Fear as a Motivator

Lord of the Flies by William Golding


In Lord of the Flies, fear is not only prevalent throughout the boys' experience on the island, but it also motivates and influences their actions.

  • Individual decisions
  • Group actions
  • Fight for survival
  • Unifies the group

Think of your personal "beast" - the one thing that scares you the most. In your literary journal, draw or describe your beast. Has fear of this "beast" ever made you do anything irrational? Have you ever done something simply to avoid it?

Lord of the Flies 1990 Trailer

Quote 1

"'They're all dead', said Piggy, 'an this is an island. Nobody don't know we're here. Your dad don't know, nobody don't know-'

His lips quivered and the spectacles were dimmed with mist."

This is the first time they realize the situation that they're actually in and the parameters of having to live on the island alone. The boys realize they're going to have to fight for survival.


"'He still says he saw the beastie. It came and went away again an' came back and wanted to eat him-'

'He was dreaming.'

Laughing, Ralph looked for confirmation round the ring of faces. The older boys agreed; but here and there among the little ones was the doubt that required more than rational assurance."

This quote introduces the beastie which eventually leads to their insanity. You can already start to see the fear and irrationality among the younger boys.


"They were left looking at each other and the place of terror. Jack's face was white under the freckles. He noticed that he still held the knife aloft and brought his arm down, replacing the blade in the sheath."

At first, the boys are afraid that they won't be able to survive, a fear that drives them to hunt the pigs on the island for food. After their first attempt at killing, they're taken aback by their savage behavior and urge to kill.


"'That little 'un that had a mark on his face- where is- he now? I tell you I don't see him.'

The boys looked at each other fearfully, unbelieving.

'-where is he now?'

Ralph muttered the reply as if in shame.

'Perhaps he went back to the, the-'"

The older boys' focus on survival has kept them from paying attention to the younger boys which has resulted in the death of the boy with the mulberry scar. This tragedy motivated to take more notice of the people involved rather than simply survival itself.


"'Someone's got to go across the island and tell Piggy we'll be back after dark.'

Bill spoke, unbelieving.

'Through the forest by himself? Now?'

'We can't spare more than one.'

Simon pushed his way to Ralph's elbow.

'I'll go if you like. I don't mind, honestly.'"

Fear, for the majority of the boys, hinders their ability to actively help and provide for the group. However, a few, including Simon, are able to get past their inhibitions and become leaders for the betterment of the group.


"A thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe.

'Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!'"

The fear of the beastie has warped the boys' perspective. They mistake Simon for the beast and driven to kill him in a barbaric way.

Discussion Questions

1. In what situations is does fear positively affect the boys? In what situations does it negatively affect them?

2. Is fear an acceptable excuse for the boys' savage and violent behaviors?

3. Which character's actions most obviously reflect his fears?

4. In what real-world situations can you think of in which fear would be used as a motivator?

5. Out of all the things they feared (not being rescued, "the beast", etc) which one resulted in the most action against it? Why do you think that is?

6. Is facing your fears always better than running from them?

Concluding Thoughts

What thoughts do you have on fear as a motivator?