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Why should you read “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding? - Jill Dash

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After witnessing the atrocities of his fellow man in World War II, William Golding was losing his faith in humanity. Later, during the Cold War, as superpowers began threatening one another with nuclear annihilation, he was forced to interrogate the very roots of human nature and violence. These musings would inspire his first novel: “Lord of the Flies.” Jill Dash dives into the timeless satire.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Jill Dash
  • Director Silvia Prietov
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Storyboard Artist Silvia Prietov, William Cifuentes
  • Animator Silvia Prietov, William Cifuentes
  • Compositor Silvia Prietov
  • Designer Silvia Prietov, David Hernández
  • Art Director Silvia Prietov
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Lord of the Flies is a work of fiction--but history has seen people in real life act in similar ways to the boys in the story. In 1971, professors at Stanford University conducted a simulation of prison life in what has come to be known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. In the experiment, undergraduate students signed consent forms and waivers, agreeing readily to be subjected to life as a prisoner for two weeks. Within twenty-four hours, both “prisoners” and “guards” began acting as if they were not in an experiment at all, but truly in positions of disenfranchisement and power, respectively. Even the researchers became so absorbed in the experiment that their realities were distorted. In fact, the study did not run its full two-week course as planned, but was cut short after only six days. The Stanford Prison Experiment illustrates a belief Golding held, that humans are inherently capable of committing heinous acts, that power can corrupt even the most ordinary people, and that mob mentality rules. Read more about the Stanford Prison Experiment here.

In 1963, filmmaker Peter Brook adapted Golding’s first novel into a feature-length film. He filmed in Puerto Rico, on the mainland as well as a small island called Vieques. Hiring amateur actors, Brook and his crew housed the boys in former US Navy quarters and finished filming within three months, then spent a year editing. The film is quite true to the original, with some scenes improvised or filmed with very little direction. Brook recalls that the offscreen dynamics between the actors sometimes eerily paralleled those of the characters in the story, noting that the boy who played Piggy was told that one particular scene would be his last. Further, Brook posits that “[Golding’s] action takes about three months. I believe that if the cork of continued adult presence were removed from the bottle, complete catastrophe could occur within one long weekend.” Read more about the making of the film here (be warned of spoilers).

Golding’s views were shaped by his own experiences, and it is understandable that he might take a dismal view of humanity after witnessing the horror of war. We can choose to agree with Golding that “man produces evil as a bee produces honey,” or follow Anne Frank’s lead and believe that “people are truly good at heart.” The 21st century has seen mass shootings, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and the escalation of foreign conflicts. Examples of the worst of humanity, these tragedies have also brought out the very best in people. 2017 saw an increase in charitable giving, to more than $390 Billion. Volunteers from around the world flocked to cities plagued by natural disasters, and social media campaigns have raised awareness of global issues with effective hashtags. After a hate-motivated shooting at a Christchurch, NZ mosque in early 2019, members of the community offered to guard the building at the next week’s prayers but were instead invited to join the service. When a tornado leveled parts of Kansas in 2019, a group of civilians stepped in as the “Cajun Navy” to help lead recovery efforts. These are just a few examples of many, illustrating that while people can be cruel and inhumane, there is great capacity for good in the world, as well. Golding’s novel can serve as a cautionary story, reminding us that we can choose how we respond when people showcase the worst of themselves.



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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Jill Dash
  • Director Silvia Prietov
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Storyboard Artist Silvia Prietov, William Cifuentes
  • Animator Silvia Prietov, William Cifuentes
  • Compositor Silvia Prietov
  • Designer Silvia Prietov, David Hernández
  • Art Director Silvia Prietov
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more