The Politics of Rhetoric: William Golding's Lord of the Flies and Leadership Speeches of World War II

byJoe Lovato


Which words?

In which order?

To what end?

For my sophomores, engaging thoughtfully in these questions is the enduring lesson I hope to address each year. They all come to me with a growing sense of the power of words as they navigate their expanding world, constantly negotiating, persuading, and defending themselves through language. But they're still only learning to do so with conscious intent. By teaching children the fundamentals of rhetoric, and then helping them to recognize effective (or ineffective) strategies, first on the pages of the books we read, and then in speeches from history, they can begin to become more conscious of the potential of language, of the appropriate application of ethos, pathos, and logos. Once they've learned this, it's a natural step for them to begin employing these tools of rhetoric to their own benefit, and that's the true goal: to create students who both understand the dynamics of the speech communities in which they function and are consciously able to navigate their own ways within them.

William Golding's Lord of the Flies is the core text for this unit that focuses on the study and application of rhetoric. In addition to providing students an understanding of rhetoric and eloquence, the unit will also present students with historical texts and film footage of speeches by Adolph Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Neville Chamberlain to supplement the study of the core novel. The supplemental texts are rich in rhetoric and will aid students in their understanding of the appeals, as well as support our layered analysis of Golding's work as a parable for the political forces and methods of discourse used by world leaders of the time. We will analyze three major speeches of the era, focusing on key elements of eloquence and rhetorical appeals in order to assess their efficacy. Through Readers' Theater and textual interaction, we will apply this same analytical perspective to the text of Lord of the Flies to examine the author's use of speech to develop the major characters as illustrative of rhetorical strategies at work on the world stage during World War II, focusing on the efficacy of these different appeals on a populace. Students will clearly identify primary rhetorical appeals in speeches by the main characters. They will see how after being marooned on a tropical island, Golding's principal characters begin to vie for leadership and the power and control that accompanies it. Students will understand how Jack moves others through pathos, how Ralph establishes, and then relies on his ethos, and how Piggy ineffectively attempts to use logos. Students will draw the connection between Jack and the demagoguery of Nazi rhetoric by looking at the histrionics within an early political speech by Adolph Hitler; they will recognize the clear connection between Ralph and Allied political leadership of the time through the character's willingness to appease and remain conciliatory in the face of Jack's rising power in an effort to maintain his own ethos and preserve the status quo; and they will understand why Piggy's appeals to logic and rational sense fall on deaf ears, or are lost amid emotional cries for action. By focusing on the use and consequence of rhetorical strategies in the novel and helping students to see similarities between language within the novel and three different speech acts, they will develop a deeper understanding of both. Ultimately, students will apply their knowledge of rhetoric and eloquence to craft and deliver an oration in the persona of one of the principal characters from the novel.


Mt. Pleasant High School is a good place to go to school; for some of our students the profound impact that it has extends well beyond the walls of the classroom. For our students who come to school hungry, it's a promise of a warm meal. For some of my kids who sleep in cars or garages, it's a warm and dry, safe place. To our surrounding community, the school represents free health care regardless of immigration status. And for many, not nearly enough, but for many, it's an opportunity to access skills and knowledge that are the promise to a better future. Enough kids believe that our campus is a safe place in a sea of uncertainty, that they own and respect the school and the adults who populate it. They recognize that the adults on campus care about them and their futures, and many of them in turn care about their teachers.

It was largely this dynamic at work that led students and staff to welcome tech millionaire Steve Poizner on campus a few years ago when he volunteered to be a guest lecturer for a semester in a senior U.S. Government class. Mr. Poizner spent twelve weeks of a spring semester facing many of the challenges of a neophyte teacher. He struggled to engage some kids, some students were content to get by doing just enough to pass the course, and a few failed, despite his best efforts and intentions. Certainly not all failed, though. In his class was our school valedictorian; in fact, most kids left Mr. Poizner's class, graduated and were enrolled in a post-secondary institution the following August. At the end of his short tenure, Mr. Poizner said his farewells, collected a certificate of appreciation, and drove away in a very expensive car. It was to everyone's dismay when he published a memoir a short time later, and simultaneously announced his candidacy for the governorship of California, identifying himself as a teacher with background in education. Within the pages of Mount Pleasant, Mr. Poizner wrote about passing his neighborhood Ferrari dealership and French bakery before crossing the valley to the East Side, exiting the freeway on our side of town and wondering about the "profoundly sad lives" 1 that lived behind the sound walls. He went on to generalize many of his students, wondering if they were "too busy ducking bullets to worry about their careers." 2 The book quickly rose to number five on the New York Times best sellers list 3, and he continued his candidacy supporting the charter school movement while our students and very quickly the entire school community were left in his wake, feeling used and misbranded. And that's when my kids got mad. So mad that they wanted to do something about it; they wanted to tell the truth. To persuade everyone that had been exposed to Poizner's book that he'd gotten it wrong. My kids felt they deserved the opportunity to define themselves, to speak their own truth. And so we worked, with words. We talked about rhetoric; kids learned about crafting a message with intent; they learned about delivery and then they planned a protest and called the local media. When the local television reporters showed up to the planned protest later that week, they were surprised to find so much of the community standing up to defend the school's reputation, but they were dismayed to hear the articulate voices of protest, persuading reporters that M.P. was nothing like the place Poizner had described. This disconnect between the students' voices, many of them who'd been in Poizner's class, and the politician's description became the story. It didn't take long before Ira Glass seized on the story for an episode of his popular NPR radio show and podcast This American Life. 4 In the end, Mr. Glass, my students, and I, were able to tell our story, to define ourselves, and to proclaim to the world the truth about Mt. Pleasant, and about Steve Poizner. In the end, the book sales stopped, the candidacy was a failure, and our community was galvanized by the event.

The lesson learned by the kids during this event was that language matters, that words are powerful, but that that power lies in choosing the right words. This is a lesson all our students deserve to learn, and it's at the center of this unit.

William Golding's Lord of the Flies and the study of World War II have independently been embedded in the sophomore curricula for the twenty-four years that I've been at Mt. Pleasant. Both are studied in the spring: one in English II, the other in World History. By focusing our study in English on the speech communities of Lord of the Flies, and by examining the connections between the discourse in the novel and the political discourse leading up to World War II, this unit will enrich the study of both topics. Additionally, by examining the novel through the politics of rhetoric and the rhetoric of politics, students will gain a working knowledge of ethos, pathos, logos, and be able to effectively craft and deliver a message focusing on invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.

The students for whom I am creating this curriculum unit are sophomores enrolled in my English II Honors course at Mt. Pleasant High School. Due to our school's open enrollment policy, some students find themselves in class unprepared for the rigor and pace of the curriculum. Many enroll lacking the foundational reading and writing skills or the academic discipline to meet expectations and be successful as we move through the year preparing them to take the junior level English 3 Advanced Placement course, at the end of which they'll take the AP exam in English Language and Composition. With such a heterogeneous group, the challenge is always to provide sufficient scaffolding to maintain engagement and support learning by kids at either end of the achievement spectrum. The focus on rhetoric at the heart of this unit is intended to better equip students for the deep rhetorical analysis that is central to English 3AP. Another consideration in planning this unit is the additional focus on nonfiction texts. By giving students the skills to apply critical reading strategies to historical documents in the form of speeches, we are responding to shifts dictated by the Common Core at the same time that we are familiarizing them with the type of reading that they'll be expected to deal with in English 3AP.

Mt. Pleasant High School is one of eleven comprehensive public high schools, four "small but necessary" schools, and one continuation high school in the East Side Union High School District. It is located in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Despite our proximity to some of the nation's greatest wealth, most of my students are children of immigrants and many live close to the poverty line.

I was born and raised in the community in which I teach, and I've been at my school for 24 years. Before I began teaching at Mt. Pleasant, my father was a revered English teacher and soccer coach here for more than a decade. So my commitment to this school, to this community, and to these people runs deep. Every year I seem to have students who are the children (or grandchildren) of my father's former students. It's funny when they come back on the second day of school confused but excited to share that I was their grandpa's teacher! Today I still live a few miles from school and am raising my own children among my students and their families. I intend for my own children to attend Mt. Pleasant, so I'm profoundly committed to making it a rich experience for them and every other kid who comes through. The events surrounding the Poizner episode illustrate the disparity between an all-too-common perception of my school and the reality of my campus. It's at the heart of a discussion I often have with parents as I assure them that it is very possible for their students to get a top-notch education at M.P., but that it's also true that kids find what they're looking for. My hope is that this curriculum unit is adopted by my site's English II Professional Learning Community and becomes a part of the English II course, making this powerful teaching and learning part of every student's sophomore experience.

Mt. Pleasant was opened in 1965 and originally built to serve a student body of 1,600. Over the years, as our student population grew to 2,200, twenty-three portables were added. However, due to declining enrollment, only three of these portables were still in use for the 2013-2014 school year. Recent projections calculate that we will continue to experience declining enrollment through 2017. This dramatic decrease in student enrollment has been attributed to the high foreclosure rates in our surrounding community, which are some of the highest in the county, as well as to the opening of Evergreen Valley High School seven years ago. When E.V.H.S. was designed and built to serve a newly constructed community of million-dollar homes nestled in the nearby foothills, the district gerrymandered the borders to steer these children to the brand new school and redirected more kids from a lower socially-economic, predominantly immigrant neighborhood to our school. These changes dramatically altered our demographics and our achievement scores on standardized tests. Due to our initial failure to meet growth targets for our newly increased Latino and Special Education populations, we have been in Program Improvement status since 2009.

For the 2013-2014 school year, Mt. Pleasant had an enrollment of 1504 students. Of this number, 71.2% are Hispanic, 10% are Filipino, 5% are Vietnamese, 4.6% White, 4% Other Asian, 3% are African-American, and other ethnicities comprise 2.2% of the population. Moreover, 16% of our students are Limited English Proficient (LEP), 41% have been Re-classified as Fluent English Proficient (RFEP), and 2.7% are Initially Fluent English Proficient (IFEP). This means that 60% of our student population come from homes where English is not the primary language. In addition, 51% of our student population qualifies for the Free or Reduced Meal Program. 5


California has adopted the Common Core State Standards and my district is busily restructuring and rewriting curricula to address the new expectations for teaching and learning. Despite assurance to the contrary, in the English classes of my district the increased emphasis on providing students with strategies to read nonfiction has largely translated into the removal of extended works of fiction. Literature-based writing courses have given way to Expository Reading and Writing for College courses made up of prescribed lessons based on state-selected nonfiction texts. Many of the strategies and skills learned through the ERWC curriculum are valuable and engaging to students, and there is definitely room for them in the English curriculum, but a central objective of this unit is to maintain the novel as the core text and to supplement it with tracts of historical political speeches in a manner that still addresses the core standards. It is my hope that this approach will serve as a model for preserving fiction while still meeting the demands of the new standards.

Not only does this unit of study support the Common Core by dramatically shifting the learning through an emphasis on non-fiction reading, it also incorporates listening and speaking, and cross-curricular project-based assessment.

Specifically and intentionally, the focused instruction of this unit will help prepare my sophomore English 2 Honors students for the rigors of English 3AP. At the same time, it supports the teaching and learning within the World History AP course that most of my students are taking concurrently.

Through the activities of this unit, students will develop skills to integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats and assess the credibility and accuracy of each source. 6 They will do this be viewing and analyzing videos of historical speeches, as well as reading and analyzing the texts of these and other speeches. We will evaluate both text and performance, critiquing each of the Five Canons of Rhetoric: Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory and Delivery (IASMAD). Students will identify the application and effectiveness of Monroe's Motivated Sequence: Attention, Need, Satisfaction, Visualization, Action (ANSVA). Also, students will be able to identify and understand the strategic efficacy of an author's use of ethos pathos, and logos.

Additionally, the unit will teach students to evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, while identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence. 7 To accomplish this, the Readers' Theater technique will be applied to selected chapters of the Lord of the Flies text. Afterwards, students will apply their understanding of SOAPSTone (Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Situation, and Tone) to analyze the effectiveness of character speech within the novel. They will then apply this same consideration to political speeches by Hitler, Roosevelt, and Chamberlain.

Another unit objective will be to provide students with the content knowledge and skills necessary to present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow an author's line of reasoning, evaluating whether or not the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task. 8 This learning will be evidenced by applying their understanding of character, plot, and theme, in order to craft a persuasive speech in the persona of one the principal characters from Lord of the Flies, taking into consideration Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery (IASMAD), as well as Arrangement, Need, Satisfaction, Visualization, and Action (ANSVA).

Finally, students will practice adapting speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. 9 They will demonstrate their mastery of this objective as each student delivers an oration employing appropriate rhetorical strategies, as well as IASMAD and ANSVA.

Background Information


According to Aristotle, rhetoric can be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion. 10 In this sense, it can also be seen as the first practical psychology in that it necessitates a thorough understanding of one's audience. An excellent way to begin to assure students that they already possess considerable expertise in the application of rhetoric is to draw their attention to the different approaches they might employ to get permission to go to a party or to separate their parents from their money. Aristotle and his descendants classified and called the rhetorical appeals ethos, pathos, and logos.


Ethos is Greek for character, and it refers to the credibility or trustworthiness of the speaker or writer. Ethos can be further broken down to consider the categories of trustworthiness, similarity, authority, reputation, and expertise. 11

Persuasion from ethos establishes a speaker's or writer's good character. Students understand that we are much more likely to believe or be persuaded by someone if we trust that person. But just how is it trust or credibility established? The Greeks established a sense of ethos by a family's reputation in the community, as in Plato's Phadreus. 12 Today, in most of our current culture and for many of our students, family ethos is less consequential as families are separated by distance and dynamics. In any case, students, especially those with older siblings, can understand that ethos based on family identity can work for or against a speaker. According to Martha L. Henning, "Without the ethos of the good name and handshake, current forms of cultural ethos often fall to puffed-up resumes and other papers. The use of ethos in the form of earned titles within the community-Coach Albert, Deacon Jones, Professor Miller-are diminishing as "truthful" signifiers while commercial-name signifiers or icons appear on clothing-Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger- disclosing a person's cultural ethos not in terms of a contributor to the community, but in terms of identity-through purchase." 13 Aristotle warned us though that we must be wary of such decoys, and that ethos comes not from appearances, but from one's use of language. Aristotle goes on to assert that three qualities of speech and speaker combine to create confidence in a speaker: high moral sense (phronçsis), high moral character (arête), and benevolence (eunoia). False statements and bad advice result from a lack of any of these elements, while embodying or exhibiting these three aspects of ethos can play a critical role in gaining credibility for one's argument.


Persuasion from pathos involves engaging the audience's emotions. The word is derived from the Greek for suffering or experience. Most of our students have become adept at playing to emotion, crafting speech and delivery to evoke pity for being late to class or benevolence from tight-fisted parents. Aristotle himself identifies and then explains how to create seven pairs of opposite emotions, such as anger and calmness, fear and confidence, kindness and unkindness, envy and emulation. He then explains how to create such feelings toward ideas in various types of humans. Aristotle also warns of the dangerous potential for mind manipulation through the use of pathos.


Finally, a writer or speaker can persuade through the appeal to the audience's sense of logic. Aristotle identified this as the most important means of persuasion since, "rationality is humanity's essential characteristic. It is what makes us humans and differentiates them from other animals. Ideally, reason should dominate all of people's thinking and actions, but actually, they are often influenced by passions and prejudices and customs." 14 This is commonly called the logical appeal or logos, and it's derived from the Greek for word. There are two different types of logic used to persuade: inductive and deductive. Inductive logic leads listeners to a conclusion moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories, while deductive reasoning works the other way around, moving from the more general to the more specific.

While persuasion generally involves a combination of the appeals, being aware of their effective use allows speakers and writers to tailor their message to a particular audience or context in order to maximize the efficacy of an argument, whether the intended effect is to borrow a dollar or lead a nation to war.

The Five Canons of Rhetoric

Once students have an understanding of just how the rhetorical appeals affect an audience, they are ready to begin considering the practical application of these strategies. The first two considerations must always be audience and context. Effective arguments begin with the recognition of whom it is we are trying to persuade. All subsequent considerations derive from our understanding of audience. Next, we have to determine the context, or kairos, for our persuasive discourse. This might take into account time and place, but it probably also involves a larger consideration of setting. In other words, what situation provides the most opportune context to present a particular argument?

Once audience and context have been determined, the Roman rhetorician Cicero continued to describe the essential steps to eloquence and effective persuasion as the Five Canons of Rhetoric. These include: Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery.


Invention is the process of developing and refining an argument, and it involves considering what the most effective appeal may be to derive a desired result. Invention is the stage when we consider "Which words." Considerations in the invention stage might include audience, evidence, timing, appeals, and format.


Arrangement is consideration of organization for maximum effect. If invention addresses the question of "Which Words?" arrangement asks the question, "In which order?" Generally, it's most effective to establish credibility with ethos first. Once credibility is established, context and circumstances dictate whether logos or pathos is the most effective way to proceed. A standard method of arranging a persuasive argument is: introduction, narration, division, proof, refutation, and conclusion.


Style answers the question of "How?" In other words, style is the process of determining how to present arguments using figures of speech and other rhetorical techniques in order to maximize impact. Correctness, Clarity, Evidence, Propriety, and Ornateness were the five virtues of style developed and taught by the Roman rhetoricians Cicero and Quintilian.


Memory is the ability to master a speech in one's mind such that it can be delivered naturally and effectively without notes. It's the result of practice, but it can be supported by various techniques. Once mastered, a speech delivered from memorization contributes to credibility, strengthening the speaker's ethos.


When Demosthenes, the Greatest of the Greek orators, was asked what he considered to be the most important part of rhetoric, he replied, "Delivery, delivery, delivery." 15 Like style, delivery answers the question "How?" While the canon of style, however, deals primarily with language, delivery focuses on the physical mechanics of how a message is imparted. It includes body language, physical gestures and vocal intonation. Mastering delivery is another method to help a speaker establish ethos with an audience.

Monroe's Motivated Sequence

In the mid-1930s, Alan H. Monroe developed a pattern of logically and psychologically sound steps for moving an audience to action. The method he developed is a sequence and includes: Attention, Need, Satisfaction, Visualization, and Action. (ANSVA)


A speaker first needs to capture an audience's attention, and then ease the audience into a consideration of the topic. This can be done in a variety ways such as illustrating or emphasizing the importance of the topic, making a startling statement, arousing curiosity or suspense, posing a question, or telling a dramatic story.


Next, a speaker must create a reason for the audience to care about the topic. This is done by developing a problem or creating a need that can only be satisfied by engaging with the speaker's proposal.


Proposing a satisfying solution to the need or problem is the next step.


True persuasion next provides the audience an image of the consequence of their choice.


The final step is to move an audience to take some form of action in response to the speech.

William Golding

William Gerald Golding was born in Cornwall, England, on September 19, 1911, and he died at his home in 1993. 16 The span of his life occasioned him to experience World War I as a child and to participate as a combatant in World War II. The revelation of the Holocaust and the dropping of the Atomic bomb on Japan affected him deeply, and changed his views on humanity and man's capacity for evil. He is remembered as a prominent English novelist, essayist and poet, and was awarded the Booker McConnel Prize, the greatest British Literature Prize, as well as the Nobel Prize for Literature. Golding's fiction is often seen as allegorical, with broad use of allusions to classical literature, mythology, and Christian symbolism. Although no distinct thread unites his novels, most deal principally with man's destructive nature and his capacity for evil.

Golding was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he studied English literature and philosophy. After he graduated, he worked as an actor, a lecturer, a small craft sailor, a musician and finally a schoolmaster. He joined the Royal Navy in 1940, and saw action against battleships, submarines and aircraft. He was present at the sinking of the Bismarck and finished the war as a Lieutenant in command of a rocket ship.

After the war he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury and was there when his first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954. He gave up teaching in 1961, and went on to write twelve more novels, including The Inheritors, Pincher Martin, and The Spire. In addition to his novels, he published a play, The Brass Butterfly (1958); a book of verse, Poems (1934); and the essay collections The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982).

Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies introduced one of the recurrent themes of his fiction—the conflict between humanity's innate barbarism and the civilizing influence of reason. 17

Lord of the Flies

Many, though not all, of the important self conscious novels in the twentieth century are deeply concerned with a particular historical moment, with the nature of historical process, even with the future of Western Civilization, as they deploy their elaborate systems of mirrors to reflect novel and novelist in the act of conjuring with reality. 18

In "Lord of the Flies: Trust the Tale," William Golding explains that Lord of the Flies grew out of his experiences in World War II, where he was confronted with "what one man could do to another." 19 He goes on to explain, "anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head." 20 In a conversation with Jack Biles published in 1970, Golding described the impetus for creating Lord of the Flies, as he recounted, "sitting on one side of the fire and Ann was sitting on the other, and I had just been reading a God-awful book… a book about boys on an island, the usual adventure story… I remember saying to Ann, 'Oh, I'm so tired of this business. Wouldn't it be fun to write a book about boys on an island and see what really happens.'" 21 His dismissal of the popular boys adventure genre that includes English classics like The Coral Island and Treasure Island stemmed from his own experiences as a schoolteacher and as a naval officer in World War II. The novel that he went on the write is a synthesis of both of these experiences, and while he remained "reluctant to view himself as a politically engaged novelist," 22 and though "his politics are often implicit rather than explicit," 23 he never equivocated on his views of man and his essential nature. At the time of publication, Golding himself replied to an inquiry regarding the book's theme. The novel, Golding wrote, "is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable." 24

First published in 1954, the story takes place during an unnamed war, as an airplane carrying a group of small British schoolboys crashes onto a deserted tropical island. The boys are left alone with no supervising presence as the adults on board have been killed and swept out to sea along with the plane wreckage. The first characters to be introduced are myopic, asthmatic, overweight Piggy, and the charismatic "fair haired" 25 boy called Ralph. Together the two find a conch shell and use it to summon the remaining survivors. Among those who show up is Jack, head choirboy bullishly leading his charges up the beach in tight formation under a blazing sun. Immediately, the boys democratically elect Ralph as chief, even though "none of the boys could have found good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to Piggy, while the most obvious leader was Jack. But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: There was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely and most powerfully, there was the conch." 26 As the boys set about to survive with the resources they find on the island, duties and rules are established and they develop the beginnings of a functional society. Piggy, though physically useless possesses some intelligence and he becomes companion to Ralph. Though each boy lacks the crucial quality the other exhibits, together they possess both physical and intellectual prowess. As time passes on the island Ralph relies on his ethos as he tries to maintain authority and delegate responsibility, but most boys would rather swim, play, or hunt pigs than maintain the signal fire or help build huts.

Soon Ralph's rules, supported by Piggy's whining use of logos, are being ignored and challenged outright. Jack becomes his fiercest antagonist, drawing other boys away from Ralph and towards himself through pathos, promising the thrill of the hunt and protection from growing fears of some sort of beastie on the island. Soon Jack has seduced some and silenced others with his eloquence, ultimately establishing himself as leader of an alternate society on the island. Some join his band of painted savages for the promise of fun, others out of fear of the beast.

The two opposing groups come to a head at a tense meeting where Ralph's ethos is overtly challenged by Jack's pathos, while Piggy's voice of reason, or logos, goes largely unheard and completely ignored. The once well-organized society breaks up and splits into two groups: those who hunt and become savages, and those who believe in rational living and cling to hope of rescue. The one is represented by Jack, who like Hitler, leads by rousing emotion and ignoring the intellect; the other is lead by Ralph whose undelivered promises and failed leadership have eroded his ethos. Ralph is assisted by the clear-thinking but uncharismatic Piggy, but this does nothing to support his argument for leadership. The speech communities represented by ethos and logos become subsumed by Jack's pathos-blinded tribe. By the end of the novel, Piggy is dead and Ralph is hunted by Jack and his savages. A naval officer arrives on the island just as chaos is consuming the island in fire, but the boys' rescue from the island is only deliverance back to the larger world where the same dynamics are playing out in a world still raging with war.

As Golding's novel allegorically explores the boundary between reason and passionate instinct, between order and chaos, the dynamics at play can also be traced through the politics of rhetoric employed by Jack, Piggy, and Ralph. It is also possible to make distinct connections between these characters and the rhetoric of politics within speeches by Adolph Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Neville Chamberlain.

Hitler's Speech

Delivered to a Mass Meeting of the National Socialist German Workers Party

27 February 1925

Even before the advent of the National Socialist party, Hitler understood the power and potential of the spoken word to touch individuals and move great masses. As early as 1925 he recognized, "[T]he power which has always started the greatest religions and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone." 27 Randall Bytwerk goes so far as to proclaim, "National Socialism was the most prolific rhetorical movement of the twentieth century." 28

Hitler recognized that average people were uninterested in complex arguments and much more likely to be swayed by emotion rather than intellect, and that speakers who attempted to persuade through complicated rational arguments were doomed to fail. This dependence on both his own passionate presentation and fiery words to stir emotion was a lethal combination that captivated and inspired a nation towards the atrocities committed in support of the Nazi party. As Hitler's political power grew, so too did the rousing language of his speech and the mob mentality of his audiences. He described the effect of pathos to move a mass as he described a person who "steps for the first time into a mass meeting and has thousands and thousands of people of the same opinions around him, when, as a seeker he is swept away by three or four thousand others into the mighty effect of intoxication and enthusiasm, when the visible success and agreement of thousands confirm him to rightness of the new doctrine and for the first time arouse doubt in the truth of his previous conviction- then he has succumbed to the magic influence of what we might designate as 'mass suggestion.'" 29 Most of Hitler's speeches followed a formula and were intellectually simple, emotionally charged, and repetitious. They generally began by establishing the speaker's ethos, proclaiming Hitler's own greatness and demanding obedience from his followers. What would generally follow would be a histrionic presentation of the Nazi worldview veiled in rhetoric and disguised as logos. At the heart of every message, though, was a diatribe rooted in pathos that was crafted and delivered to passionately rouse his audience towards blind party allegiance and ideological acceptance.

In Lord of the Flies students will see Jack trying out the other appeals before establishing and then maintaining his own power through pathos. At the boys' first meeting, Golding shows us Jack unsuccessfully trying to establish his power through ethos: "'I ought to be chief,' said Jack with simple arrogance, 'because I'm chorister and head boy. I can sing a C sharp.'" 30 When this doesn't work, a short time later he vies for leadership power through logos, working within the system established on the island. After assenting to the logical and dutiful need to keep a signal fire burning, he delegates the task to his choir, "Altos, you keep the fire going this week, and trebles the next—" 31 In response, "The assembly assented gravely." 32 Jack's real power, however, is established and asserted once he becomes a hunter —both of the island's pigs and of the elusive (and imagined) beast. Once this power is seized, like Hitler, he maintains control though pathos that inspires through fear and excitement.

Roosevelt's Speech

Fireside Chat 14: On the European War

3 September 1939

"All that man [Roosevelt] has to do is speak on the radio, and the sound of his voice, his sincerity, the manner of his delivery, just melts me and I change my mind." 33

From March 1933 to June 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the American people in 31 speeches broadcast via radio. His addressed topics both foreign and domestic. Despite the debilitating effects of polio on his body, "on the radio, Roosevelt was his voice. As his voice traveled through the ether, its authority and sincerity commingled to create the seductive and oft-noted intimacy between FDR and his audience." 34 Rhetorically, Roosevelt used pathos and ethos in support of one another to gain the support of millions of Americans who found comfort and renewed confidence in these speeches, which became known as the "fireside chats." Roosevelt was not actually sitting beside a fireplace when he delivered the speeches, but behind a microphone-covered desk in the White House. Reporter Harry Butcher of CBS coined the term "fireside chat" in a press release before one of Roosevelt's speeches on May 7, 1933. The name stuck, as it perfectly evoked the "compelling narrative of Roosevelt's "chats" –delivered in plain English that eschewed facts and figures in favor of anecdotes and analogies." 35 He used these opportunities to explain his hopes and ideas for the country, while inviting the citizenry to "tell me your troubles." The combination of the novelty and intimacy of radio with the believability of his message created a powerful force that enabled him to pass a sweeping set of legislation in the first 100 days of his presidency and then go on to many other accomplishments in the following twelve years. 36

Roosevelt's speech is an excellent place for student to practice critiquing the five canons (IASMAD). The care and attention that the President put into his addresses is clearly evident, and his language is readily accessible to students. He used words, phrases, analogies, and terms that people could grasp easily; eighty percent of his words were among the one thousand most commonly used words in the English vocabulary, and they were being delivered to a nation where nearly ninety percent of the populace had a radio. 37

Fireside Chat 14 was delivered only hours after Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Roosevelt's challenge was to build public support for aiding the Allies while maintaining U.S. neutrality. The President announced a new proclamation declaring American neutrality, but he also implicitly stated his support for the Allies, preparing the public for his September 21st proposal calling for a relaxation of the neutrality laws to allow for the selling of arms to Great Britain and France on a "cash-and-carry" basis. Congress passed his proposal on November 3, 1939. 38

Chamberlain's Speech

"Peace for Our Time" 1938

Neville Chamberlain, Great Britain's Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940, has been much criticized for his attempts to appease the Axis powers. His apparent complacency in the face of wartime defeats brought forth the pressure both within and without the Conservative Party that resulted in his resignation from office. 39 In much the same manner that Chamberlain willingly conciliates Hitler and his rising demands in an effort to maintain peace and preserve the status quo in Europe, so too does Ralph pursue diplomacy and compromise with Jack in an effort to maintain his own loosening grip on leadership and order on the island.

In March 1938, Germany absorbed Austria in the Anschluss. Hitler then turned his attention to the Sudetenland, areas of Czechoslovakia populated by three million ethnic Germans. Hitler grew increasingly hostile towards Czechoslovakia over the course of the summer of 1938, culminating in a mid-September anti-Czech speech that intimated imminent war. Chamberlain's response was to fly to Germany in pursuit of a diplomatic solution that would preserve peace on the continent. Mindful of the generation lost to the horrors of World War I, and worried that the British military was not prepared to fight Germany, Chamberlain agreed to Hitler's demand that Germany absorb the Sudetenland. Without ever consulting Czech leadership, Chamberlain then persuaded Czech and French governments to accept the concessions. The Czech government was completely left out of the two final meetings in Munich that finalized the country's dismemberment. On October 1, 1938, Czech frontier guards left their post and German troops moved into the Sudetenland. The day before, Chamberlain had flown back to England where he was met by cheering crowds. He waved a memo and told the crowd he had brought "Peace for our time."

Not all of Chamberlain's fellow countrymen felt that he had saved the day. Winston Churchill's response to what Chamberlain agreed to at Munich was scathingly critical. "You were given the choice between war and dishonor, you chose dishonor, and now you will have war." 40 Churchill was right, as eleven months after the Munich Agreement was signed, German troops invaded Poland, and the Second World War had begun.


This 5-week unit will be taught to my tenth grade English 2 Honors students at the beginning of the sixth and final grading period when they will be concurrently studying World War II in their World History course. Many, but not all of them will take the World History AP exam towards the end of the unit. Prior to reading Lord of the Flies, students will have read A Separate Peace, The Catcher in the Rye, Othello, Like Water for Chocolate, and All Quiet on the Western Front. Through each novel we address the theme of forging identity through the loss of innocence, the struggle towards maturity and the risks along the way. This theme and the looming reality of their History exam provide a lens through which we'll process and analyze the novel and a context in which to frame much of our study of rhetoric.

After this final unit of study, most students will matriculate to English 3 AP, where they will prepare to take the Advanced Placement exam in Language and Composition. The strategies employed are intended to support skills learned earlier in the year and to provide students with a strong foundation for further study of rhetoric that they will encounter in their next year's English course. The skills learned and applied in this unit include close reading, prose analysis, analysis and application of rhetorical strategies, and integration and synthesis of textual connections between history and literature.

Building Schema and Activating Prior Knowledge

At the beginning of this unit that includes close study of Lord of the Flies, rhetoric, and historical speeches, it is important for students to have a context in which to process it all. This context includes both, knowledge of skills as well as specific content information. Schema can be defined as "a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning." 41 In simple terms, schema, or the plural schemata, is the building block of intelligent behavior. Because it focuses on development, rather than learning, it does not address the accumulation and organization of information. In this way it differs from prior knowledge that needs to be in place to appreciate the full context of whatever one may be studying. Prior Knowledge is just that; all the background and surrounding information that might help a child organize and understand what they're learning. Helping children learn to activate their schema and providing or activating background knowledge are both strategies for introducing students to new material. Many readers need direct instruction on how to use their knowledge to help them build an understanding of what they're reading. Activating Prior Knowledge is important because it helps students make connections to the new information they will be learning. One way to begin building schema is by helping students to make textual connections. A teacher might activate prior knowledge through Direct Instruction, KWL Charts, Brainstorming, or through an Internet Scavenger Hunt. These activities tap into what students already know and help them to construct new knowledge for themselves.

Modified Readers' Theater

Readers' Theater is an instructional method that connects quality literature, oral reading, drama, and several research-based practices. 42 This instructional strategy involves adapting prose to be read aloud in class as a script. Exposition is read by either the teacher or by students as narration, and dialogue is performed by students who assume the persona of the character they're reading. This method is different from traditional theater in that it requires no costumes, props, or actions other than facial expressions or gestures by the performers. It's a rich opportunity to bring the literature to life, to practice delivery and to emphasize rhetorical tropes and tone. Prior to conducting readers' theater in class, I will assign character parts to students the day before. They will be responsible for previewing the text, highlighting their lines, for giving thought as to how they will deliver the lines the following day. In this sense, readers' theater also provides students with an authentic reason for rereading texts. Research shows it also builds fluency and ultimately can affect comprehension through the actions and gestures developed to carry out the performance. 43 The complete, or extended portions, of chapters one, two, five, eight, and eleven of Lord of the Flies are rich in dialogue and lend themselves particularly well to Readers' Theater.

Talking to the Text/Highlighting and Annotating

In an effort to create active readers, students should be explicitly taught highlighting and annotating skills early on. The procedures are introduced and continue to be developed throughout a student's progression through the English department at Mt. Pleasant High School. They are specific skills and strategies to help students interact with a text. They can be applied throughout the reading of Lord of the Flies and will also help students connect to and make meaning of the political speeches they'll be reading in this unit. The annotation guidelines are different for fiction and for non-fiction and have been previously introduced to students.

Dialectical Journal

The term "Dialectic" means "the art or practice of arriving at the truth by using conversation involving question and answer." For this unit the dialectical journal is a means of maintaining a running dialogue with the text. It can be seen as a series of conversations with the text as we read Lord of the Flies. The process is meant to help students track the changes and processes of speech communities and other themes and symbols within the novel in order to gain a better understanding of how William Golding develops these ideas. The journal can and should incorporate personal responses to the text, ideas about the themes of the novel, as well as responses to specific quotes from the text. Students should find the dialectical journal a useful way to process what they've read, to track the development of character, to prepare for group discussion, and to gather textual evidence for their final oration.


For the Greeks, the culminating exercises of a rhetorical education were practice speeches known as declamations. Similarly, at the end of this unit students will put their learning to use as they craft and deliver an oration as one of the principal characters from the novel, attempting to persuade the other boys on the island to take some form of action. Orations will be evaluated for Invention, Arrangement, Style, and Delivery (IASMAD), as well as for Arrangement, Need, Satisfaction, Visualization, and Action (ANSVA).


Rhetoric, whether crafted as a message to be written on the page or to be spoken to an audience, is most importantly about choice. Key considerations are always "Why has the author or speaker chosen to use this strategy over any other? What is the intended effect on the audience? How does this strategy help the author achieve a desired effect?" SOAPSTone (Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, Tone) is an acronym for a series of questions that students must consider to create or evaluate an argument.


Who is the Speaker? A Speaker aims to create a particular persona. A persona, from the Greek word for mask, is the personality that the speaker projects and that from which the audience interprets. A speaker also has a real-life background though, a personal history. Both persona and personal history must be analyzed to arrive at a complete understanding of a speaker. When considering speaker, we are determining credibility, or ethos


What is the Occasion? Occasion is much more than simple time and place. Students should consider that rhetoric always take place within a context that influences how the speaker understands, analyzes, and generates the persona, the appeals, and the subject matter material.


Who is the Audience? Once determined, the speaker or writer appeals to the audience through the three rhetorical appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos. It is important to note that audience groups can vary drastically and can fall into multiple categories. Most audiences are not homogeneous, and so, belief and value structures may differ amongst members of the same audience. Students should consider if the speaker is trying to reach all audience members equally or whether the discourse is aimed at persuading a particular segment of the audience only.


What is the Purpose, Intent or Aim? "A rhetor's intention is what he or she wants to happen as a result of the text, what he or she wants the audience to believe or do after hearing or reading the text. In some rhetorical situations, the rhetor knows his or her intention right from the start; in other situations, the intention becomes clear as the text evolves." 44 Purposes may be explicit or implicit.


What is the Subject? The subjects of texts are often abstract, but they can also be concrete. When looking at concrete subject matter, it often helps to "look behind" the actual issue and try to assess the speaker's worldview, philosophies, assumptions —the abstracts behind the concrete. The subject is the issue or idea/at hand, not the character or specific situation.


What is the Tone or attitude of the speaker towards his subject and audience? This is not to be confused with mood, and students often need help generating terms to describe tone.

Classroom Activities

We will begin the unit with an introductory lesson designed to activate schema and access prior knowledge. Students will complete an Internet scavenger hunt that will form the basis for an introductory discussion of the novel. The scavenger hunt will also include questions that lead to building background knowledge in order to form a context in which to frame the introduction of rhetoric. I will have highlighted copies of chapter one of Lord of the Flies to use as scripts that will be performed as Readers' Theater, stopping frequently to check for understanding, while modeling highlighting and annotating techniques that students will continue to do independently throughout the text. This process of Readers' Theater and textual interaction will take place throughout our reading of the novel and will be supported by use of the dialectical journal.

Early in the unit, students will be introduced to the rhetorical appeals and begin to track character dialogue, annotating which appeals characters use most consistently. As more of the reading and textual interaction begins to take place at home, class time will become a forum for discussion of the novel and introduction of the rhetorical appeals and the Five Canons of Rhetoric.

As the unit progresses, students will have an opportunity to conduct close readings of the transcripts of speeches by Hitler, Chamberlain, and Roosevelt, applying their highlighting and annotating skills to these texts, and then using SOAPSTone exercises to analyze the authors' use of rhetoric. Then by viewing film footage of the speeches, we will consider the efficacy of the speakers and their embodiment of the Five Canons of Rhetoric and Monroe's Motivated Sequence.

Throughout the unit we will be discussing Lord of the Flies and the similarities between the speech communities that evolve in the novel and the rhetoric employed in the political speeches that we study.

As a final unit project, students will synthesize their understanding of the novel and their study of rhetoric in order to craft and deliver a two-minute oration in the persona of Ralph, Piggy, or Jack, as the character presents a persuasive speech to the rest of the boys on the island. These orations will be memorized and delivered in class, and they will be evaluated using rubrics to assess their mastery of The Five Canons of Rhetoric and Monroe's Motivated Sequence.


1. Steve Poizner, Mount Pleasant: my journey from creating a billion-dollar company to teaching at a struggling public high school, 27.

2. Ibid., 52.

3. Published in The New York Times, 18 April, 2010.

4. Featured on "Episode 406: True Urban Legends," This American Life, 23 April , 2010.

5. Chapter 1 "School Profile," Mount Pleasant High School, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Report 2013-2014.

6. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts- Literacy, Speaking and Listening 9-10.2: Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

7. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts- Literacy, Speaking and Listening 9-10.3: Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

8. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts- Literacy, Speaking and Listening 9-10.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

9. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts- Literacy, Speaking and Listening 9-10.6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

10. James Jerome Murphy, The Rhetorical tradition and modern writing, 14.

11. Jay Heinrichs, Thank you for arguing: what Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson can teach us about the art of persuasion, 34.

12. Ibid., 35.

13. "Ethos, Pathos, and Logos," Ethos, Pathos, and Logos,

14. Edward P. J. Corbett, Classical rhetoric for the modern student, 32.

14. Ibid., 72.

15. Edward P. J. Corbett, Classical rhetoric for the modern student, 22.

16. Biographical information for William Golding was synthesized from various resources including: William Golding, Lord of the Flies, 50th Anniversary Edition ed. New York: Penguin, 2003., William Golding, and Edmund L. Epstein, Lord of the flies: a novel, New York: Perigee, 1954., and Stephen Boyd, The novels of William Golding.

17. "William Golding," William Golding.

18. Quoted by Paul Crawford, Politics and history in William Golding, 81.

19. Quoted in Bansi, William Golding revisited: a collection of original essays, 76.

20. Ibid., 76.

21. Jack I Biles., and William Golding, Talk: conversations with William Golding, 30.

22. Paul Crawford, Politics and history in William Golding, 2.

23. Ibid., 2

24. William Golding, and Edmund L. Epstein, Lord of the flies: a novel. New York: Perigee, 1954. 212.

25. William Golding, Lord of the Flies, 50th Anniversary Edition ed. New York: Penguin, 2003, 6.

26. Ibid., 23.

27. Quoted in Bytwerk, Landmark speeches of National Socialism, 1.

28. Randall L. Bytwerk, Landmark speeches of National Socialism, 1.

29. Quoted in Bytwerk, 10.

30. William Golding, Lord of the Flies, 50th Anniversary Edition ed. New York: Penguin, 2003, 22.

31. Ibid., 53.

32. Ibid., 53.

33. Robert J. Brown, Manipulating the ether: the power of broadcast radio in thirties America, 27.

34. Timothy Raphael, The president electric Ronald Reagan and the politics of performance, 98.

35. Timothy Raphael, The president electric Ronald Reagan and the politics of performance, 97.

36. "Lesson 1: FDR's Fireside Chats: The Power of Words | EDSITEment,"

37. Ibid.

38. "Miller Center," Fireside Chat 14: On the European War (September 3, 1939)-.

39. Chris Cook, and John Stevenson, The Longman handbook of modern British history, 1714-1995. 349.

40. Quoted in Lindsay, "The Munich Agreement | History Lessons." YouTube.

41. Jean Piaget, The origins of intelligence in children, 19.

42. Tracy Garrett, and Dava O'Connor, "Readers' Theater: 'Hold On, Let's Read it Again.'",7.

43. Ibid., 7.

44. Ibid., 17.


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Comments (1)

    Nguyen Pham (Mt. Pleasant High School, San Jose, CA)
    Subject taught: English, Grade: 9
    Lord of the Ring Unit
    I enjoyed reading the description of the unit. I\'m inspired and want to look for some speeches that I can use as supplemental materials when teaching the books in grade 9. Now, I\'m curious to see what Mark Holston had written for his project. Thank you.

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