Lord of the Flies - Understanding the Text

This GCSE quiz is about understanding the text in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Understanding a text is crucial if you wish to analyse and write about it. Comprehension might seem a fairly easy task, but it can be trickier than people often think. If a text had a single “message”, authors wouldn’t devote so much time and so many words to saying it.

Lord of the Flies was written a good number of decades ago, and some of its language and ideas mark its historical context as one no longer shared in the Britain of the 21st century. At its heart, however, it deals with humankind’s enduring capacity for destruction and violence and the fragility of law and culture in the face of such violence.

Authors have a variety of methods available through which to convey meaning.

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Sometimes an author can state the meaning directly, but it is more typical for an author to communicate through other aspects of fiction: character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue, for example. You will be able to increase your understanding of the text by focussing on each of these elements in turn. Make time to re-read the text, too. If you read a book only once, you might miss very important details. Don’t worry if you feel you need to read certain sections several times in order to understand them. Noticing when you haven’t fully understood a section means that you have been paying attention to the text’s various complexities of meaning.

A timeline of events can be enormously helpful in revision and it is a good idea to make one. Draw up a list of chapters and note the key events which happen in each. See how well you can relate each of these chapters to the overall plot.

Think about the relationship between characters’ actions and motivations. Are you able to explain why certain characters act the way they do? Does the text contain clues? Whose words (if any) can be taken at face value? Are later events foreshadowed in any way? As you think about the text, consider how you might justify your views through evidence.

You should pay especially close attention to the beginnings and ends of the text. Can you explain why the text begins as it does? What do we learn at the beginning about the setting or the characters? You can think about possible answers to such questions when you consider individual chapters, too. Devoting some attention to careful and detailed analysis of this sort will greatly improve your understanding of the text.

Read the questions below on Lord of the Flies and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. How do the boys hope to communicate with the outside world?
    The boys try to keep the fire burning on top of the mountain. Later they are too afraid to tend the fire, believing the beast to be there
  2. Why are no adults present on the island?
    Two specific adults are mentioned: the pilot and the "man with the megaphone". The wrecked aeroplane is washed out to sea in the storm
  3. The boys attack and kill Simon when he comes out of the forest during one of their feasts. What do they believe they have killed?
    In a frenzy, the boys shout, "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"
  4. What object symbolises authority on the island?
    The conch represents authority, civilisation and the rule of law. By agreeing to respect the holder of the conch, the boys signal their willingness to abide by rules
  5. Why does Jack become the leader of the hunters?
    Ralph feels sorry for Jack after defeating him in the vote and tries to ease his embarrassment by suggesting that the choir can be hunters; Jack then repeats the idea
  6. How is Piggy killed?
    Jack's "tribe" constructs a defence of Castle Rock, including a method of using a lever to drop great rocks onto those standing below. This method is later used against Ralph
  7. What activity does the naval officer who appears on the island to rescue the boys believe he has interrupted?
    The officer assumes the boys have been enjoying "fun and games". He cannot conceive of the deadly violence that the boys have committed during their time on the island
  8. The novel opens with the boys scattered across a tropical island. How do they come to be there?
    The boys are being evacuated from their schools during a war. Their plane is attacked and crashes onto the island during a storm
  9. Which of the following is the "Lord of the Flies"?
    The Lord of the Flies is a reference to Satan, or Beelzebub, from the Hebrew word meaning "fly-lord". Jack and his hunters place a slaughtered pig's head on a stick to pacify the beast. Covered in flies, the head later seems to speak to Simon, confirming all his worst fears
  10. Jack leaves to set up his own camp directly after which of the following events?
    Jack is humiliated when the boys do not support his challenge to Ralph's leadership

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