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Lord of the Flies Plot Summary

Set during World War II, the story describes the plight of a group of British schoolboys stranded on a Pacific island after their plane was shot down en route to England. Two of the boys, Ralph and Piggy, discover a conch in the lagoon near the beach and use it to call all the other survivors, setting up a mock democratic government with Ralph as leader. Piggy continues to advise and give logic and reason to Ralph's rule. A signal fire, kindled with the lens of Piggy's glasses, is established on the mountain to call passing ships to their rescue while shelters are constructed.

However, the school's choir leader, Jack, soon becomes obsessed with hunting the pigs of the island and loses sight of Ralph's democratic vision. Further discord results with an increasing fear of a supposed "beast" on the island, stemming particularly from the younger boys dubbed the "littluns." Jack eventually abandons any thought of being rescued, content instead with hunting and killing pigs with his choir boys turned into hunters. Jack later speaks out of turn during their assembly meetings and eventually leaves the group to start a "tribe." Other children gradually defect to his side except for Ralph, Piggy, Simon and the twins Samneric (Sam and Eric). One by one these children are eliminated from the opposition.

Upon discovering the beast the boys had all feared on the mountain is only the rotting corpse of a pilot whose plane had been shot down near the island, Simon runs down from the mountain to share this happy news. However the boys (including Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric) are all, following Jack's example, caught up in a primal ritual celebrating the murder of a pig they have just eaten and Simon runs into the midst of this. Mistaken to be the beast, Simon is killed by the boys' spears.

Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric remain resistant to joining Jack's tribe. They attempt to cling to the democracy they had set up, still using the conch to call an assembly and struggling to keep a signal fire burning on the beach. Then Jack and his hunters attack the four and steal Piggy's glasses to kindle the fire he needs for pig-roasting fires. Angry and blinded, Piggy decides to go to the place on the island called Castle Rock where the hunters have set up a base. Reluctantly, Ralph and Samneric agree and upon arriving Roger stops them at the gate. Jack emerges from the forest and begins to fight with Ralph while Piggy stands nearby shrieking in fear, wanting only for his sight be restored by retrieving his glasses. Samneric are seized at Jack's command by the hunters and Roger, Jack's second-in-command, drops a large boulder on the head of Piggy, killing him and shattering the conch which he holds in his hands. Ralph alone is left to flee, with no friends left to aid him. Samneric have become hunters as well and betray the secret of his hiding place in the forest to Jack. The island is set ablaze and hunters fan out to kill Ralph with their spears, the sole remaining opposition to their tribe, as even now he tries to cling to his old democratic ideas.

Running wildly and suddenly becoming savage himself, Ralph stabs with his spear at the hunters pursuing him, chased by all until he at last comes to the beach. The shelters he had built with such labor are in flames and, falling at last upon the sand with the sea before him and nowhere left to run, Ralph looks up to see a naval officer. Rescue comes at last to the boys' aid, seeing the smoke from the mighty blaze set by Jack's hunters after Ralph's signal fire had earlier failed to alert anyone of their presence. When the officer expresses disapproval for the savage state and chaos to which the boys have reverted, Ralph breaks down in tears. Soon, all the hunters begin crying at the sight of grown-ups on the beach. Ralph weeps for "the end of innocence" and "the darkness of man's heart."

Island Map with Labels

Main Characters:

  • Ralph - The main protagonist and elected leader of the boys. He is a twelve year old British pupil and the group’s common sense. Ralph tries to maintain a sense of order, structure and discipline. He represents the civilizing instinct of human beings while Jack represents savagery and evil.

  • Jack - The antagonist of the novel. One of the older boys and leader of the choir, he easily acquires a following of boys and they become “the hunters”. Jack becomes increasingly dark and disturbed. He is representative of the evil that exists within all men that manifests in uncivilized situations.

  • Simon - The “enlightened” one. He is the only boy who has a true natural sense of morality. He spends a lot of time alone and is one with nature which lends him to ridicule from the other boys. Simon helps the younger boys and comforts them in their frightful moments. Simon is also the only boy courageous enough to venture to the other side of the mountain to investigate the beast. His death is similar to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

  • Piggy - The “brain”. He is the scientific mind, the rational thinker. Though criticized for his weight, asthma and lack of physical agility Piggy’s bright thinking helps the group create innovative tools and in actuality, survive. Piggy is Ralph right hand man, so his death leaves Ralph alone in the battle against Jack’s savages.

  • Roger - An oddly secretive and sadistic older boy. He thrives on preying on those younger and weaker. He quickly becomes Jack’s first follower and carries out Jack’s evil wishes.

  • Sam and Eric - Also known as “samneric”. Twin boys who seem to be one person. They are always together and complete one another’s sentences. They are allies of Ralph and enjoy their duty of keeping the signal fire going. Jack eventually tortures them into joining his tribe.

Teacher Resources

1.Lord of the Flies has been called "a fable in which the characters are symbols for abstract ideas." Explain this statement by analyzing each of the major characters (Ralph, Jack, Piggy, Simon, and Roger) in terms of his distinctive character traits and the human quality he might symbolize.

Defend and/or criticize Ralph's actions as leader. What were his motivations? Did he contribute to the tragedy in any way? Could he have acted to prevent any of the deaths? What would you have done differently in his situation?

3. Describe the religious imagery in Lord of the Flies: the forces of good and evil, a fall from grace, a savior, and eventual redemption. How does Golding's depiction of the island compare to the Garden of Eden?

4. Analyze the student population in your school and the various groups or cliques that exist. Discuss whether there are certain mannerisms, clothing preferences, behavior codes, or other qualities that characterize each group. Have you ever known a group member outside the context of his or her group? Did that person behave differently when not under the direct influence of the group?

5. Some readers of Lord of the Flies have argued that each and every one of the boys' actions is nothing more than an attempt to survive in difficult conditions. Think about the mounting of the sow's head, Simon's ascent up the mountain, and the murder of Piggy in particular, as well as any other key scenes that stand out for you. Is it fair to say that the boys' actions were merely the result of the human survival instinct? Why or why not? If so, can you use these examples to draw some general conclusions about the human instinct to survive?

6. Suppose the plot of Lord of the Flies involved a planeload of marooned girls, or a mixed group of girls and boys, instead of all boys. Do you think the same violent and cruel tendencies would have emerged on the island? Explain your answer in detail. If you think the outcome would have been different, explain how and why.

7. How does Ralph’s relationship with Jack change as the novel progresses? There are clear moments of real liking – what goes wrong? How does Golding show us the change?

  • Piggy’s relationships with both Jack and Ralph are worth deep analysis. This could be charted diagrammatically. Draw students’ attention to Piggy’s understanding of how Jack is going to behave – for example, the idea that if Jack cannot get at Ralph, he WILL get at Piggy. Piggy’s relationship with Ralph repays some research: look with students at all the support Piggy gives to Ralph. Re-read the words near the end of the novel where the writer puts in his own comment about what Ralph may have thought of Piggy.

  • Simon’s relationship with both Ralph and Piggy is also interesting. There is loyalty there, hard work, commitment. Look also at that strange moment at which Simon tells Ralph that he thinks Ralph will survive, will get back.

  • More loyalty is evident in the relationship that Sam’n’Eric have with Ralph: this becomes especially interesting when Ralph is the outcast and Sam’n’Eric are forced to be on guard against him.

Source: Lessons from Literature.org

Link: A Huge Resource Page for Lord of the Flies at Lordalford.com