The Tone of Lord of the Flies

Instructor: Joe Ricker
This lesson will illustrate William Golding's dark and ominous tone in his classic novel 'Lord of the Flies', revealing his perspective on the nature of man.

What Is Tone?

There's a reason parents hire sitters to supervise their children. It's doubtful though, that they fear their children will don breach cloths and stalk through the neighborhood like savages. That might depend on the neighborhood and the children who need supervision, however.

William Golding's Lord of the Flies gives the reader a perspective on what unsupervised young men might do if stranded on an island and forced to survive. Tone is the way the author feels about a subject. Golding's tone in Lord of the Flies is reflected during the development of the book to show his feelings toward the nature of man. This is most prevalent in the difference between when the boys kill Simon and when they kill Piggy.


After the boys survive a plane crash and find themselves stranded on an island, the boys cooperate to organize themselves for survival and make efforts to be rescued. This effort establishes order as the boys still clutch to the hope that they will be rescued and returned to society. Ralph is chosen as the leader, and the boys hold organized meetings to discuss their strategies on survival and rescue. The boys use a conch, a large shell that signifies order, giving each boy who holds it an opportunity to voice their suggestions and concerns.

The boys also realize that they need food to survive. After they discover that there are pigs on the island, they organize hunting parties, and delegate duties to those who will keep the signal fire going for their rescue. Their organization, despite the fear and darkness of the island at night, help to maintain order and civility among the boys. Eventually, they kill a pig and a celebration ensues.

The Beast

The boys' biggest fear is the beast they believe inhabits the island. During their celebration, Golding maintains a perceived innocence in the boys. He maintains this even when the boys kill Simon during this celebration. Golding makes this clear by referring to Simon (from the boys' perspective) as 'the beast' after they've killed him, ''Even in the rain they could see how small a beast it was; and already its blood was staining the sand.''

It's after this tragedy, however, that Golding's tone begins to change. The beast is dead, essentially, and the boys have nothing left to fear, nothing to motivate them to order. The boys become divided, and the larger group that follows Jack become more concerned with killing than survival and the fires that they maintain are for the glory of their hunts, not to signal a rescue. Even their hunting becomes a ritual of blood-lust instead of a way to secure food for their nourishment.

The Nature of Man

Golding's tone on lost innocence becomes explicit after Piggy's Death. The specific language he uses to describe the destruction of the conch and Jack's actions toward Ralph illustrate this.

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