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Lord of the Flies

"Where does the evil in men come from?"

William Golding, (Nobel Prize for Literature), concerned himself with this question in his 1954 published book "Lord of the Flies". Within just a very short time, this book became a cult book in the USA. However, in the early years its religious, sociological and psychological references were ignored. The title in itself “The Lord of the Flies” points already towards evil. The Lord of the Flies represents one facet of the devil, which goes back to an ancient Phoenician god of fertility. After the book was subjected taboo, mostly in the 1970s it was recognized as one of the most important literary works of the 20th century, due to its parable of the end of innocence. Subsequently it was filmed several times.

The plot

At the starting point the novel differs slightly from the film: during a nuclear war in England, William Golding, evaluates a group of boys between six and twelve years. However, their plane crashes on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, and the boys are left to fend for themselves. Consistently is that the story deals with young people. However, in some movies they are not students but cadets of a military academy.

The students’ background is from all walks of life. Some of them, however, attended to an elite school and had already Jack as a leader. The other children join as well and choose Ralph as their leader. From the beginning, there is an undercurrent of aggression between the two groups, which over time increases. This transformation is also due to the different personalities of the leaders: Ralf tries to uphold civilisation and has his people build huts. Furthermore, he organises a navigational fire to attract the attention from passing ships to the stranded youth. Jack’s personality is of aggressiveness. He and his people prefer the life of hunters.

The situation escalates

Given the harassment by Jack and his mates, the two groups alienate more and more. The supposedly monster living on the island adds to the tension. However, how it turns out, the monster is a soldier who crashed with his parachute and got stuck on a tree. More and more boys join Jack's group. Increasingly they go feral and engage in rituals, resembling prehistoric religious ceremonies. After a murder was committed, all inhibitions fall. Jack’s people try to kill Ralph. However, in the very last minute a ship arrives and rescues the children.

The work and its effect

William Golding addresses, in his very own “Robinson Crusoe” version, (by the way, a very successful novel), the fundamental willingness of men for violence. The apparent paradise, which rescued the children from the turmoil of war, quickly becomes everybody’s personal hell because of their actions. Gradually the law of the strongest takes hold. Those children, who initially seem disciplined, slip into a circle of violence. Most children turn out to be followers who only follow their leader.

In “Lord of the Flies”, underlying, the possibility of war is all present. William Golding does not limit his critique to the politics alone. Critical to the author are the psychological and metaphysical aspects, which can be seen as the systemic cause of violence and the willingness to commit violent actions.

Implementation in youth work!

This movie gives an excellent opportunity to watch with a youth group with a following discussion. The film is not recommended for children younger than 12 years of age. The film and even more the book depict an incredible number of behaviour patterns. The very symbolic that Goldwin is hiding behind the title of his work.

What does this film depict and what could be possible themes you could discuss with the young people? Here are a few keywords. Feel free to refine them and come up with your own ideas.

  • It depicts an image, which, in one or the other form, all of us have experienced, heard about or even seen.

  • The development of morality and violence can be effectively tracked. Solidarity, social behaviour and friendship, as well as how friendship can turn into hostility. It shows how quickly one person can stand against the other.

  • Discipline, order and civilization is exhausting, fun, fun but taking action is much nicer.

  • People without strong character, with no backbone, can be influenced easily. Followers, you can find everywhere; in the classroom, the club, somewhere on the road.

  • People look for a leader. They often choose the supposedly strongest person and allow themselves to be influenced and dazzled by the cool guys.

  • We often opt for the mass (no one wants to be on their own), even if it is not ok.

  • A group dynamic has the potential for destruction, like a downward spiral. – Mob mentality.

  • If law & order is lost, anarchy is likely to fill the gap. This loss of civil behaviour leads to violence, persecution, death and savagery. Ecstasy and their personal rituals (for they know not what they do) confuses their individual thinking and leads to impulsive, not thought through actions.

  • Desire for power, recognition, and fame - regardless of losses suffered

  • Mean behaviour, particular against weaker people. The group dynamic can make you feel invincible, even open to viciousness.

  • The children as symbols of purity and innocence, yet, at the same time as a reflection of adults/society. Children have learned from the adults, instilled their behaviour – certain patterns emerge. However, they also go lost quickly, if no character consolidation has taken place yet.

  • Without morals, without inhibitions - the animal within becomes visible. How did we get there?

  • Fear leads to helplessness, violence and triggers its own momentum towards violence.

  • Battle between good & evil

  • Togetherness, building communities is only possible if all stick to agreed rules and regulations.

  • Suppression (top and bottom), power struggles, harassing of the weaker, survival of the fittest.

  • Man’s willingness to violence - and, in particular, how easy and fast it can happen to use force.

  • Men tries to fight evil and prevent it but is a manifestation of the very same himself. In his fight against evil he does not even realize that he is stepping over bodies. (This is very obvious in the novel, but less worked out in the movie).


I watched this film with my group. The kids were impressed. For one boy, however, it was way too brutal. Those sections of the movie, which indeed might be too graphic or somewhat exaggerated, served the young people to recognize situations from their personal life experiences. The concept was very well depicted. Not at least, how easy it was to follow an idol, submit to a leader and in the process loses any degree of solidarity to accepted social behaviour and instead, all too easily, slides into violence. In my opinion, this is a must film for young people to watch with a subsequent dialog.

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