It's the same for understanding a topic as broad or complex as Good and Evil in Literature: when you only know part of the picture, you only know part of the picture. Now you all know a lot more. Nice work. You should be proud of yourselves! How can you use what you've learned to see beyond the black and white of a topic and into the grayer areas? What other parts of Good and Evil in Literature could still be explored? Remember, learning never stops.

The Quest

How do authors use good and evil in literature to provide examples for recognizing morality and depravity?


Four of world literature's great works can teach us about the origins of evil. Through its characters such as Grendel from BEOWULF, Jack from LORD OF THE FLIES, Macbeth from THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, and Kurtz from HEART OF DARKNESS, the propensity to do evil rather than good serves as a lesson to help us escape from its costly grip.

Radical evil, like the aforementioned, surfaces in many forms and is personified in literature as figures of the darkness struggling towards the light. They forsake moral guidelines and live a life of corruption until chaos rules their life.

The twin dieties of Good and Evil govern the universe: the Yin-Yang concept provides an explanation of the side of goodness comprised of order and light contrasted with the side of evil depicted with chaos and the dark. Every religious tradition attempts to persuade us to avoid evil and its consequences. Christians look to the life of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Muslims are guided by Allah, Muhammad and the Quran. Jews rely on the laws of Moses and the Talmud to gain wisdom. Buddhism and Hinduism rely on the doctrine of karma describing past thoughts and actions from one's previous life.

To the educated person, evil can be construed as ignorance. As the subject of good and evil goes, poets and authors produce literature that provides characters as examples of this fascination. By examining and participating in this mega-WebQuest, you will come away with an understanding of the disobedience of humanity and fully realize the suffering and death that Grendel, Jack, Macbeth and Kurtz incur. Enjoy your journey and partake in one of education's richest lessons.

The Process and Resources

In this WebQuest you will be working together with a group of students in class. Each group will answer the Task or Quest(ion). As a member of the group you will explore Webpages from people all over the world who care about Good and Evil in Literature. Because these are real Webpages we're tapping into, not things made just for schools, the reading level might challenge you. Feel free to use the online Webster dictionary or one in your classroom.

You'll begin with everyone in your group getting some background before dividing into roles where people on your team become experts on one part of the topic.

ACTIVITY 1- After students read the battle between Grendel and Beowulf in their literature books, students will read the encounter between Grendel and Unferth.

The students discuss the qualities of a hero that the Anglo Saxon poet identifies and compare them with their own concepts.

Students then work in groups to tell the battle between Grendel and Beowulf from Grendel's point of view. They may use either prose of poetry.

Students share their stories with the class.


ACTIVITY 1- In groups, students develop a Survival Manual. The manual should describe the essentials of survival in a foreign or hostile environment and options for materials and strategies using information found on the Web. Students should review the information at the following site and create a manual with a creative cover, table of contents, illustrations and text describing the elements of survival. As a technical document,the manual will report and/or convey information logically and correctly, offer detailed and accurate specifications, include examples to aid comprehension (e.g., troubleshooting guide) and anticipate readers' problems, mistakes, and misunderstandings.

Survival Information
Survival Center
First Aid

ACTIVITY 2- In groups, students find information on conch shells and make a poster of the shell probably used by the boys in the novel. The poster should include the scientific name of the shell chosen, a background of where the chosen shell is found and the symbolic meaning of the shell in the novel. Materials used should include poster sized paper, markers, colored construction paper, scissors and glue. As a response to literature, the poster will advance a judgment that demonstrates a comprehensive grasp of the significant ideas of the symbol, support key ideas through accurate and detailed references to the novel, and assess the impact of the symbol's ambiguities.

Curious About the Conch?
Conch shells
URL: This is a commercial web site for shell collectors with wonderful examples of conch shells.
Comments: This is another commercial web site with pictures of many kinds of shells including conch shells.
Note: The inclusion of the above two links does not constitute an endorsement of the products advertised there.

ACTIVITY 3- Students should be in groups of no more than four. The objective of this activity is to develop a poster sized Spider Map format providing three real-world situations of human right abuse by current governments, as well as the abuses Jack and the hunters inflict on the boys after Jack gains power. Have students read about themes in the novel. The information should be brief and factual and include similar situations to the novel, but it should advance a judgment that shows a comprehensive grasp of theme, supports key ideas, and demonstrates awareness of theme.

Materials used should include poster sized paper, markers, colored construction paper, scissors and glue. Note: The two sites are always being updated, so if one is not working, try the other.

Lord of the Flies
URL: chadly1/lord_of_the_flies/index.html
Comments: This is a wonderful site on the novel which includes a section on themes that students will visit. Also of interest is information on William Golding, the plot, the setting, the characters, and an ongoing bulletin board discussion of the novel.
Use the following Web sites to gather information about human rights situations around the world. Be sure to visit these sites first so you can prepare your students as they include descriptions of torture and other human rights violations.
El Salvador


ACTIVITY 1- For this lesson, it is assumed that students have learned how to work with databases in computer courses. This activity requires students to organize research notes on MacBeth and to formulate a bibliography for a research paper.

Students are to do research on either the 'Elizabethan Age' or 'The Life of William Shakespeare' using the computer to help compile their research topic (e.g. Internet and Library searches using your computer).
Students should make fields in their database that include 'Author, Title, Publisher, City of Publication, Year of Publication, Topic(s), Notes.' Keeping notecards while they compile their research notes will help when they want to key in the information into their database fields. After students have keyed in their records, they will be able to retrieve information and print listings of it. Ensure that students use proper formatting in their bibiliography. After students compile their information, check for correctness and style.
have students answer the following: 'What have you learned about the process of research and the use of the computer to expedite research?'

ACTIVITY 2- Research via the Internet: (This can be used as an evaluation on-line activity after studying about the life of William Shakespeare.)

Go to: Click on the link for Mr. Shakespeare and the Internet link and then take the quiz: A Shakespeare Biography Quiz. Print a copy of the quiz and complete it. When you are finished submit your quiz and results to your teacher for grading.
Go to: Write about where one might find a Shakespeare festival somewhere in North America. Send your writing to your teacher via e-mail link on home page.

ACTIVITY 3- 1. Divide your class into groups of three.

2. Explain to the students that they will be presenting the first two scenes from Macbeth and that each of them will be playing two characters.

3. Ask the class to focus on distinctive physical characterizations and the differences in vocal quality (e.g., volume, tone, rate, inflection) between characters. Since the students will not have props, they must rely on unique movements or behavior for each character.

4. Give the class enough time to look over the scenes, determine meaning, and decide on casting and characterization. I would suggest giving them at least 20 minutes, more if you want characters to develop through repeated rehearsals.

5. Each group will present its scene to the rest of the class. Allow time for questions afterwards so that performers can defend the decisions that they made for each character.

6. After each group has performed, discuss the different choices as well as the similarities in each presentation. Try to determine which nuances of character are essential (if any), and which choices are left to the actor.

ACTIVITY 4- Students will create a paper called 'Time-lapse.' They, and their families, have been transported back to Elizabethan London in the year 1592. They must report on the people, culture, plague, events, and whatever else they can come up with to create as much detail as possible.


ACTIVITY 1- Write Your Own Ending
Near the end of Heart of Darkness, Marlow decides not to tell Kurtz’s wife about her husband’s degradation. When she asks what Kurtz’s final words were, Marlow wants to say “the horror, the horror”—but he can’t. Instead, he tells her that Kurtz merely spoke her name. Critics have often written about this “little white lie.” Some say it illustrates Conrad’s ideas about how we all must be protected from the savagery inside of us, just as Marlow protected Kurtz’s wife from the ugly truth about her husband’s degradation. Some, however, call it the novel’s one striking moment of weakness, when Conrad just couldn’t bear to keep telling the novel’s heavy story. With those ideas in mind, ask your students to write an alternative scene in which Marlow does tell her the truth—not only about Kurtz’s last words, but also about everything Kurtz had become. Ask them to consider what words he might use, what feelings he might have while he tells her, how she might react, and what might happen between them. Encourage them to keep the tone and writing style as consistent as possible with Conrad’s. When their new endings are complete, ask for volunteers to read their scenes aloud, and then lead a discussion about the choices that students’ made.

ACTIVITY 2- Giving Voice
Some readers of Heart of Darkness have argued that the story is racist because Conrad’s African characters rarely speak and have little or no individual identities. Invite your students to “rectify” this situation by imagining that they are one of the African characters appearing in the novel. Ask them to give voice to that character by writing a journal entry describing their experiences during the novel. Their entry need not include precise re-tellings of scenes from the novel; students may choose to create scenes that would likely have occurred during the events of the novel but that Joseph Conrad chose not to depict. Be sure to encourage them to get into the feelings of the character they are writing about, instead of just focusing on the details of the plot. When they are finished, ask a few volunteers to share their work with the class, and then lead a discussion about whether students believe the novel to be racist.

ACTIVITY 3- Colony Stories
King Leopold II’s ownership of the Congo is certainly not the only incident of colonialism in the world’s history—even the United States began as a series of 13 colonies. Ask your students to use the library and the Internet to research basic details about another colony from somewhere in the world—the native peoples, the conditions they lived in, and the rulers who controlled them. When their research is complete, ask them to write a dramatic scene that takes place during the existence of that colony. The scene should include representative details uncovered in their research. Make sure that students consider how the colonial conditions of their characters’ lives affect their actions, feelings, and descriptions. They should strive to make their scenes as realistic as possible.

Phase 1 - Background: Something for Everyone

Use the Internet information linked below to answer the basic questions of who? what? where? when? why? and how? Be creative in exploring the information so that you answer these questions as fully and insightfully as you can.

Phase 2 - Looking Deeper from Different Perspectives


1. Individuals or pairs from your larger WebQuest team will explore one of the roles below.

2. Read through the files linked to your group. If you print out the files, underline the passages that you feel are the most important. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying / pasting it into a word processor or other writing software.

3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point.

4. Be prepared to focus what you've learned into one main opinion that answers the Big Quest(ion) or Task based on what you have learned from the links for your role.


Use the Internet information linked below to understand how good and evil specifically relates to BEOWULF:

  • BEOWULF WebQuest - Completing this WebQuest will make you more aware of how the Anglo-Saxon poets provides a glimpse of good and evil through the eyes of goodness, through the eyes of evil, and through the eyes of man.


Use the Internet information linked below to understand how good and evil specifically relates to LORD OF THE FLIES:

  • LORD OF THE FLIES WebQuest - Completing this WebQuest will make you more aware of how William Golding uses the novel to show us a moral philosophy of man's nature on the island that provokes personality changes in the characters that results in a physiological aspect of good and evil.


Use the Internet information linked below to understand how good and evil specifically relates to MACBETH:

  • MACBETH WebQuest - Completing this WebQuest will make you more aware of William Shakespeare's use of heaven and hell as imagery, using darkness to foreshadow evil, and how order and disorder displays good and evil.


Use the Internet information linked below to understand how good and evil specifically relates to HEART OF DARKNESS:

  • HEART OF DARKNESS WebQuest - Completing this WebQuest will make you more aware of how Joseph Conrad uses ivory corruption and light and dark images to show good in evil. This WebQuest also provides a parallel of the novella with the movie APOCALYPSE NOW.

Phase 3 - Debating, Discussing, and Reaching Consensus

You have all learned about a different part of Good and Evil in Literature. Now group members come back to the larger WebQuest team with expertise gained by searching from one perspective. You must all now answer the Task / Quest(ion) as a group. Each of you will bring a certain viewpoint to the answer: some of you will agree and others disagree. Use information, pictures, movies, facts, opinions, etc. from the Webpages you explored to convince your teammates that your viewpoint is important and should be part of your team's answer to the Task / Quest(ion). Your WebQuest team should write out an answer that everyone on the team can live with.

Phase 4 - Real World Feedback

You and your teammates have learned a lot by dividing up into different roles. Now's the time to put your learning into a letter you'll send out for real world feedback. Together you will write a letter that contains opinions, information, and perspectives that you've gained. Here's the process:

1. Begin your letter with a statement of who you are and why you are writing your message to this particular person or organization.

2. Give background information that shows you understand the topic.


3. Each person in your group should write a paragraph that gives two good reasons supporting the group's opinion. Make sure to be specific in both the information (like where you got it from on the Web) and the reasoning (why the information proves your group's point).

4. Have each person on the team proofread the message. Use correct letter format and make sure you have correctly addressed the email message. Use the link below to make contact. Send your message and make sure your teacher gets a copy.

Your Contact is: Ralph A. Bucci

Oogida Boogida
WebQuest by: Ralph A. Bucci
Web Design by: Nick Leon