed.

One practical approach to thinking about the dialogue in a work of fiction is to compare and contrast the speech of different characters. What marks the speech of each character? Can you distinguish differing vocabularies or registers?

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Do the characters change how they speak over time? Do they speak differently according to the situation? Can you identify any patterns in how a character’s speech varies? Variation can be a response to hierarchy, social standing or familial relationships.

In Lord of the Flies the boys speak with a mixture of school-boy slang, middle-class, common-place stereotypes and short, brutal chants. Speaking is regulated by the use of the conch, with the aim that each person has a chance to speak and to be heard with respect. Some of the younger boys are afraid to speak up in front of the whole group, and Piggy 'translates' for these boys by listening and explaining to everyone else what they have said.

Memorising dialogue is a useful method of revising for an exam. Try choosing a few key lines for each character, remembering to identify which theme or themes the dialogue touches upon. This technique will both aid your memory and also help you decide which quotations might be useful when answering different types of exam questions.

The quiz below asks you to remember which character speaks the words. Consider too the importance of the quoted dialogue before answering. What marks the words as belonging to a specific character? Could another character utter the same words? Why, or why not? What does this tell you?

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  1. "I dunno. And Ralph, Jack, the Chief, says it'll be dangerous - " " - and we've got to be careful and throw our spears like at a pig"
    Sam and Eric, the twins, finish each other's sentences and are referred to jointly as Samneric
  2. "Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island"
    The officer refers to J. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island, a book about the adventures of three boys stranded on a Pacific island. The officer's statement is jarring since he has no idea that he has just saved Ralph from being murdered by the other boys
  3. "I don't care what they call me, so long as they don't call me what they used to call me at school"
    We never learn Piggy's name, since he trusts Ralph with his hated nickname and Ralph later shares this information with the rest of the group. Jack abandons the name Merridew in favour of his own nickname
  4. "That's what this shell's called. I'll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he's speaking"
    Piggy attempts to create social order on the island through regulating the meetings Ralph calls, especially in inventing a system to allow speakers to be heard
  5. "If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire"
    Ralph knows that the only way to draw rescuers to the island is to build and maintain a fire
  6. "I gave you food and my hunters will protect you from the beast. Who will join my tribe?"
    Jack uses the promise of food and safety to win the boys to his side
  7. "Maybe there is a beast." "What I mean is....maybe it's only us"
    Simon recognises that everyone's fear is justified because humans themselves have brought evil to the island
  8. "We'll get food. Hunt. Catch things"
    Although Ralph is the first to suggest the idea, Jack soon becomes completely absorbed by thoughts of hunting
  9. "Yes, laugh. Go on, laugh. There's them on this island as would laugh at anything. And what happened? What's grown-ups goin' to think? Young Simon was murdered"
    Piggy and Ralph maintain the last connection with the outside, adult world with which they associate their consciences
  10. "Didn't you hear the conch? You played a dirty trick - we'd have given you fire if you'd asked for it - "
    Ralph expects Jack and his group to behave rationally and cannot understand that violence and stealing have become thrilling to the other boys

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