This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Language in Lord of the Flies draws on childhood understandings of the world, expectations of adventure, religious imagery and nineteenth- and twentieth-century ideas of the contrast between civilisation and “tribal” societies. Golding presents the island in some senses as a Garden of Eden destroyed by a seed of evil carried in the heart of each boy. The boys’ attempts at a more grown-up language of rules and regulations is shown to be based on their unfounded belief in adult wisdom. The contrast at the end of the novel between the naval officer’s brisk, British assurances and the childlike speech of the marooned boys so recently engaged in savagery is jarring.
Unsurprisingly, texts are primarily understood through the language with which they are written and read.
Any author will choose individual words, phrases and imagery with precision. You can begin to understand the symbolic meanings and associations held by words if you devote careful attention to the specific language choices the author has made. Authors use language skilfully to create imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification, and other literary effects. Setting, characterisation and dialogue also depend on the author’s ability in using language.
You will be able to increase your understanding of the text enormously by paying very close attention to its language. Spend a little time lingering over the words and imagery, carefully considering the multiple possible meanings which exist beyond the surface meaning. Think about what each individual choice of words, or combinations of words, could suggest. While you’re reading, pay close attention to the language used and jot down any ideas that come to mind. The time and care you devote to the language will be repaid by your increased ability to analyse literature.
Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect the reader’s interpretation of Lord of the Flies.