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Lord of the Flies - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz will challenge you on setting in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. A fiction work’s “setting” refers to the time and the location in which its events occur. Of course, most texts will have more than one setting. Just as in life, events will usually take place in different locations and at different times. Natural features, buildings, vehicles and other spaces provide individual settings within the wider setting. Atmosphere will also change multiple times over the course of a work of fiction. It can often be useful to contrast these various settings with one another.

Events, whether as part of the action, or taking place in the background, provide another crucial element to a text’s setting. Social and political issues often play an important role.

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In Lord of the Flies most of the boys are from solidly middle class backgrounds: Ralph is the son of a naval officer; Jack and Simon are choristers and Percival is the son of a vicar. Piggy is less advantaged, however, as the nephew of a sweet shop owner, and as a speaker of non-standard English. The events which bring the boys together, however, override such social issues, although the naval officer’s disappointment in the final chapter at the manner in which the boys have conducted themselves returns the social world of the island to that of the declining British Empire.

In Lord of the Flies, the reader follows a group of British school children from a crash-landing during a wartime evacuation, through to their rescue by a naval vessel. We are not sure exactly how long the boys live on the island, since they have no way of marking time. The seeming paradise of the place reminds the boys of the stories which they have grown up reading. The prospect of adventure and of lazy afternoons spent swimming, like an extended scout camp without the presence of adults or the discipline of school, at first seems like an exciting prospect, but events soon turn the island into a hellish scene. In Jack’s final attempt to destroy Ralph, the boys end up wrecking the environment which has sustained them, reminding us that it is humankind which has brought evil to paradise.

Answer the questions below on setting in Lord of the Flies.

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  1. When is the novel set?
    The time of the novel is left unspecified, although atomic warfare has arrived. While there are many similarities with the events of WWII, which had come to an end less than a decade before the novel was published, the war which is being waged over the Pacific is between Britain, where the boys are from, and the "reds", or Communists. Setting the novel during a fictional war allows the reader to see human violence as an ongoing problem, rather than one which has been resolved through victory
  2. Where is Lord of the Flies set?
    The flight which the schoolboys are on crashes into the jungle on an uninhabited island in the Pacific
  3. "His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence." How does the novel's conclusion present the relationship between the island and its inhabitants?
    As a group the boys have neglected those tasks necessary in tending, nurturing and maintaining life, destroying themselves and their environment in the process
  4. The boys survive by eating....
    The boys eat fruit, shellfish and roast pork. These food sources represent varying levels of difficulty to obtain: fruit is the easiest and the least satisfying; shellfish requires catching and cooking; hunting pigs takes skill and much more effort, but can feed the entire group of boys
  5. "The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of the rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat." Which of the following is correct of these opening sentences?
    The metaphor of the scar through the jungle, the overwhelming heat, the hair plastered to the forehead by sweat and the use of the violent word "smashed" introduce the island in a decidedly dark tone. The arrival of humans on the island takes the form of a scar through nature
  6. The tropical setting means that night falls quickly. What effect does this sudden nightfall have on the meaning of the text?
    Night represents fear and the evil which gives rise to fear. Day represents safety and goodness. The sharp distinction is an illusion: Simon finds beauty in the darkness and daylight itself becomes unsafe when Jack's tribe waits for sunrise to begin hunting Ralph
  7. "Darkness poured out, submerging the ways between the trees till they were dim and strange as the bottom of the sea. The candle-buds opened, their wide white flowers glimmering under the light that pricked down from the first stars." These lines describe which place on the island?
    Simon's hiding place is a source of wonder at night, when the white flowers open. This spot is near the place where Jack and his hunters later set the pig's head on a spear
  8. How does the setting of the Lord of the Flies affect its meaning?
    An interesting question to ask would be whether the novel would be at all the same if it were to take place elsewhere. Can you think of an alternate setting which could achieve the same effects?
  9. The first camp the boys set up is located on the beach near the lagoon. Where is Jack's rival camp?
    Jack is struck with the idea that the rocks look like a castle fortress. Jack's thoughts turn to defence, even though the only danger comes from other boys, while Ralph is unimpressed with the area because it lacks shelter. The place becomes known by the boys as Castle Rock
  10. Which of the following is NOT present on the island?
    The island has a mountain, beaches, a lagoon and coral reef, a jungle and cliffs

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