Writing about Power and Leadership in ‘Lord of the Flies’


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Writing about Power and Leadership in

‘Lord of the Flies’


The Lord of the Flies

‘Lord of the Flies’ is a literal translation

of Beelzebub, an alternative name for

the devil. He/it is a very powerful

symbol in the novel and represents

evil and savagery.

When the boar’s head ‘speaks’ to

Simon it promises him some ‘fun’. This

sinister remark foreshadows his death

in the next chapter. This ties in with a

biblical reading of the novel, as Simon

can been seen as a Jesus like character

within the novel, warning the boys

about their inner evil.

At the end of the novel, Ralph knocks

the skull to the floor suggesting he has

understood the evil it represents.

The Conch

The conch is a symbol of order in the

novel. It also represents civilisation and

the rules and laws that hold it together.

We can also see the conch as a symbol

of democracy as it allows all of the

boys an equal opportunity to voice

their opinions. When the conch is later

ignored, the boys’ society spirals into


The Mark Scheme

Look at the mark scheme on the next page. For B and A grades (bands 5 and 6) you need to:

1. Give an ‘exploratory’ response to the text and the task. Exploratory means that you are using the text and the task to explore different ideas, themes and interpretations. In band 4, you are only required to give a ‘considered’ response, which simply means well thought out. Bands 5 and 6 are asking you to read into the text in interesting ways and grapple with the novel’s more complex ideas and interpretations

2. Include ‘analytical use of detail to support interpretation’. In short this is PEE but you need to go beyond this. ‘Analytical’ means that you are going beyond an explanation of the language used and its effect on the reader. In addition to this you should be thinking about the reason that specific words and phrases have been chosen and how they impact on the reader. You need to choose short quotes where possible that can be analysed in depth. It is best to choose quotes that can be interpreted in different ways and linked easily to the novel’s themes and messages.

3. Band 6 asks you for a ‘convincing/imaginative interpretation of ideas/themes/settings’. The word imaginative again suggests that the examiner wants you to interpret the text in different ways they don’t just want a two dimensional explanation of the language’s meaning.

4. At the bottom of each band there is a sentence which is based on written expression, spelling, punctuation and grammar. While this is not a major component, it is important; your writing needs to make sense. I would suggest this is especially important for the B-A* grades that you are aiming for as it is very difficult to demonstrate a really solid understanding if your written expression is muddled and confusing.

To sum up:

 Tackle the ‘big ideas’ – Golding’s more complex themes and messages

 Analyse language in depth

 Show that language can be interpreted in different and interesting ways


How does William Golding use language to explore the theme of leadership in the novel?

1. Think about the question carefully before answering – write notes on it / annotate


2. Think about the mark scheme and what it is looking for in your answer.

3. Write a plan.

Some things to think about in relation to power and leadership in the novel

1. What are the first signs that Ralph would make a good leader?

2. What is the source of Ralph’s power?

3. What is the first sign that his power is weakening?

4. What does the conch represent? (see notes)

5. What is the first point in the novel that Ralph’s leadership is directly challenged?

6. How does Jack take control of the group? Why do the boys follow him?

7. If Ralph leads the boys democratically, what style of leadership does Jack have?

8. What does the ‘Lord of the Flies’ represent (see notes)

9. What does the destruction of the conch represent?

10. Through his discussion of leadership in the novel, what do you think William Golding

is saying about human society? How does the novel’s ending support this idea?

11. How can the power struggles on the island be seen as a microcosm of human


Have a go at the questions above. Which questions do you think are the simplest? Which of

the questions are asking you to explore more difficult themes and ideas?

Remember, in the exam you need to include some of the

more challenging ideas the novel has to offer if you want to


Key Marking Criteria

1. Tackle the ‘big ideas’ – Golding’s more complex themes and messages 2. Analyse language in depth

3. Show that language can be interpreted in different and interesting ways 4. Don’t lose out due to poor spelling, grammar and punctuation

Read the following paragraph. Paragraph A

The conch is an important symbol in the novel as it represents order. Chapter one is called ‘The Sound of the Shell’, which shows just how important the conch is to the novel. Ralph blows the conch.

“A deep, harsh note boomed under the palms, spread through the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from the pink granite of the mountain.”

This description shows how loud and powerful the conch is. Ralph uses the conch to bring everyone together and because he has it they elect him as their leader. The echoing of the sound shows that it is travelling all over the island.

1. Now look back at the mark scheme on page 3 of this handout. What band would you place paragraph A in and why?

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2. Using the ‘Key Marking Criteria’ at the top of the page, improve and rewrite answer A into the space below.


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Read the following paragraph:

Paragraph B

The conch is one of the novel’s most important symbols; it represents order and democracy. In “The Sound of the Shell” the conch is described as a ‘gleaming tusk’. Through this description it is clear that the conch is an important object. The word ‘tusk’ hints at its power as a symbol and this is reinforced by the ‘boom[ing]’ sound it makes when Ralph blows it. Such a powerful symbol is needed to unite the boys and bring them together from all corners of the island. The powerful sound of the conch commands respect and, to the children, is symbolic of adult authority. This association with adulthood becomes clear when Jack arrives and asks “where’s the man with the trumpet?”. The ‘gleaming’ of the conch and its white/cream colour suggests that it is a symbol of good (light) rather than evil (dark). The colour white represents purity. Furthermore, the conch allows the boys to form a democratic society as each of them ‘can hold it when he’s speaking… And he won’t be interrupted. Except by [Ralph]’. This democratic way of conducting their assemblies is essential to maintaining order within the group. It is only later, when the conch and the rules are ignored by Jack, that this order begins to be eroded. There is however a hint that Ralph desires complete control as he is an exception to his own rule and can speak freely. Perhaps Golding is suggesting that this is how democratic societies work in the wider world and that power is never truly distributed amongst the people; there is always someone in control. If the novel were to be read from a Marxist perspective, this quote might suggest that Ralph, representing the bourgeoisie in Marxist theory, provides the boys with an ‘illusion of democracy’ that is designed to prevent them from revolting against their new leader.

3. How does paragraph B achieve the ‘Key Marking Criteria’?


4. Look at your own answer from question 2 and compare it to Paragraph B. How could you improve what you have written? (Be Specific)

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If Ralph uses the Conch to achieve and maintain power, how does Jack take control?

Use the following quotes to help you.

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Jack brandished his spear

“We’ll kill it” - pg127

Jack: “He’s not a hunter. He’d never have got us meat” - pg139

Jack: “He just gives orders and expects people to obey for nothing.” - pg139

Jack: “We’ll hunt. I’m going to be chief” - pg146

Jack: “We’ll kill a pig and give a feast” - pg147

Jack’s Tribe: “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood” - pg168

“The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the centre, its arms folded over its face.” - pg168


1. Now swap paragraphs with a partner.

2. Assess the paragraph in front of you using the mark scheme and the ‘Key Marking Criteria’ - what band do you think applies to this paragraph? Explain your decision with reference to the mark scheme.

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3. What could this person do to improve their answer? (Two specific targets)