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Lord of the Flies - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This is the first of two extract questions for Lord of the Flies. It takes place in the first chapter, after the boys have been gathered by the call of the conch. Ralph, Jack and Simon have been enjoying their exploration, standing on heads and causing massive rocks to tumble over the clifftops. For a while they forget their crash-landing and their current plight.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

As you begin to prepare an answer to an extract question, the very first thing you should do is to read the passage through more than once. It is a good idea to develop this habit because re-reading allows you to spot details and aspects of the passage you might have missed the first time.

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At first you should aim to understand the passage, spending some time to consider how the passage itself relates to the question you have been asked. When you read through on the second time, you should begin to make detailed notes and annotations. After this initial preparation, you should plan out how you can use the passage to answer the question.

Consider the reasons behind the choice of extract. Think about how the passage is related to the text as a whole. What is its importance? Which themes does the passage explore? How do the characters and their experiences differ in the chosen extract? How would you describe the relationship between the passage and the events which come afterwards? Is there evidence of foreshadowing? How does the passage relate to earlier events? Would you say that there is a turning point? Also consider the point at which the extract ends: is the final line significant? Can you think of ways in which the extract’s end relates to the events or themes of the text?

Allow yourself time to consider the exact wording of the question you have chosen to answer. What specifically are you being asked to address? There are a variety of extract questions and you might be asked to focus on mood and atmosphere, character, dialogue, theme, or your own personal response. Begin with an explanation of the passage’s immediate context: mention the events which precede the extract and explain their relevance. Remember to refer to the passage in detail, rather than discussing the selection in general terms. In what way does the passage relate to the themes of the text? When planning out your answer, try to group related ideas together so that your writing is structured well. Plan carefully so that you will have enough time to discuss the entire passage.

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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Ralph spread his arms.

“All ours.”

They laughed and tumbled and shouted on the mountain.

“I’m hungry.”

When Simon mentioned his hunger the others became aware of theirs.

“Come on,” said Ralph. “We’ve found out what we wanted to know.”

They scrambled down a rock slope, dropped among flowers and made their way under the trees. Here they paused and examined the bushes around them curiously.

Simon spoke first.

“Like candles. Candle bushes. Candle buds.”

The bushes were dark evergreen and aromatic and the many buds were waxen green and folded up against the light. Jack slashed at one with his knife and the scent spilled over them.

“Candle buds.”

“You couldn’t light them,” said Ralph. “They just look like candles.”

“Green candles,” said Jack contemptuously, “we can’t eat them. Come on.”

They were in the beginnings of the thick forest, plonking with weary feet on a track, when they heard the noises — squeakings — and the hard strike of hoofs on a path. As they pushed forward the squeaking increased till it became a frenzy. They found a piglet caught in a curtain of creepers, throwing itself at the elastic traces in all the madness of extreme terror. Its voice was thin, needle-sharp and insistent. The three boys rushed forward and Jack drew his knife again with a flourish. He raised his arm in the air. There came a pause, a hiatus, the pig continued to scream and the creepers to jerk, and the blade continued to flash at the end of a bony arm. The pause was only long enough for them to understand what an enormity the downward stroke would be. Then the piglet tore loose from the creepers and scurried into the undergrowth. They were left looking at each other and the place of terror. Jack’s face was white under the freckles. He noticed that he still held the knife aloft and brought his arm down replacing the blade in the sheath. Then they all three laughed ashamedly and began to climb back to the track.

“I was choosing a place,” said Jack. “I was just waiting for a moment to decide where to stab him.”

“You should stick a pig,” said Ralph fiercely. “They always talk about sticking a pig.”

“You cut a pig’s throat to let the blood out,” said Jack, “otherwise you can’t eat the meat.”

“Why didn’t you—?”

They knew very well why he hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood.

William Golding Lord of the Flies (Faber and Faber, 2011)

  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    The boys decide to explore to be sure that they are on an island and to see what is there
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    The boys return to the meeting to tell everyone that they are definitely on an island and that it is uninhabited. They all then begin setting out some rules to organise their time and their priorities
  3. Which of the following sentences indicates a dramatic shift of mood?
    The bushes are dark, but their darkness is not threatening. Simon finds the place with the "candle bushes" very peaceful. It is Jack's response to the plants which darkens the mood. His slashing at them is predictive of his response to the pig
  4. What is meant by the "enormity" of the "downward stroke"?
    Going ahead with killing the pig is not a decision that even Jack takes lightly; the first taking of a life on the island unleashes all the later violence and the deaths of children
  5. What causes the boys to "laugh ashamedly"?
    The laughter is an attempt to retreat from the powerful emotions felt when each boy believed Jack would kill the piglet
  6. The ashamed laughter of the boys contrasts most neatly with which of the following?
    Something significant has changed between the innocent laughter and the ashamed laughter. How would you describe this change? What is its cause?
  7. "You should stick a pig," said Ralph fiercely. "They always talk about sticking a pig." Which of the following is NOT correct?
    The fierceness of Ralph's response indicates that he is also capable of killing for food. If the situation were reversed, might Ralph have behaved like Jack? Ralph also mollifies Jack here, as he did earlier by suggesting that the other boy lead the hunters
  8. The piglet is terrified of the boys; it throws itself "at the elastic traces in all the madness of extreme terror". A short while later, the boys observe the "place of terror". What makes them see it this way?
    The feeling of terror for the boys is evoked by the moment of crisis when they realised just how horrific the killing of the piglet would be. The place is therefore terrifying to pig and boys alike
  9. Which of the following implies that the boys have claimed the island like colonial explorers?
    The novel draws upon older stories which not only tell of the imaginary adventures of British boys or men, but also arise out of a context in which Britain was colonising other parts of the world in an expansion of Empire
  10. "There came a pause, a hiatus, the pig continued to scream and the creepers to jerk, and the blade continued to flash at the end of a bony arm." What is contrasted here?
    Jack's stillness and pause before committing the irrevocable action of killing the pig is contrasted with the panic and violent movement of the jerking creepers, the squealing piglet and the flashing light reflected from the still knife

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