Ralph, a British schoolboy who is the boys’ chief until Jack weans them away and turns Ralph into their prey. Ralph is the chief spokesman for civilized values in the novel. It is Ralph who finds the conch shell that comes to symbolize order and Ralph who advocates building shelter and keeping a fire going. The son of a naval officer, Ralph is dedicated to duty and the hope of eventual rescue. For Ralph, keeping a fire going is almost an obsession, and it is ironic that the fire set at the end of the novel to drive him out of hiding attracts the ship that lands to rescue the boys. At times, however, Ralph is tempted by the allure of barbarism, a conflict apparent early in the novel when he encounters Piggy. First taunting Piggy, then regretting his behavior, he foreshadows his later hesitancy in asserting the values he initially represents. In fact, Ralph is toying with the idea of giving in and joining Jack’s band when he learns that Jack is planning to kill him.
Jack Merridew, another schoolboy, Ralph’s antagonist. Jack is a charismatic leader unable to accept a subservient role in the society created by the boys. He revels in the hunt and the power it confers on him, and he relishes the anarchy accorded the group by the absence of adult supervision. Jack uses fear, ritual, and violence to secure the blind obedience of the other boys. For Jack, superior strength and weaponry, not rules, agreements, and elections, confer leadership. Early in the novel, he lashes out at Piggy, breaking his glasses. It is as if he realizes that Piggy provides the intellectual foundation for Ralph’s leadership and that, without Piggy, Ralph would be malleable.
Piggy, the intellectual of the group, an overweight, nearsighted, asthmatic boy. Piggy is an object of ridicule, suffering the group’s taunts and its contempt. He relies on Ralph for protection but also functions as Ralph’s adviser, refusing to let him forget that survival depends on rules and order. The breaking of Piggy’s spectacles—one lens at a time—symbolizes the breaking of the last link to civilized values, and Piggy’s death represents barbarism and evil triumphant. Moments before his death, Piggy seizes the conch (which, along with Piggy and his spectacles, is smashed by a boulder) and demands that the boys choose between rules and killing, between law and “breaking things up.”
Simon, a strange, introverted boy. Early on, Simon seems aware that something is amiss and withdraws to meditate in a secret hiding place. In a critical scene, he confronts the head of the pig (Jack’s offering to “the beast”) and struggles with the realization that civilization and its trappings are but a flimsy veil thrown over human depravity. Simon discovers the dead parachutist and returns to reveal the true identity of the beast, but he is killed by the frenzied, chanting hunters.
Eric, twins whom the boys call “Samneric.” They are Ralph’s last followers, loyal to the end. Only when captured by Jack and his hunters and subjected to torture do they switch sides. Even then, they warn Ralph of the fate Jack has in mind for him. They are later forced to reveal Ralph’s hiding place.
Roger, one of Jack’s first followers. It is Roger who tips the boulder that crushes Piggy. Although the act itself is a product of a “delirious abandonment” born of the violence and excitement of the moment (Ralph and Jack fighting), it confers on Roger the status of executioner, a role he seems to accept and even relish.