The Setting of Lord of the Flies

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  • 0:00 What Is Setting?
  • 0:49 Time & Context
  • 1:56 Place
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Myers

Kimberly has taught college writing and rhetoric and has a master's degree in Comparative Literature.

This lesson is a description of the setting of 'Lord of the Flies,' a novel written by William Golding. The novel takes place in approximately 1950, primarily on a previously uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean.

What Is Setting?

A text's setting is where, when, and under what circumstances the story takes place. A story's setting may change as the plot progresses, meaning that it may take place in multiple places and times.

Settings also have multiple levels, ranging from broad to very narrow. For example, a story or part of a story might take place in a certain country, but the action within that country might take place in a single room at a certain time of day.

Besides the location and time, setting also includes the context of when and where the action is taking place. Context can include things like the social, political, or environmental conditions of the story's location and time.

Now, let's take a look at a specific setting: the island that the whole plot of William Golding's Lord of the Flies takes place on.

Time and Context

Golding never specifies exactly what year the story takes place, but it is likely around 1950. We know that it is set in the post-WWII era, and there is talk of nuclear explosions. The British school boys end up on the island in the first place because their plane was shot down.

The context of the broader military conflict is significant when you think about what goes on in the smaller setting of the island. The boys start out on a level playing field; they're all recently stranded and seeing the island for the first time together. Their personalities gradually emerge, along with conflict and violence. This violence parallels the violence going on in the broader society.

This idea of the island being a smaller scale version of broader society means that the island is a microcosm. Microcosm is a Greek word meaning 'small world.' A microcosm is a smaller version of a 'large world,' or macrocosm. On the island, conflicts involving power, pride, and violence happen just like they do off of the island. Similarly, the fact that these conflicts happen between young boys lets Golding use the setting of the island as a way of exploring universal parts of human nature.

Place

The novel opens with the boys meeting up on a beach after their plane crashed. Because there are no adults, the boys are initially excited to be on their own. They are like explorers discovering a new land, and they quickly discover that they are on an island. They climb to the top of a mountain and take stock of their domain.

The boys see that the long beach that they met up on is sheltered by a coral reef that borders one side of the island. Behind the palm-tree-framed beach, there is a thick forest with fruit trees and roaming wild pigs. On the other end of the island, there is a large rock formation that is almost detached from the rest of the island and looks like a fort.

At first, the island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean seems like a paradise. There are palm trees, sparkling water, and the warmth of the sun. The protagonist, Ralph, is even excited about the new environment and situation that he finds himself in. After standing on his head, 'he sat back and looked at the water with bright, excited eyes.'

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