MACBETH – NOT A WARNING, AN INDICTMENT!

Of the thousands of students shortly who will sit their GCSEs in English literature, as well as the multiple thousands of students from the past who already have, the vast majority will discuss the purpose of the play Macbeth as a warning against corrupted ambition, an exhortation in maintaining the natural order, an ode to an institution: the monarchy. Ostensibly, to the common eye, this encapsulates Shakespeare’s intentions aptly, but if we look deeper into the text, I think we see a play characterised by a defeatist, fatalist tone, where society is plagued by inherent malevolency, violence and an inability to extricate itself from incompetency. We don’t see a play exuding a moral voice, but a play delivering a brutal indictment of society. 

It is by no accident that the most famous section of the play is Macbeth’s seriously disillusioned soliloquy: ’Out out, brief candle.’ The death of Lady Macbeth is perhaps the straw that breaks the camel‘s back, the pressures Macbeth has endured to attain his specious power, culminating in his confusion and bewilderment and despondency at how it has all turned out. But it is not so much Macbeth’s guilt ridden mind forcing his lament, it is the fact that life has turned out to be rather disappointing, and pathetic. He realises he has been mislead by the illusion of power, that he has fallen to the temptations of greed. But Macbeth could be forgiven for getting a few things mixed up. After all, the violence characterising his world his lauded, but ultimately ambiguous, and who wouldn’t want to be the top of the tree, when it is insistently advertised as being so important?  

Shakespeare could easily have had the witches as fiends of Macbeth’s subconscious that equivocate and purposefully disrupt his morality, but their indubitable physical certitude verified by the more moralistic Banquo, serves to provide Shakespeare with a perspicuous opportunity to use the witches as symbols of society’s ills, and not simply of the individual. The witches are the manifestation of selfishness, greed, cruelty, all that is taboo, but nonetheless, real. They represent temptation. They are the reverberation of Original sin, personified. They are the darkness that drives the men using the youthful harlots in Blake’s ‘London’. They are what is deep inside the mouth of The Lord of the Flies. But they are also representative of a mind manacled by the inconsistencies of societal systems that are inherently flawed, of a mind that cannot escape such blight.   

Shakespeare well understood this presence. The illusion of a separate, benevolent natural order, is immediately dispelled, by having the weird sisters open the play, but perhaps more critically, by the fallacious embodiment of a divine right. This is most certainly satirised with an incompetent Duncan, a fool falling for treason not once, but twice. Even if Duncan is a morally good person, he is like a lamb to the slaughter in a world such as ours, a world where the boundaries of acceptable violence are shockingly nebulous. Besides, surely Shakespeare would’ve been well aware of the inanity of the monarchy, exaggerated by James I’s ridiculousness, a man obsessed by the supernatural and delusional in his ambitions of religious piety. The acceptance of Shakespeare’s pandering to James, I think denies Shakespeare his rightful status as a genius of literature. Of course, his newly formed company relied on the King’s monetary support, but like all great artists, opportunity for satire would have been impossible to ignore.

Elisabeth Bowling superbly identifies the lack of restoration of a natural order at the play’s denouement with several pieces of undeniable evidence: Malcolm, the rightful heir, but son of a fool, provides little confidence that anything will change; the linking of words and setting from the first scene presents a cyclical narrative arc; the deferment of the greatest character in the story, Macduff, to Malcolm, is the story’s ultimate satire, highlighting the absurdity of the natural order in the denial of a man infinitely more suitable to lead the country; and most importantly, there is no resolution as to the presence and fate of the weird sisters. The natural order is not an axiomatic good.   

It seems that many of the most revered works of English Literature explore similar resignation. The acute despondency the reader is left with at the end of the Lord of the Flies, with the absurdly ironic naval officer incredulous at the boys not being more organised, berating their un British like behaviour, highlights the certainty that there’s always going to be a Jack. This apathy is sharply felt at the end of reading Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, where an intensely insensitive society forges the character of Blanche, and her tormentors. It is not communal indifference to the way a society functions that destroys Blanche, but more their ignorance of there being anything wrong with it, a conclusion similarly understood by the metonymic Nick Guest in Holinghurst’s ‘In the Line of Beauty’. It is this awareness of the impossibility of change that Camu’s Mersault rebels against, but without success, in ‘The Outsider’.  The list goes on.

Despite Macduff’s victory, the audience is left without hope for redemption. It is no accident that Macduff doesn’t take the reins, because it allows Shakespeare to himself equivocate with his audience, allowing only the more astute to understand that the cycle will only continue, an aporia for tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

This essay will be added to CLOUD 9 WRITING, a platform for students to view essays and creative writing that explore topics with depth and sophistication.


I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for English teaching and educational resources.

PRAGMATIC POETRY REVISION

GCSE poetry anthologies are wonderful. Whilst not every poem may be to one’s liking, the vast majority are a joy to teach. Purposefully, we conduct this joy into our students, moving them to mastery as quickly as possible. We envisage students would have a thorough understanding of every poem contained in the anthology (15 in AQA, 18 in total in the Eduqas spec): a deep knowledge of metaphoric structures, imagery , detailed contexts, and the poems’ meanings and purposes. Whilst I of course always maintain high expectations, and provide multiple pathways to subsume the knowledge, and provide explicit revision strategies, I am not naive enough to believe all of my students can achieve this absolute. Some students find it overwhelming to learn this quantity of poems to the level of mastery, considering the amount of other Literature texts they must have similar depth of understanding with, and the amount of other subjects they have to negotiate. I believe it is right that I provide these students with a revision strategy that provides an opportunity to hopefully get them over the shockingly nebulous line.

THE STRATEGY

The Eduqas Poetry Anthology can crudely be broken into 5 themes: War, Relationships (including love, loss, grief), Power, Time passing and Nature. My thesis is that if students can gain an an in-depth excellent understanding of at least 4 of the poems (ones in blue), they should be able to compare either of them to any poem presented to them in part A of the exam concerning any theme. If they are presented with one of the four in Part A, then even better.

This comes from the fact that the poems are actually wonderfully linked, an important feature of a strong curriculum. The 4 poems highlighted in blue can be discussed in relation to any of the themes. Yes, there are some imaginative adjustments in places to suit the themes, but it certainly can be done, and I think, actually makes for more interesting discussions, and deeper thinking about the poems. Sometimes it is the context that serves as the nexus, and this too makes for wonderful discussions. The practice then consists of writing essays where the theme would not automatically jump out at you, for example war as a theme for the poem Afternoons.

The 4 poems in orange are what I believe are the next layer of revision, for those who can and want to learn more than 4 poems. This of course gives them even better options when they see Part A’s offering.

A good knowledge of all the poems is crucial, as any of them can be chosen by the board for Part A. However, it’s one thing to have a ‘by heart’ understanding of a poem and another to be able to deconstruct it on viewing it. Even now I would have to admit that I don’t know all of the poems off by heart (Death of A Naturalist – you’re killing me), but if you placed any of them in front of me I would analyse them with the highest of confidence.

Your average student who is genuinely busting his or her hump to pass will be greatly relieved to know that their revision can be more manageable with such a strategy. Of course, you can manipulate the table to suit your preferred links, adding poems you feel are more suited to each theme. You may even disagree with the themes. You may not even have any of these poems on your list, but the strategy is there for you to adapt if and as required. Can you make revision more accessible for your struggling students?

The sharing by the very kind Sana of her essay on The Last Duchess being compared to poems in the AQA Anthology, an idea sparked by Macbeth Insights, gave me the courage to post this idea, and I thank them for it, as previously I was a little concerned it may be preceived as dumbing down the poetry course. I am now comfortable with it serving as a lifeboat for overwhelmed students.

The above table is available here, and comes from my revision website that has lots of resources for Language and Literature courses, all free and created by me. Download for adjustment, editing, or to use as is. Hope it works for you. (If it doesn’t load, let me know and I’ll send it to you). There are also some outstanding poetry essays on the CLOUD 9 WRITING section of the site that explore some of these links.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources, and general education resources and theories.

Training for GCSE exams

Teaching to the test doesn’t work. But teaching students about the test is imperative. Not only that, exam performance IS a thing, and you can assist students to get better at that performance. It’s all about mitigating cognitive load.

GAME TIME – Any sports person will tell you that match fitness is everything. Regardless of how much you prepare, you never achieve the same level of fitness and game knowledge compared to actually playing. Why? Because when the real thing happens, not only do nerves and adrenaline consume vast amounts of energy, interfering with the ability you have coming to the surface, but lots of other unexpected occurrences happen, all leading to increased cognitive load, and leading to exhaustion quicker. The cognitive load can be so debilitating that the player has to rely on muscle memory to get them through. When a student sits in an exam hall, adrenaline and anxiety will naturally surge through their veins. Helping them revise the content is a must, but importantly, helping them become more familiar with the game/exam context is climactical, and this can be achieved by training students to automaticity with exam technique.

ABOUT THE TEST

  1. Exam layouts – Show students, and get them used to, the layout of the exams. There’s usually lots of information on the front cover of an exam, and multiple instructions on other pages, which is not really ideal for a stressed student. The more they see the cover and layout of the exam, the less pressure they’ll feel when they see the real thing, and any adjustments or unexpected words in a question will be more easily handled. 
MANAGEABLE Student
cognitive load
 Student A – no trainingStudent B – training
Before entering room20%20%
Exam layout5%0%

2. Question requirements – Ensure students know what each question is demanding of them. To do this, you will have to do your research. Analyse SAMs offered by your board, always get a sample of papers from the exam just gone (sure it costs, but it’s worth it as CPD), and even better, become an examiner; just make sure you’re not one of the 40% (Didau). Students who know how much writing is needed for each question, and what the content of the writing should be for particular questions, won’t get overwhelmed by having to wonder mid question if they should stop or keep going – an anxious look up to the clock.

Manageable student
cognitive load
 Student A – no trainingStudent B – training
Before entering room20%20%
Exam layout5%0%
Exam content 30%0%

3. Exam hall practise – if you are able, this wonderful advice, of literally taking students through each exam question in the actual hall, from Elisabeth Bowling, will hugely assist students being prepared for the actual day.

IN THE TEST

  1. Time training – Training students with timings of questions in Language course exams will significantly propitiate cognitive load. It’s one thing to know what the question demands of you, but another to actually do it in a stressed environment. If a student isn’t used to the pressure of time, the longer the exam goes on, the greater the likelihood of their cognitive load increasing and their performance reducing as they panic with the evaporation of time. 
Manageable student
cognitive load
 Student A – no trainingStudent B – training
Before entering room20%20%
Exam layout5%0%
Exam content 30%0%
Exam timing training20%0%

So how do I train my students? This wonderful idea was suggested to me by my colleague Katie Babbs: I will give students a past paper, non-fiction (Eduqas – 2 texts – 60 mins to complete), and give them loose paper to write on, and set a timer for 17 minutes. This gives them time to read the first text and answer question 1 and 2. Once the timer goes off, I collect the writing they’ve done, reset the timer, and tell students to now tackle question 3 and 4. Whilst they do that, I mark as quickly as I can the collected papers (question 2 only – question 1 can be class marked).  They have another 17 minutes to complete this. Once the timer goes off, I collect again, and students now complete question 5 in 8 minutes. Once again I mark as quickly as I can (question 4 only). Once the timer goes off again, the final question is attempted, with 14 minutes to go. However, i’ve allowed for 4 minutes to proofread (see below).  

Initially, students are always surprised at how quick the time goes. And this is telling, because previously, the final exam would be their first experience of feeling this – and by then of course, it’s too late. What the training does for them is gets them used to what that amount of time actually feels like. If they do this often enough, they will naturally speed themselves up because they train their minds to concentrate sooner, compared to the nonchalant relaxed approach undertaken in class tasks – they sense the timer is about to go off. The timer also creates a competitive game on atmosphere too, and it’s that sharpness you want them to have when the real deal comes.

2. Editing their work– rereading responses is difficult for exhausted students to do at the end of a lengthy exam. It is usually at this point that they have a sense of relief, and the last thing they want to do is reread what they’ve done. Of course, it’s madness not to, to ensure there are no structural, punctuation and/or spelling issues.  So, I have to build that practice into their normal way of working, so it becomes a part of the process, and not an add on. This can be achieved in the above training section: 4 – 5 minutes at the end of the timed training is dedicated to proof reading. I always tell my students they WILL lose more marks with errors (they can fix) than they are able to gain by writing more response in the last 5 minutes. But without it being a normal way of working, exhausted students won’t do it automatically.   

Manageable student
cognitive load
 Student A – no trainingStudent B – training
Before entering room20%20%
Exam layout5%0%
Exam content 30%0%
Exam timing training20%0%
Editing responses5%0%

3. Being professional– not panicking in certain situations is crucial in reducing cognitive load. Taking students through possible scenarios will help to calm them if the situation presents in the exam, scenarios such as:  what to do if you can’t answer a question – do you panic and lose total focus for the rest? Should you move on and come back to questions? Are you aware that the brain will warm up and so coming back later may be easier than it is now? If you’re running out of time what should you focus on to get you the most marks? And a big one: if people around you are writing lots, and you’re not, does it mean you’re failing, and thus should give up? I go into detail about this here.

Manageable student
cognitive load
 Student A – no trainingStudent B – training
Before entering room20%20%
Exam layout5%0%
Exam content 30%0%
Exam timing training20%0%
Editing responses5%0%
Being professional 10%5%

As you can see by the very much made up numbers, the cognitive load experienced by Student A is significantly greater than Student B, and would indubitably affect performance in the exam. The student’s knowledge would have to fight a great deal to break through the pressure. 

BEGIN NOW!

The more you do something the better at it you get, provided of course you’re doing it the right way. Students don’t really get that many opportunities to learn to negotiate the exam environment on their own, and so providing them with such training is critical. 

In the lead up to GCSE exams, I’m sure I’ll think of other strategies that I will want to have my students employ. I will update if I do. 

Of course, the advice given here is applicable for most exams in most subjects, so adapt and use where appropriate.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English resources and educational discussions.  

CLOUD 9 – A place for high quality inspired writing

High expectations dominate my entire pedagogical approach. In most lessons I push students to think deeply about topics and make connections to the bigger picture of the course. No matter the class, I explicitly teach high level vocabulary, and no matter the student, use questioning to delve deeper into their current thoughts about what I am teaching them.

Differentiation is done mostly through directed questioning, with higher level inquiry directed to students who have moved closer to expert status with the particular topic, and challenging verbal feedback as I move around the room and observe responses. Some students are closer to mastery, and to be frank, for GCSE level, are at mastery level, and require more stimulating conversations and explorations into texts. These students are able to produce higher level, sophisticated responses to essays by weaving judicious quotes together, making links across texts and contexts, and generally writing with precision, concision, and perspicacity.

It is these students that indeed enjoy reading other texts that are of the highest calibre for GCSE, because they serve as inspiration to think, and invariably, as inspiration to produce. Sometimes it is the other way round, with the writing process their initial indulgence. But underlying either approach is the strong desire to see and absorb writing of high quality, writing that demands thinking and takes students into matrices intricate, new worlds of thought that propagate, swell, and change the soul for the better.

This is why I have set up a space on my revision/resource website called Cloud9Writing, which has now been taken over by Cheryl Quine and renamed as Cloud9EnglishClub. Students need to submit an adroit and accomplished response for their work to be added to the site. The categories are essays and creative pieces. To boost the quantity, I have also added essays I have written as well as other teachers’ submissions for students to read, as a further stimulus for students to push their thinking. It is nice for these students to see their teachers write with passion, to see him or her similarly fascinated by the texts taught, and wanting to explore themes as a source of enjoyment; as a compulsion.

The space is open to all nations. Students being able to read high quality essays from across the country, and where relevant, across the world, exposes them to a wide, diverse range of viewpoints and thinking, thinking influenced by culture, location, and gender.

As an added bonus, after some time, students’ work will remain, for posterity; how many times have you read a student’s work, been blown away by it, but end up never seeing it again? Cloud 9 Writing eliminates this frustration.

There are things to consider with such an ambition, including stipulations regarding GDPR, and who will moderate submissions. Measures in place include:

  • Having moderators who are examiners to ensure the quality of uploads is maintained.
  • A submission form satisfying all GDPR requirements for teachers to submit pieces from their students they believe are of an outstanding level.
  • Promotion of teh site to build the quantity of submissions and promote the site’s efficacy.

If you believe you have a student who has written something of exceptional quality, and the student is willing for their work to be placed on the site (anonymously of course), leave a message below.

The platform has had over 35,000 views, and I have received lots of encouragement from teachers about the benefits for students in being able to read and indeed submit high quality essays. Please help spread the word, and even better, submit an essay.

 

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more educational and English teaching resources.

MACBETH – an exposition into power

Shakespeare’s opening, assiduously constructed with chiasmus and trochaic tetrameter and pathetic fallacy, immediately coerces the audience into a position of vulnerability, disempowering them with the paradoxical ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’, exacerbated by the pernicious fear of witchcraft. The restorative ‘all’s too weak for brave Macbeth’ is but ephemeral, with his first words ‘So foul and fair a day I have not yet seen’ echoing the witches, and consequently destroying any hope in him leading the charge against the ‘filthy hags’. 

Banquo’s need to curb Macbeth’s unrestrained fascination with the ‘imperfect speakers’ and warn him: ‘the instruments of darkness win us with honest trifles to betray’s in deepest consequence’ is telling, and suggests that already Macbeth’s power over himself is tempered, at the mercy of his ‘vaulting’ ambition. The moral frame of reference offered by Banquo, a man who will keep his ‘allegiance clear’, and not be tempted beyond mere musings, ‘But hush, no more’, provides the audience with hope, but hope rendered futile when pitted against the combined perversions of the Macbeths. The power Lady Macbeth wields over Macbeth again constricts their sensibility, as she, a contextual obfuscation, calls on the ‘spirits that tend on mortal thoughts’ and the ‘thick night’ to ‘unsex me here’, coaches Macbeth to ‘look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t’, a clever use of simile to metaphor by Shakespeare to emphasise her inexorable desire, and castigates him severely when he suggests they ‘shall proceed no further in this business’. Her sociopathic manipulations at once betray a rapacious lust for power yet a lack of power over her ability to love and concede to the natural order. ‘Noughts had, all’s spent, when desire is got without content’ alerts us to her inner battle, and her ‘out damned spot! Out, I say!’ and continuous need for light juxtaposes her ostensible hold on power and renders it transient, illusory; an exhortative Shakespeare restoring some of the audience’s faith. 

Macbeth’s artificial contemplations, ‘we that teach bloody instructions… return to plague the inventor’, are easily shattered, with the ‘dagger before me’ conveniently facing toward him, a farcical attempt at justifying his powerlessness over his actions. Throughout the play, Macbeth presents as a disempowered tragic character, a man unable to curb his ambition, and mitigate the influences of those around him who share equal levels of vice. His dissent into moral absurdity however, is paralleled ironically by his partial gaining of control over his actions, with Lady Macbeth shut out of his plans to kill Banquo, and his insistence that ‘for mine own good, all causes shall give way’. It is only partial though, as he still seeks the wisdom of the witches, and is made the fool by the equivocal apparitions.   

The power of the ‘mad butcher’ is finally annulled by the power of good, characterised by Macduff. Macduff, the embodiment of Banquo’s frame of reference (‘dear Duff’), refuses to succumb to Malcolm’s casuistic catechizing, and pursues the revenge not only for the slayings of his ‘pretty chickens’, but for ‘O nation miserable!’ The restoration of the natural order by the power of good at the end of the play serves as the ultimate cautionary tale, and not only redeems for the audience their loss of faith and hope and power from the first scene and throughout, but inevitably strengthens their belief in the power of what is morally right. 

This essay is part of a project titled CLOUD 9, an extension, high expectations platform for showcasing grade 9 GCSE writing, as part of my revision resource. Other essays can be found here.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more resources and discussions about English and education in general.

Pre-mock knowledge tests are ESSENTIAL!

Summative tests are important, but the very nature of them being based on a range from the domain of knowledge makes it difficult to be certain exactly where a student has gone wrong. If for example you receive a student’s work and it has little content in an answer, is it because they didn’t know the knowledge needed to answer the question, or was it a lack of ability to articulate the knowledge, or did they freeze under the pressure?

One way to eliminate one of the issues is to give your students pre-mock knowledge tests. If students haven’t self-diagnosed, made possible with a revision checklist, then these tests will highlight to all before they go into the mock if content knowledge is lacking, allowing you to better diagnose issues presented in the mock, and to provide more meaningful feedback accordingly.

DESIGNING THE TESTS

The questions should cover the range you know the students need to know. I ensure that key content needed for the mock is definitely in the knowledge tests (as much as I can that is). This content comes from the knowledge organisers that I’ve created for my classes, ensuring that as much as possible, my students have access to the content in multiple places. The questions are also be taken directly, copied and pasted, from the flash cards I’ve created for my classes, created out of fear of them revising the wrong things; an issue I wrote about here.

Questions can be a mixture of quotes, storyline, context, vocab and importantly, and often overlooked in such preparation, grammar. Considering punctuation counts for quite a few marks, it is important not to let it slide at this stage of revision. There are multiple ways to design the tests. Tests can utilise much of the insight of educators such as Daisy Christodoulou, where multiple choice questions are designed to test if depth of understanding is apparent by having two of the answers likely, but only one completely accurate. The tests of course serve as a retrieval practice, which ultimately will assist your students in preparing for the mocks. Often, revision sessions can be wasted suffering from a lack of direction, as suggested by Adam Boxer, so time is better spent completing knowledge tests. They can also be marked together as s group, reducing impact on teacher time.

Here’s an example of one i’ve designed for Macbeth.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English resources, and general education advice and discussions.

What is the Lord of the Flies?

Learnt pathology.

When Simon hallucinates with the pig’s head talking to him, berating him, Golding reveals one of the driving themes in the novel: the beast is inside of all of us. However, with Simon’s inner voice clearly not his own, but likely a schoolmaster’s: ‘poor misguided boy’, Golding reveals that the voice is not necessarily an inherent evil forged by nature and genetics, but one shaped by the environment. The novel then serves to make transparent the inner voices of the central characters, and develop the notion that without societal boundaries to keep in check these learnt psychological defects, that they become exacerbated, destructive, and lethal. 

The most influential of the characters is the central antagonist, Jack, immediately introduced in the novel as a metaphoric shadow, controlling the group of exhausted choirboys.  The need to control those around him is Jack’s learnt defect, perhaps the result of imperious parenting or schooling depriving him of any sense of control or freedom. His ‘mortification’ when Ralph is voted as chief, and petulance when outvoted for a second time: ‘I’m not going to play any longer’, is telling, and his angry intimidating reaction to his embarrassment of not killing the pig, slamming the knife into the tree and looking around challengingly, forebodes further troubles for other characters not able to withstand such a force. Perhaps the most indicative action to avoid the inner beast is his painting of his face, the mask, without accident in the colours of the Nazi party, ‘liberating him from shame and self-consciousness, and allowing him to unloose his pent anger. 

The lack of boundary usually curbing the expression of psychological pathology is fully developed with the character of Roger, a character continuously connoted with negative description: ‘swarthiness’, ‘furtive’, ‘inner intensity of avoidance’, ‘a terror’, but one whose negative societal influence is only partially explored with his secretive presence. When he throws stones at Henry, but deliberately misses, because of teachers and school and policemen and the law, Golding suggests it is only this knowledge, emphasised by the polysyndeton, which prevents him from satisfying his desires. The realisation however, that society is not there to restrict him, eventually leads to the death of Piggy, and premeditated murder. Jacks explicit condoning of the action by then chasing Ralph is the realisation of being able to take away a life, a sensation akin to ‘a long satisfying drink’, and is the ultimate sign that society’s boundaries have vanished, and that their civilisation is obliterated. 

Piggy’s inner voice is clearly shaped by his past, the death of his parents leading to his aunty overcompensating him with sweets, turning him overweight, and resulting in his continuous social exclusion and lack of self-confidence: the boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with Piggy on the outside. His indignance is apparent all through the story, with even Ralph admitting he ‘can’t think, not like Piggy’, yet it only serves to provide easy opportunity for others to vent: ‘you shut up you fat slug’, and express their anger through violence, culminating, disturbingly, in his death. 

The ultimate irony in the story is Simon’s inability to confidently speak to the group, and become ‘inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness.’ It is he who understands the nature of the beast. The ‘blackness inside’ the pig’s mouth that Simon falls deep into is symbolic of the domination over his intense sensitivity by the beasts in his world. Simon, symbolically forced to walk until fainting on first introduction, is so broken in the story that he is completely at the mercy of the dictatorial Jack. His death, essentially caused by Jack and his evocations of savagery, is metaphoric on several levels: the allusions to Christ, from the temptation of the beast and the crucifixion of Simon to the heathens; and how in society sociopathic characters destroy the lives of those around them. It is this sociopathic behaviour that Golding abhors, and drives the despondent, disconsolate tone to the story. However, the fatalist vision of human kind endures not because of innate evil, once ambiguously intimated by Golding himself, but because characters such as Jack are inescapable. 

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English resources and other educational discussions.