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Hyperbole in Lord of the Flies

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  • 0:00 Re-Imagining the Island
  • 0:36 Exaggerated Worth of the Conch
  • 1:18 Ralph and Jack Know Best
  • 2:39 The Beast in the Night
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Alone on a desert island, the boys of 'Lord of the Flies' are left with only each other and their imaginations. Together, they create a world that is not entirely real through the use of hyperbole.

Re-Imagining the Island

After their plane crashes on an island and the adults are killed, the surviving boys must band together. They quickly assume an adult-like social structure by electing a 'Chief' and deciding what the most important tasks are. The age and maturity level of these boys, however, remains clear through their use of hyperbole, or exaggerated language that over-describes an object or an event to such a degree that it becomes unbelievable. The boys' first use of such language occurs when they find the conch, a rare shell that is initially deemed the most valuable item on the island.

Exaggerated Worth of the Conch

Ralph and Piggy find the conch in the lagoon, and when they take it to the others, the boys are falling over themselves in excitement. Perhaps the most excited is Piggy, who explains to no one in particular that it is '--a conch; ever so expensive. I bet if you wanted to buy one, you'd have to pay pounds and pounds and pounds--he had it on his garden wall.' Naturally, the cost of such a shell is exaggerated, even in British currency. A more appropriate phrase for an American audience might sound like 'thousands and thousands of dollars,' yet it remains an excessive amount of money for a shell found in the ocean that is unidentifiable by most of the boys. Undoubtedly, the conch's worth is over-emphasized due to its rarity on a desert island.

Ralph and Jack Know Best

As the boys discuss possible ways to escape from the island, Ralph, the newly elected Chief, announces that his 'father's in the Navy. He said there aren't any unknown islands left. He says the Queen has a big room full of maps and all the islands in the world are drawn there. So the Queen's got a picture of this island.' While the size of the earth was gravely misunderstood during the century that America was discovered, it is only a child's perspective of the world that would remain small enough to think that anyone, including the Queen, would have a map of every single island across the vast width of any ocean. An easier way of understanding Ralph's statement is viewing it as his faith that 'sooner or later a ship will put in here. It might even be Daddy's ship. So you see, sooner or later, we shall be rescued.'

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