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Literary Devices in Lord of the Flies

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  • 0:01 Why Use Literary Devices?
  • 0:45 Allusion & Irony
  • 2:36 Personification &…
  • 3:55 Hyperbole & Simile
  • 5:20 Archetype
  • 6:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

William Golding used many different literary devices in 'Lord of the Flies.' This lesson will define common literary devices and provide examples of how they are used in the book.

Why Use Literary Devices?

Have you ever wondered what makes a good story? How do authors tell a story that is interesting and compelling to read? One way is to use different literary devices to emotionally connect the reader to the story. Literary devices are techniques that writers use to get their message across.

In Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses several literary devices to help the reader connect with the story in a meaningful way. Some literary devices stand alone while others are used in combination, providing the reader a rich experience. This lesson will explore the literary devices of allusion, irony, personification, foreshadowing, hyperbole, simile, and archetype.

Allusion and Irony

Allusion is when an author references, either indirectly or directly, another piece of literature or art. Lord of the Flies had many indirect allusions to the Bible and to biblical symbolism: the island was described similar to the Garden of Eden; references and descriptions about the Beast; speaking of blasphemies by Jack; identifying a snake-thing; and many others.

An example of a direct allusion in Lord of the Flies is when the boys list their favorite island stories such as Treasure Island, Swallows and Amazons, and Coral Island.

Coral Island was actually mentioned several times, and is a story about boys stranded on an island and having an exciting and fun adventure. Referring to this book is an allusion; however, it can also be considered irony. Irony is a literary technique used to indicate the opposite intention or meaning. Repeated allusions to the Coral Island book are considered examples of irony because the references are the opposite of the boys experience in Lord of the Flies. Even at the end of the book when the officer rescues the boys, he states, 'Jolly good show.' Like the 'Coral Island'. Coral Island was a book about fun, boyish adventures, not the savagery experienced by the boys in Lord of the Flies.

Another specific example of irony occurs in Chapter 2 when Jack states, 'We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages.' The ironic part of this statement is that Jack leads the savage group who kills Piggy.

There is also symbolic irony. At the beginning of the book, fire is needed for survival to signal for rescue. However, by the end of the book, fire is used for destruction and to smoke out Ralph. Ironically, when used for destruction, it signaled a rescue.

Personification and Foreshadowing

Personification is when an author gives an inanimate object human traits or characteristics. Here are some examples of personification of objects in the Lord of the Flies: … 'the sand, trembling beneath the heat haze'…, …'yellow flame that poured upwards and shook a great beard of flame'…,

… 'a thread of white smoke climbed up the sky'…, and …'the circle shivered with dread'.….

Sand cannot tremble. Flames cannot shake. Smoke cannot climb, and circles cannot shiver, let alone feel emotions. These are all things humans can do, not inanimate objects. This is why these are examples of personification.

Foreshadowing is when an author gives hints about events that will come later in the story. One of the most significant uses of foreshadowing in the book is the involvement of rocks. When Ralph, Simon, and Jack first climbed to the top of a high hill, they roll a rock over the edge, and it tumbles into the forest, destroying a path.

This foreshadows future doom of the island. This rock incident also foreshadows two other specific rock incidences: the rock that Roger throws at Piggy which kills him and the rock that the savages throw at Ralph to force him out of his hiding place so that they could kill him.

Hyperbole and Simile

Hyperbole is exaggerating details to prove a point. Golding uses hyperbole throughout the book to convey strong messages. For example, one of the kids says, 'We've got to make smoke up there--or die.' Would they really die? Hardly! But, Golding wrote this to express how desperately they needed a signal.

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