The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
A plane evacuating a group of schoolboys following an atomic war apparently is shot down, but not before a passenger capsule containing children is ejected. Initially happy to enjoy an adult-free, fruit-filled, sunny environment on a tropical island where they land, all the boys are determined to have fun. They soon see the need for governance and choose the “fair-haired” Ralph as their leader.
Ralph, like the others, at first sees the absence of adults as an opportunity to have fun, but he soon feels burdened with the weight of a leader’s responsibilities. He symbolically holds a conch shell, which assembles the boys and stands as a symbol of authority. Piggy, a weak-sighted, overweight, asthmatic, cowardly boy, is the group’s source of rational thought and knowledge. He supports the ritual of leadership by finding and identifying the conch as a symbol of leadership.
Ralph’s authority is challenged by Jack, the former leader of the choirboys. Jack, with his red hair and wild blue eyes, eventually extends his power as leader of the hunters to force all the boys into his group. Roger distinguishes himself from the beginning as a person who enjoys hurting others. He deliberately discharges the rock that kills Piggy.
Fear disturbs this boyhood paradise. First articulated by one of the smallest boys, who sees ropes turning into beasts in the night, fear spreads to the older boys, who interpret the corpse of a downed aircraft pilot as a phantom beast. They offer a sacrifice of a pig’s head to appease it. Simon, a quiet, meditative boy, recognizes that the “beast” the boys fear actually is located within the boys themselves. When he crawls out of the jungle to tell the chanting boys of his insight, they attack and kill him.
Rivalry between Ralph and Jack precipitates a breakdown of the decision to build shelters, maintain hygienic conditions, hunt for meat, and maintain a signal fire to effect their rescue. Before long, the faction of hunters has degenerated into paint-wearing, ritual-chanting warriors who first pursue pigs but finally hunt Ralph. In their pursuit, they throw all self-preserving caution to the wind, setting the island on fire and destroying the fruit-bearing trees.
Complete self-destruction is prevented by the arrival of a rescue ship. An officer from the ship is astonished by and disappointed with the apparent misconduct of the dirty young savages who face him.
Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Pacific island. Unnamed tropical island on which the novel is mainly set. The island serves as a metaphor for society in general, providing the setting for the boys’ trials and adventures. Through the use of the only symbol of authority they have, a conch shell, they try to re-create British civilized society. The conch, like a whistle, yields an assembly of older boys and “littluns.” Throughout the novel, the group who identify themselves as choir boys, and are under the leadership of Jack, progressively stray from the civilized behavior of the assembly area and into irresponsible anarchy.
The Scar. Meeting place where the boys, led by Ralph, hold assemblies in imitation of Great Britain’s Parliament. Created by the plane crash, free of tropical vegetation, and level and sandy, it is the site of three crude huts. It is also the site of the docking of the rescue cutter that comes ashore from the cruiser.
Mountain. Site selected by Piggy and Ralph as the most obvious place to build a signal fire for smoke, the means of attracting rescuers. Irresponsibility by the littluns allows the fire to get out of control, taking the life of a littlun. Jack’s hunters cause the keepers of the fire to abandon it for the joy of hunting. The fire goes out; the possible rescue ship passes without seeing the smoke. The mountain is also the place of “the beast”...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. Who are the first two characters to appear in the story?
2. What do Ralph and Piggy find in the small lagoon?
3. How does Ralph summon the others?
4. Who is elected chief?
5. For what purpose does Jack Merridew want his choir used?
6. What assignment does Ralph give Piggy instead of allowing him to join the exploration expedition?
7. Who does Ralph select to accompany him on the expedition?
8. What weapon does Jack possess?
9. What does Simon call the strange bushes they find?
10. Why does the piglet trapped in the creeper vines escape?
(The entire section is 165 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Ralph get the idea for using the conch to speak?
2. Why is Jack so enthusiastic about the possibility of creating rules?
3. Which boy pessimistically introduces the reality that they may never be rescued?
4. Who first mentions “the beastie”?
5. Who is the last to join the boys on the mountain to make a fire?
6. How do the boys start the fire?
7. How does the fire become uncontrollable?
8. Who defends Piggy from Jack for not helping with the fire?
9. How does Piggy first notice a boy is missing, even though he doesn’t know his name?
10. What causes the drum-roll sound...
(The entire section is 211 words.)
Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
1. What sort of weapon is Jack using to hunt pigs?
2. How does Jack know there is a pig in the creepers ahead of him?
3. How are the boys collecting drinking water?
4. Who helps Ralph with the hut building?
5. How many huts have the boys managed to build?
6. What does Jack claim to feel behind him when he hunts?
7. What does Jack suggest will make him a better hunter?
8. Which boy does Jack view as odd?
9. Where does Simon go in the jungle?
10. When do the candle-buds that Simon sees bloom?
1. Jack uses a five-foot sharpened stick.
(The entire section is 164 words.)
Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
1. Which three littluns are playing on the beach as the chapter opens?
2. Who destroys the littluns’ sandcastles?
3. What does Roger do to cruelly bother Henry?
4. What substances and colors does Jack use to paint his face?
5. What item does Piggy suggest they build with a stick?
6. What does Ralph spot on the horizon?
7. Why is the signal fire out?
8. What violence does Jack commit toward Piggy?
9. How did the hunters kill the pig?
10. Who gives Piggy meat despite Jack’s objection?
1. Percival, Henry, and Johnny are playing on the beach....
(The entire section is 182 words.)
Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
1. What time of day does Ralph unwisely choose for this assembly?
2. Which matters does Ralph intend to address and solve?
3. Who first speaks of the beast in the jungle?
4. Who first introduces the notion that the beast comes from the sea?
5. Which of the boys is the first to denounce the power of the conch?
6. Who does Ralph chastise for wandering in the jungle at night?
7. Which of the boys suggests that the beast could be from the sea because all the creatures in the sea haven’t been found yet?
8. Who recognizes the true nature of the beast on the island, but is unable to express it to others?
(The entire section is 279 words.)
Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
1. What falls onto the island during the night?
2. Who is tending the fire when the “beast” is discovered?
3. What makes the “beast” move?
4. What does Ralph tell Jack to do at the meeting when Jack tries to talk out of turn?
5. What do the boys discover when they get to the tail end of the island?
6. Who volunteers to go first and see if the beast is ahead?
7. How does Jack view the island abutment they discover?
8. What do the boys do when they enter the small island?
9. What does Ralph urge them to concentrate on instead?
10. Who leads the boys off the island?
(The entire section is 184 words.)
Chapter 7 Questions and Answers
1. For what does Ralph long when the boys first stop and rest?
2. Of what does Ralph dream when he contemplates the sea?
3. Who correctly interprets Ralph’s reverie as a longing to be rescued?
4. What do Jack and the boys do when the boar charges?
5. What does Ralph do when the boar charges?
6. Who plays the pig in the boys’ mock pig-killing scene?
7. Which of the boys volunteers to return to Piggy alone in the dark?
8. Which three boys continue to the mountain to encounter the beast?
9. Which part of the beast do the boys see?
10. What do the boys do when they see the beast?...
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. Who calls the assembly to discuss the beast?
2. What lie does Jack tell the others at the assembly?
3. What does Jack do before he leaves the assembly?
4. What is Piggy’s radical idea concerning the fire?
5. What feast does Piggy supply for Ralph and the fire builders?
6. How does Roger help in killing the sow?
7. What do the boys do with the pig after they kill it?
8. Who converses with the pig’s head about the nature of the beast?
9. What does Jack’s raiding party steal?
10. What threat does the beast make to Simon at the end of the chapter?
(The entire section is 199 words.)
Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. In Simon’s secret place, which source of food do the flies prefer?
2. Where does Simon decide to go?
3. What does Simon do to the figure on the mountainside?
4. Who suggests Ralph and Piggy should go to the party?
5. How is it that Ralph and Piggy’s awkward presence at the party is accepted?
6. What does Jack declare about the conch to Ralph?
7. What is the weather like toward the end of the party?
8. What chant do the boys sing as they dance?
9. Who emerges from the jungle with the secret of the beast?
10. What scares the boys and sends them scattering?
(The entire section is 231 words.)
Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
1. Who is left among the boys that remain loyal to Ralph?
2. What rationalization do Ralph and Piggy arrive at concerning their role in Simon’s death?
3. What does Jack plan to do in order to enable his followers to have another feast?
4. Why is Roger so excited at the prospect of the beating of Willard?
5. What sacrifice to the beast does Jack order?
6. Why will it be so difficult for Ralph’s group to keep the fire going?
7. How does Ralph suggest Piggy contact his aunt?
8. Who does Ralph fight during the attack?
9. What does Ralph’s attacker do to him during the fight?
(The entire section is 238 words.)
Chapter 11 Questions and Answers
1. In the beginning of the chapter, what does Piggy tell Ralph to do with the conch?
2. What reason will Piggy give Jack for the return of his glasses?
3. What does Ralph declare their appearance will be when they approach Jack?
4. Who challenges the boys on their approach to Castle Rock?
5. When Jack appears, what has he been doing?
6. What does Ralph call Jack that provokes a fight?
7. What happens to Samneric after the fight?
8. What is Roger doing during Piggy’s plea for a return to decency?
9. Who releases the rock that kills Piggy and destroys the conch?
10. Who takes over the...
(The entire section is 203 words.)
Chapter 12 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Ralph first hide from his pursuers?
2. Who gives Ralph meat from Jack’s feast?
3. Why did Samneric join Jack’s tribe?
4. What has Roger prepared for Ralph?
5. How does Jack’s tribe flush Ralph from hiding?
6. What does Ralph discover when he flees to the beach?
7. How does Jack appear on the beach?
8. What boy cannot remember his name?
9. Who takes responsibility for the events on the island?
10. Why is the naval officer disappointed in the boys?
1. Ralph hides in the bushes near Castle Rock.
2. Sam gives Ralph...
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Baker, James, ed. Critical Essays on William Golding. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988. Twelve wide-ranging essays by critics and part of Baker’s interview with Golding. Includes Golding’s Nobel Prize address.
Dick, Bernard F. William Golding. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Contains a chronology of Golding’s literary career.
Friedman, Lawrence S. William Golding. New York: Continuum, 1993. Sets Lord of the Flies in the context of Golding’s entire body of work. The philosophical first chapter is especially useful in focusing on significant themes and concerns.
Gindin, James. William Golding. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. A biography and survey...
(The entire section is 143 words.)