Classic literature is classic for a reason. There are themes that resonate across generations and timeless characters. The trouble is, students hear those classic titles and freeze up at the prospect of reading something “so old”. Instead of fighting them on it, I have paired modern novels to some of those classic works to help bridge that gap. Read on to see my suggestions for modern pairings to Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of young boys who become deserted on an island. Although they begin with creating rules and organization with no adult help, they eventually collapse into brutality.
When my students begin their study of this novel, I tend to focus on a few major themes that I can mirror in my modern selections. Civilization vs. lawlessness is one of the biggest ideas of the novel. It drives most of the instincts of the boys on the island. Loss of innocence is another biggie, as well as the dangers of mob mentalities, and if mankind is inherently evil.
This novel is also considered an allegory, meaning the characters and objects are symbolic in and of themselves. I think that actually helps my students track themes, because they can easily recognize the characters and their roles as themes develop.
There are many options for this novel. That’s one of the best reasons to still teach classics, we still use them as inspiration! Depending on your class culture, the skill level of your students, and their general interests, you have options to bring to the table. Here are a few of my favorites.
Some people might think this is an overdone and overused example. Students who struggle with making connections to text may benefit from reading a novel after having seen a film, reading something they already know, etc.
Katniss Everdeen makes a heroic decision to take her sister’s place in the deadly Hunger Games. Survival is in her nature, but she must truly fight to the death and make smart decisions if she will beat the odds.
This is an interesting pairing when you compare the idea of civilization and savagery in particular. Especially since the nation of Panem is considered a “civilization” with a ruthless and horrible tradition, and the boys in Lord of the Flies were considered uncivilized when presented with no form of government or rules.
A very interesting parallel to not only Lord of the Flies but also to the recent pandemic. Hetty has been living in her quarantined island school for girls for eighteen months. Teachers died one by one from a horrible virus. Students were then infected. The girls live cut off from the world, fending for themselves, and waiting for a cure they were promised.
This is an interesting option for students to discuss various forms of loss of innocence, not only as a gender-bender version of Lord of the Flies, but also as an opportunity to discuss loss of innocence during our recent quarantines. Students can benefit from discussing their own life events as a connection point to the novel, and solidify some of these key themes.
A ravaged, barren landscape stretches forth as a father and son walk alone towards the coast. McCarthy writes about a hopeless world where the two main characters only have each other. It’s a torrid tale of humanity’s propensity for evil, which pairs well with Lord of the Flies. It can be quite dark in some places, but mature readers may enjoy the opportunity to read something with more macabre.
In spite of these darker scenes, or maybe because of, The Road is a great read with Lord of the Flies. Students can compare the darker tones of humanity when civilization is taken away. Students can also compare character’s struggles and perseverance.
Do you have favorite modern tellings for Lord of the Flies that your students love? What activities help solidify broader concepts and themes with your students? Share here or check out Facebook and Instagram for more ideas!