Lord of the Flies Play

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

''Lord of the Flies'' is a stage play adapted by Nigel Williams from the 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author William Golding. Both the novel and the play tell the disturbing tale of a group of British school boys stranded on an island and the tension caused by fear and power.

Background Information

The stage play, adapted from the novel by William Goldberg, was first performed in 1996 by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This violent tale of the breakdown of civilized behavior in a setting of isolation and fear highlights the contrast between cooperation and competition. The story is set against the background of some type of nuclear war and a plane crash that forces a group of British boys to cope with the human need for society and the animal need for survival. While protecting themselves from the outward threat of the beast, they discover that the real threat is their own primitive impulses.

the beast

Character Analysis

Imagine how frightened and alone you would feel stranded on an unknown island, struggling to survive. Now add to this dilemma a division between those who want to work together and those who blindly follow the strongest fellow down the path of violent behavior. In this play, the initial leaders of the two groups are Ralph and Jack, each of whom gather a group of boys around them. Ralph's group is the voice of reason and civility, while Jack's group seeks to hunt and kill the wild pigs on the island. Piggy follows Ralph until the very end, when he meets a violent end by being pushed over a cliff. Ralph's other two followers, Eric and Sam, are forced to join the other side and betray Ralph, who is alone on stage at the end of the drama. Jack and his followers represent a blind devotion to power and survival through violence.

Symbolism in the Play

The most powerful symbol in this drama is the unknown beast, the embodiment of all the fear and tension among the stranded boys. The image of the beast takes on many forms: a wild pig seen early in the play, the first pig the hunters kill, the dreadful corpse of a dead parachutist hanging in a tree, and the boys themselves as they descend into primitive nature. Have you ever been in a situation where you do something simply because everyone else is doing it? Most of the boys on the island fall prey to this kind of mob mentality. Jack's group, the hunters, unconsciously use the need to kill the real beast as a rallying cry to kill first Simon then Piggy.

Another significant symbol is the fire the boys keep, first for signaling a rescue ship, and later for cooking the meat they kill. The first fire they start gets out of control and must be frantically extinguished. This episode, early in the drama, may be seen as a symbol of the boys' need to get their fear under control in order to survive. Ralph's group does so through civility and order, while Jack's group rely on strength and savagery.


Later, the fire becomes a part of the hunter group's out-of-control feasting on the dead pig. And finally, the fire is the means of murdering the hapless Simon, who becomes a symbol for the beast within all humanity.

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