30 Oct 2013

Lord of the Flies Extract Question for GCSE Simon and the Beast


The extract question for the English Literature exam can be baffling. But don't panic! They usually follow a similar pattern of:
How does the writer get across mood and atmosphere...
How does the writer create an emotive effect...

In both cases, you need to comment on what is happening in the extract (briefly). Is it a key scene from the novel, and why? Is it the first time a discovery is made, or when the balance of power shifts? Then write about how these events and styles build the relevant themes (e.g. loss of innocence, evil, death, corruption, childhood). Where relevant, comment on how Golding uses language to create effects - semantic fields, fragments, imperatives, repetition. If you're writing about mood, you can comment on the characters' moods, and the relationship or balance of power between them.

Here is an example I wrote for a question about
how Golding creates mood and atmosphere in the passage where Simon talks to the pig's head, the Lord of the Flies for the first time. This is a short extract, where the head is calling him a 'silly boy'.

This extract is the first time that the Beast manifests, speaking in Simon’s voice while Simon is silenced. The mood here is sinister as Golding makes clear that the Beast is the devil. The ‘Beast’ identifies himself, and the term ‘Lord of the Flies’ (which is one of the names for Beelzebub in the Bible) is encountered here for the first time, making clear that this is what the whole book is about: the devil inside us. Golding takes the metaphorical idea of the ‘Lord of the Flies’ and makes it disturbingly literal - the severed pig’s head, swarming with flies, a physical symbol of moral corruption and decay.

What’s most disturbing is that only the Beast speaks, as if humanity is silenced, and we only hear Simon’s ‘silent voice’. The oxymoron here could mean a mystical silent dialogue, where the Beast’s voice is louder, clearer and more real. He talks in colloquial everyday language, using phrases like ‘no go’, and the repetition of ‘batty’ which echoes Jack’s words about the littluns being ‘batty’ and Simon ‘always throwing a faint’. Madness is a disturbing element here: it’s not clear if Simon is ventriloquizing or channelling the devil’s voice, or if he’s literally hearing it. The Beast’s head ‘hung in space’ as if it’s floating, defying the laws of reality. Golding plays with the problem of what’s real and imagined, but whether it’s real or not, the Beast still has a terrible power as he is ‘part of you’. He also builds up fear and tension as he identifies the problem of evil: how to ‘hunt and kill’ and get rid of it if it is inside them.




Fragments suggest madness, or vicious taunting ‘Close, close, close.’ ‘Only me’ emphasises how ‘alone’ Simon is as he battles with this thing that taunts and torments him. Golding shows his physical suffering ‘laboured’, ‘swollen tongue’ and his difficult in moving or speaking against it, as if he’s powerless. Quick fire questions from the Beast feel like an attack, especially as he gives no space for an answer.

The Beast twists and corrupts everything. Colloquial language is not chatty and friendly, but disturbing. The Beast is too close for comfort. When he laughs it is empty: the forest ‘echoed’ with laughter that is a ‘parody’ - or cruel mockery of joy. 

The author, , is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.