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Lord of the Flies Versus Othello: Character Analysis

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The author behind one of the most well-known television series once stated that, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” George R. R. Martin, the writer of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire later adapted into the HBO series Game of Thrones, modernized a once-popular William Shakespeare quote for one of his novels; who knew that this one quote would be heard by millions of people who have never read his books, let alone included in this graduation speech. As someone who doesn’t read much outside of the classroom, I felt a bit offended when I first heard this quote. In middle school, there was a girl sitting next to me reading a book. I asked what it was called and she replied that I ‘wouldn’t understand’ because I don’t read. First of all, rude. Second of all, just because I don’t read doesn’t mean I don’t understand English. That’s when she proceeded to quote Martin; it felt as if she had just threatened me and my intelligence. Looking back at that memory now, I feel slightly less offended partly because I noticed she was reading an Archie Comic and partly because I can finally understand the full meaning of the quote. Reading a book is like taking a class from a professor. Reading and evaluating literature is one of the many ways we can learn and grow.

This year we read multiple iconic pieces of literature and were given the opportunity to share our ideas and opinions on the topics. The first book we were assigned was Lord of the Flies by William Golding which had one of the most memorable scenes by far. Everyone’s heartstrings were pulled when perhaps one of the most relatable characters was crushed by rocks after falling off a cliff. Piggy was often the comic relief in this tale of savagery and civilization. He was a light in the story meant to shed knowledge and logic over the other characters as well as a beacon of hope for anyone who would listen. Like the characters in this book, we are also kids. And like them, we’re about to be dropped somewhere scary and unknown. We all used to be Piggy at some point in our lives: quoting an adult like they are the bible, wanting to make a better name for ourselves, and full of hope. We need to go back to being that kid again if we want to continue growing and enjoying life; maybe not caring about our childhood nicknames as much but still having hope. Either it’s hope that we’ll be rescued from an island we crash-landed on or hope that we are making the right decision and are taking the right steps into our futures. While most of us probably won’t remember what exactly the Lord of the Flies was about in 25 years, we will remember Piggy, his tragic end, and the hope he displayed through such strange and scary times.

While Lord of the Flies may have been an interesting novel, it didn’t teach us many new lessons. Unless, of course, you didn’t previously know that you shouldn’t set a forest on fire to kill a little boy. Our most recent read, however, did reinforce a lesson many of us already have been taught. Wuthering Heights and its theme of nature versus nurture provide insight into what a difficult and disastrous life looks like. This piece of literature was full of abusive father figures, poisonous love, and death. Plenty of death. Its main theme was based on the philosophical question of whether a person’s behavior stems from their inherited traits or acquired traits. Wuthering Heights is the poster child for the popular saying “your past doesn’t define you.” The contrast created between Heathcliff and Hareton illustrates the different ways someone can respond to the struggles in their life. While displaying this nature versus nurture idea, the book highlights the fact that the one person you can always depend on is yourself. You dictate how you react to the obstacles in your life, which leads to the main lesson you can learn from the novel. We must take care of ourselves. Let’s look at Hareton for a second. The way this kid’s life was going, he shouldn’t have lived to be the hard-working and kind-hearted man he is. He probably shouldn’t even have made it to be twenty. Heathcliff made it his life’s purpose to destroy that kid and turn him into a monster like himself. Hareton refused to let his dark upbringing dim down his bright future. Currently, we’re out of school because of a worldwide pandemic. The only way to protect our family and community is by taking care of ourselves physically, and even mentally. We can’t let our past struggles define our future successes. It is our job to take responsibility for ourselves so that each of us can go on to live out the life God has planned for us.

From all the pieces of literature we have read so far, Othello has been my favorite by far. Sure, it taught us about the blurred line between jealousy and love as well as the complexity of doubt and trust, but the advice I took from the play was quite simple. Don’t lie. After reading this story about a manipulative man wanting to ruin the lives of his friends, I learned to not lie. Again, this is probably advice we have all received before but Othello really emphasized this for me. Iago’s whole plan was built on the trust he had with other characters. While Iago is probably one of the smartest villains I know of, his plan would not have been successful if it wasn’t for the common mistake made by the other characters: lying. The characters’ small, white lies here-and-there inhibited their communication with each other allowing Iago’s plan to follow through. As my mom always tells me, “the truth will always find its way out.” I have learned numerous times that, as much as I hate to admit it, moms are always right. How is this possible? Well, I have no clue but it’s a fact. Think about it. Maybe if Othello had his mommy there, he wouldn’t have killed his faithful wife or himself. Or, if Iago’s mom was there, maybe the plan wouldn’t have even been made to start with. Many tragic deaths could have been prevented if people just stopped lying. If people can just be honest with others as well as themselves, then lying isn’t even necessary.

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Fellow graduates, today we are entering the so-called Real World. The idea that we don’t enter the real world until we graduate is such an absurd point of view. As high school students, most of us may not have had to deal with taxes or mortgages yet but that doesn’t mean we haven’t gone through difficult times. Mourning the death of a loved one, struggling to pass a class, being rejected by your crush, having to wave goodbye to life-long friends, and growing up sooner than we wanted to. We have all run into life’s obstacles at some point or another, but we don’t have to let those past struggles define us. This year, we were introduced to Emily Brontë’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. We learned that taking care of ourselves should always be a priority since we can always depend on ourselves. We remembered Piggy and honored his unfortunate death as we acknowledged the importance of having hope. Finally, we took advice from the poetic and verbose Shakespeare. He taught us to listen to our mothers when they tell us to speak only the truth. Lying and dwelling on our past only hurt us. However, having hope and caring for ourselves allows us to grow as people and as a community.

Greatest Villain Award

A great villain is one who has all the good qualities of the hero and has the audience begging for more. While nobody wants to admit it, humans thrive off of chaos; it is the perfect entertainment. In Othello, Shakespeare creates an intelligent and skillful actor, Iago. He portrays the kindest, most trustworthy friend a man could ask for. He is even referred to as “Honest Iago” which displays his Machiavellian abilities of deception (Othello I. iii. 292). Like a dirty cop, he is the one people go to for help and would never be the suspect of any crime. The personification of pure evil is the simplest way to describe Iago. An unrepentant, cunning schemer who can gracefully manipulate anyone he wants, Iago is only satisfied by actions that benefit him and harm others. Driven by his want to make all good appear evil, Iago uses his friends merely as instruments to orchestrate his malevolent plans.

Like a true villain, Iago uses his charm and smarts to convince those around him that he is a good guy. However, unlike most villains, Iago has no real motive. He is not a man who lived a long, difficult life. It is human nature to find reasons for a person’s behavior. Humans feel obligated to feel bad for the antagonist because of their past or to root for the protagonist because of their good morals. When the villain is played by a homeless old man whose family was killed, the audience can feel empathy for the character. In Wuthering Heights, the audience feels pity for Heathcliff because of his childhood. Iago is unlike most villains; he is not a homeless old man or an orphan with a disastrous upbringing. He is a twenty-seven year old Venetian with a good reputation who has never truly been wronged. His young age and privileged lifestyle makes it impossible for the audience to feel any empathy towards Iago and his actions; this really only escalates the audience’s hatred for the character. Iago does mention that ‘[Cassio] hath a daily beauty in his life, / That makes [him] ugly’ which implies that envy may be his motive (Othello V.i.19-20). However, he is going to extreme lengths just to satisfy his need for revenge. In reality, Iago has no motive; he is scheming simply because he likes to exercise the power he has over others.

Iago’s ability to speak a million words without opening his mouth grants him another advantage against his targets. It is not only what he tells others, but how he tells others that enables him to plant seeds in the minds of others. Throughout the play, Iago places his own thoughts and ideas into the minds of his friends making them believe it was their consciousness that made it up all along. He plants seeds of doubt by hinting, asking leading questions, and hesitating during specific times of a conversation. Iago utilizes the good qualities of Othello and Desdemona as catalysts in their own downfall since Iago believes that “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (Macbeth I.i.11). He abuses all that is ‘good’ and twists it until that ‘good’ can be molded as a weapon for his own recreational use. Iago is a genius in the sense that he makes others do his work for him. In order to convince Othello that his faithful wife is a wretched cheater, Iago declares that he will “turn her virtue into pitch; / and out of her own goodness make the net that shall enmesh them all” (Othello II.iii.348–150). His ability to continuously lie to his closest friends makes him appear reliable, ultimately proving to the audience the level of deception he is capable of.

Shakespeare provides Iago with the clever, calculated, and ruthless personality he needs in order to manipulate the innocent characters around him. Iago is indirectly responsible for the deaths of his wife, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Othello. He constantly lies to his closest friends and makes himself look better at the same time; his ability to be perceived as a noble man allows him to accomplish his goals without having to bear much fallout. By following through with such harmful, motiveless schemes, Iago paints himself to be the cold, heartless devil from the beginning; this makes it impossible for the audience to feel any other emotion besides hatred towards him throughout the rest of the play. Driven purely by the want to exercise his power and cause chaos, Iago crowns himself the villain of all villains.

Works Cited

  1. Martin, George R. R. A Dance with Dragons. New York, Bantam Books, 2011.
  2. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Edward Pechter, New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2004.
  3. Shakespeare, William, et al. Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Hoboken, Wiley, 2005.

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Lord of the Flies Versus Othello: Character Analysis. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-versus-othello-character-analysis/
“Lord of the Flies Versus Othello: Character Analysis.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-versus-othello-character-analysis/
Lord of the Flies Versus Othello: Character Analysis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-versus-othello-character-analysis/> [Accessed 9 Aug. 2022].
Lord of the Flies Versus Othello: Character Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/lord-of-the-flies-versus-othello-character-analysis/
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