Summary of the Novel
Lord of the Flies is set at a vague point in the future during an atomic war. A planeload of British schoolchildren is shot down and marooned on a deserted island. There are no adults present.
As the story opens, the jungle on the island is severely scarred from the wreckage of the plane. Two boys, the fair-haired, charismatic Ralph, and the fat, asthmatic, thickly bespectacled Piggy, emerge from the jungle.
While they are swimming in a shallow pool inside a lagoon, Ralph discovers a beautiful conch shell. Piggy, slightly smarter, suggests he blow it as a signal for other survivors.
One by one, boys of varying ages from six to twelve appear from the jungle. Among them are several older boys, identical twins Sam and Eric (sometimes referred to as Samneric due to their lack of individual identity), the quiet but strange Roger, thoughtful Simon, and charismatic Jack Merridew, leader of the choir.
While absorbing the view, the boys come upon a wild piglet caught in some creeper vines. Jack takes out a large knife and prepares to kill the pig. He hesitates, and the pig escapes. Jack is upset by what he perceives to be Ralph’s condemnation of his hesitation. He silently vows to himself, “Next time there would be no mercy.”
Later, Ralph uses the conch to call another meeting. It is decided that whoever holds the conch shell will have the right to speak at the meetings. A small boy with a mulberry-colored birthmark obscuring half of his face receives the conch. He tells the others of a “beastie” that comes in the dark and wants to eat him. Some deny its existence, but Jack vows to hunt it when he and his hunters hunt pig for meat.
Next, the boys decide that they must make a signal fire on the mountain to attract ships to rescue them. They gather wood and use Piggy’s glasses to start the fire. In their exuberance and inexperience, they allow the fire to rage out of control and it consumes a large portion of the jungle. The small boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark disappears and is never seen again. It is implied he was killed in the fire.
Jack quickly learns the art of hunting, but still hasn’t gotten a pig. While he hunts, Ralph and Simon build poorly constructed shelters on the beach from palm trunks and fronds. Jack returns from his unsuccessful hunt, and he and Ralph clash over the decision to hunt or build the shelters.
Simon discovers a secret place in the jungle. It is a hollow completely obscured by creeper vines. He sits here, away from the others, and contemplates the beauty of the jungle.
As time passes, the boys begin to resemble less and less the civilized British schoolchildren they used to be. Their uniforms deteriorate and their hair grows long and ragged. A marked boundary begins to grow between the younger children (littluns) who play all day, and the older children (biguns) who seem to be growing divided as to their responsibilities.
Ralph, Piggy, Simon, Sam and Eric see the need for order and civilization, while Jack and his hunters become obsessed with the ideas of finding meat and protecting the littluns from the beast.
Jack introduces his hunters to the notion of camouflaging their features with red and white clay and black charcoal for hunting. This gradual masking of their identities allows them to become more ruthless and effective hunters.
Presently, the smoke from a ship passing the island is discovered, but Jack and the hunters, preoccupied with hunting, have let the signal fire they were tending go out. Jack returns from the hunt, triumphant over killing a pig and slitting its throat himself, only to be rebuffed by Ralph for neglecting the fire.
The boys clash on the matter, but eventually all share in consuming the meat. Ralph calls another meeting to deal with the situation involving the signal fire. Another littlun, Phil, speaks of his dreams of the beast. This again inspires Jack to lobby for the necessity of his hunters. He and Ralph argue again over the importance of the signal fire versus the meat. Jack declares his disgust and he and his hunters leave the meeting.
Ralph considers giving up being chief. Piggy, who fears Jack, tries to convince him not to.
That night, unseen by the castaways, there is a fight between aircraft ten miles in the sky over the island. A dead parachutist lands on the side of the mountain in a sitting position. The wind, catching in the parachute, makes the figure rock back and forth.
The boys, thinking it is the beast, argue over whether or not to approach it. The boys, led by Ralph with an angry Jack in tow, travel to the mountainside to see the beast. Jack sees the natural bridge to the island’s outcropping. He decides that the separate island, joined to the main island by a rock ledge, would make a great fort. It contains many rocks that could be rolled onto the approach path to kill enemies. He and Ralph argue again, and Jack verbally denies any further loyalty to the conch and its power.
The boys’ continued expedition to the figure on the mountain is interrupted when the boys flush a boar. Ralph wounds it when it charges him. The boar escapes, but they celebrate the encounter with another primitive blood lust dance in which Robert, pretending to be the pig, is beaten by the hunters who are overly excited by the dance. Ralph’s bravery in the face of the boar’s charge is forgotten.
As the day wanes, most of the boys have returned to the shelters, but Ralph, Jack, and Roger have pressed on and apprehensively approach the figure. The wind causes it to move and the boys see its decaying face in the darkness. They all flee.
At the next meeting, Jack and Ralph question each other’s bravery on the mountain. Jack convinces his hunters to separate themselves from the rest.
Following Piggy’s suggestion Ralph, Simon, and Samneric try to maintain a signal fire down off the mountain, away from Jack and his hunters. Jack orders his hunters to kill a pig for a feast, hoping that the roasting meat will draw the others’ loyalty away from Ralph. They kill a pig and he orders them to mount its head on a stick as a sacrifice for the beast.
Simon, who had been in his hiding place, contemplates the head of the boar that the hunters had unknowingly impaled near him. He imagines a conversation with the head, and begins to see in it the source of evil on the island. He has an epileptic seizure. He awakens, and the head again reveals itself to him as the symbol of anarchy on the island. Simon has a second seizure.
Simon awakens again and climbs the mountain to view the figure of the dead parachutist that the boys believe is the beast. He discovers that it is harmless, and that the true nature of what the boys should fear, the real beast, is symbolized by the pig’s head. He returns to tell the others.
Meanwhile, Jack and his hunters roast the pig, and the others, including Ralph and Piggy, join the feast. Ralph and Jack argue again and most of the boys side with Jack this time. Ralph tries to convince them that they need shelters, but Jack distracts them by commanding another blood lust dance. The boys become so swept up in the dance that Simon, emerging from the forest, is mistaken for the beast. All the boys, marginally including Ralph and Piggy, beat him to death. The tide sweeps his body out to sea.
Back at the shelters, Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric contemplate their roles in Simon’s death. That night, Jack and his hunters attack them and steal Piggy’s glasses for a fire.
The next day, Ralph, Samneric, and Piggy approach Castle Rock, where Jack’s tribe has gathered, to demand the return of Piggy’s glasses. Ralph wants to reestablish the power of the conch.
He and Samneric approach the hunters while Piggy and the conch stay on the stone bridge. Jack and Ralph argue again while the hunters take Samneric prisoner. Roger releases a rock they had rigged to guard the bridge. It falls on Piggy, smashes the conch, and plunges Piggy over the edge to his death.
Ralph escapes and the hunters hunt him. He hides near Castle Rock but only manages to learn that Roger has tortured Samneric into joining the hunt. Samneric now fear Roger, the sadist, more than Jack.
Eventually, the hunters corner Ralph in Simon’s old hiding place. They flush him from concealment with a fire. Ralph manages to escape to the beach with the hunters right behind.
He comes face to face with a shocked naval officer. A battle cruiser has docked in the lagoon, drawn by the smoke from Jack’s fire. The officer is appalled at the savage condition of the children. Ralph assumes responsibility for what appears to be poor leadership. Ralph begins to weep for the three dead children and the castaways’ loss of innocence.
Jack emerges onto the beach without his hunting camouflage or weapons. Only Piggy’s broken glasses on his belt give any indication of his previous savagery.
One of the littluns cannot remember his own name. The officer, embarrassed by what he mistakenly perceives to be Ralph’s undignified relief at rescue, turns away and stares at his warship in the lagoon.
About William Golding
As a child and adolescent William Golding like others in the innocent years before the War, had a fundamentally simple conception of the world. In a generic mode of thinking, during the years before the massive cruelty, devastation, and destruction wrought by World War II the prevailing concept of man and society included two basic viewpoints: man was essentially good and society was inherently evil. Golding's belief in this concept can be seen in his childhood reading choices, which included adventure stories like Tarzan of the Apes, Coral Island, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. These stories featured good and pure men in their struggle against the evils of society.
Golding's opinions toward mankind and society changed with the course of the war. He fought during World War II as a member of the Royal Navy. His experience included clashes with enemy naval vessels as well as participation in the Walcheren and D-Day operations. He witnessed firsthand the terrible destructive power of man operating during war, essentially outside the restrictive limits of society. With war as his tutor, he began to view man, instead, as a creature with a very dark and evil side to his nature. Lord of the Flies, as well as Golding's other works, essentially explores the dark side of what Golding felt was the true nature of man: evil.
The critical notes by E.L. Epstein, following the text in the edition of the book used for this study guide, contain an informative interpretation of the story’s central image, integral to understanding the allegorical implications of the novel:
The central symbol itself, the “lord of the flies” [physically represented in the novel by the pig’s head Jack’s tribe mounts on a sharpened stick, and abstractly represented by the boy’s gradual descent into anarchy and violence] . . . is a translation of the Hebrew Ba’alzevuv (Beelzebub in Greek). It has been suggested that it was a mistranslation of a mistransliterated word which gave us the pungent and suggestive name for the Devil, a devil whose name suggests that he is devoted to decay, destruction, demoralization, hysteria, and panic and who therefore fits very well in Golding’s theme.
In a historical sense, Lord of the Flies has been present in literature, literally and figuratively, since Loki, the god of mischief in Norse mythology, and in works as diverse as Dante’s “Inferno” and the modern works of Stephen King and other contemporary horror authors. Chaos and destruction have even reigned supreme at times in the modern world. Consider Adolph Hitler and the nightmare reign of the Third Reich, forces that Golding himself fought against, as a prime example of this. But since the embodiment of evil in literature has largely been reduced to an amusing conceit, Golding had to approach his presentation of Beelzebub on a more figurative level. Having witnessed himself the evil that man is capable of, he took a more symbolic approach to presenting what author Anthony Burgess called, “[The] most stinking and depraved of all the devils.” In Lord of the Flies:
The Devil is not presented in any traditional religious sense; Golding’s Beelzebub is the modern equivalent, the anarchic, amoral, driving force that Freudians call the Id, whose only function seems to be to insure the survival of the host in which it is embedded or embodied, which function it performs with tremendous and single-minded tenacity.
On speaking of the same central image in the novel, Stephen Medcalf writes, “The book dares to name the beast, the evil in man’s heart, as the beast.” Shaped by brute experience, and his dashed conceptions of the good world, Golding’s Lord of the Flies is, therefore, a study of man’s willing (and inevitable) descent into the heart of darkness, fueled by his own fear, and guided by his own inwardly twisted nature.
Considering Golding’s own experiences with chaos, fear, death, and destruction on a massive scale during World War II, and his own altered moral philosophy and loss of innocence, it is no surprise that he has chosen to examine their origins in Lord of the Flies.
Golding claims to have written Lord of the Flies as a response to the novel Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean, by R.M. Ballantyne. According to Major 20th Century Writers:
These two books share the same basic plot line and even some of the same character names (two of the lead characters are named Ralph and Jack in both books). The similarity, however, ends there. Ballantyne’s story, about a trio of boys stranded on an otherwise uninhabited island, shows how, by pluck and resourcefulness, the young castaways survive with their morals strengthened and their wits sharpened. Lord of the Flies, on the other hand, is “an allegory on human society today, the novel’s primary implication being that what we have come to call civilization is, at best, not more than skin-deep,” as James Stern explains in a New York Times Book Review article.
Golding’s view of civilization and the pure innocence of youth, however, was quite different from Ballantyne’s. Having witnessed the grand scale of death and destruction in World War II, Golding described the theme of his own highly allegorical novel Lord of the Flies as “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.” He no longer agreed with Ballantyne’s hypothesis that the proper English civilized way of life was good and Christian, and that evil was its antithesis: un-Christian and savage. According to author Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), Golding’s characters, unlike Ballantyne’s, are inherently evil. Without the restraints of civilization they, “will choose chaos rather than order. The good intentions of the few are overborne by the innate evil of the many. Instead of a boy-scout camp, we get young savages—painted, naked, gorging on pigflesh, given to torture, murder, human sacrifice to false gods.”
List of Characters
Jack Merridew—Tall, bony, “ugly without silliness,” red-haired, freckled. He is the leader of the choir who turns into a savage hunter. He rivals Ralph’s leadership. His name is from the Hebrew word meaning “one who supplants.” His character believes in authoritarian rule through fear, manipulation, and intimidation.
Piggy—He is asthmatic and obese. He wears thick eyeglasses or is otherwise mostly blind. He stays near Ralph and constantly but ineffectually tries to maintain order and follow rules. His name implies a relationship between himself, pigs the boys hunt, and slaughter on the island.
Ralph—The novel’s protagonist. His name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “counsel.” Twelve years old. Fair-haired and athletic in build. Naturally charismatic, he is initially elected chief of the island by popular majority vote and attempts to run the island democratically. He rivals Jack for leadership.
Roger—A member of the choir. Slight and furtive, keeps to himself, intense and secretive. Referred to as “the dark boy.” His name comes from the German word for “spear.” As the story progresses he becomes very sadistic. Allied to Jack.
Sam and Eric (Samneric)—Identical twins. “Tow-haired,” “bullet-headed,” “chunky and vital.” They are initially allied to Ralph but Roger tortures them into submission to Jack.
Simon—A boy of about nine years of age. His name is Hebrew for “listener.” Initially described as pallid, he is quiet, introspective, and prone to epileptic seizures. A member of Jack’s choir. He has black hair and a low, broad forehead, and is later described as deeply tanned. Allied to Ralph.
Other boys mentioned briefly are identified as Biguns and Littluns, except for Willard, a character only referred to sketchily. Biguns are the older children, and Littluns the younger.
Bill, Robert, Harold, Walter—Biguns. Choir members.
Henry—Littlun. Distant relative of the birthmarked boy.
Johnny—Littlun. Six years old. Sturdy and fair, “naturally belligerent.” The first to respond to the conch’s call.
Maurice—Bigun. A choir member. Broad and grinning. Second in size to Jack.
Naval officer—First person from the rescue ship to encounter the boys.
Parachutist—Killed in an airfight over the island, his dead body parachutes onto the mountain and is mistaken for “the beast.”
Percival Wemys Madison—Littlun. Mouse-colored and unattractive. Very small. Cries at the mention of “the beast.”
Phil—Littlun. Confident. Tells others of his dream of “the beast.”
Small boy with a mulberry-colored birthmark on one side of his face—Six years old. He is the first to mention “the beast.” It is suggested that he perished in the first mishandled signal fire.
Stanley—A vaguely described member of Jack’s tribe.
Willard—Member of Jack’s tribe. Beaten for some unknown offense.
Estimated Reading Time
Lord of the Flies contains 12 chapters ranging in length from nine to 23 pages, with an average length of 15 pages. Each chapter can probably be read in 45 to 60 minutes. A range of 10 to 15 hours should be allowed for reading time of the novel.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Lord of the Flies opens with schoolboys wandering out of the jungle, into which their plane has crashed, and onto the beach of a remote island. In this isolated setting, the boys first try to maintain a veneer of civilization, but they soon shed it to exhibit the evil that is inborn. Golding tells the story from the boys’ perspective until the final few pages, where he then alters the perspective to enlarge the context. Little boys are not the only ones who have savagery at their core; the grown-ups do as well.
The first two boys to emerge, Ralph, an easygoing but fairly responsible boy, and Piggy, a thinker who is fat and asthmatic, gather the rest of the boys by sounding a conch shell. At their first assembly, the boys recognize the need for some rules: “After all, we’re not savages. We’re English.” They elect Ralph chief and make Jack the leader of the boys who will hunt for food and keep a signal fire going.
Before long, the boys’ immaturity and irresponsibility are clear and are a source of frustration to Ralph and Piggy. After building a couple of shelters, the boys would rather swim and roll rocks than work. The hunters would rather hunt than follow through on their other job of keeping a signal fire going. As a result, they miss the chance to signal a passing ship.
Immaturity and irresponsibility soon give way to violence and fear-inspired frenzy as the last vestiges of the veneer of civilization...
(The entire section is 604 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
An airplane evacuating a group of British schoolboys from a war zone crashes on a Pacific island, killing all the adults aboard. Two of the surviving boys, Ralph and a boy nicknamed Piggy, find a conch shell and use it as a horn to summon the other survivors, including the members of a boys’ choir headed by Jack Merridew. An election is held to decide on a leader. Jack has the choir members’ grudging support, but Ralph possesses the conch and is elected chief. Jack and his choir become hunters.
Later, Ralph calls an assembly to set rules. The first rule is that holding the conch gives one the right to speak. A young boy about six years old asks what will be done about the “snake-thing” he has seen. Ralph insists that no such thing exists and changes the subject to the possibility of rescue. He orders the boys to make a fire atop the mountain to signal rescuers. Jack volunteers his choir to keep the fire going. Using Piggy’s glasses to focus the sun’s rays on some fuel, they light a fire. It leaps out of control, and in the resulting confusion, the boy who had asked about the “snake-thing” disappears. He is not seen again.
Jack, obsessed with the desire to kill a wild pig, and Ralph, who wants to erect shelters, are often at odds, dividing the boys’ allegiance. One day, Ralph spots the smoke from a ship out at sea. Looking up at the mountaintop, he discovers that the boys’ signal fire has gone out. Desperately, he and Simon...
(The entire section is 1107 words.)
Summary (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Lord of the Flies is a kind of parody of Robert Michael Ballantyne’s The Coral Island (1858), a Robinson Crusoe-type story that was once popular with English boys. Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding’s modern characters are schoolboys marooned on an island while fleeing the horrors of an unspecified nuclear war. In the absence of adult rules and institutions, their behavior grows increasingly uncivilized, until the dominant band actually begins killing boys. The novel concludes at the moment that the band is about to capture Ralph, the last civilized boy. The bloodthirsty chase is interrupted by the sudden appearance on the beach of a British naval officer, who thinks the boys are merely playing. An unspoken irony is the fact that the warship of the ostensibly civilized officer is itself in the midst of a deadly manhunt.
First published in 1954, The Lord of the Flies became an American campus favorite during the 1960’s. Since that time it has been challenged in many school districts because of its graphic violence and occasionally profane language—but particularly because of its pessimistic view of human nature.
The novel has been adapted to film twice. In 1963 a black and white film version was made in Britain. A color version filmed in 1990 updated the story’s setting and replaced the British public-school boys with young American military cadets.
(The entire section is 223 words.)
On the Island: Chapters 1-2
William Golding sets his novel Lord of the Flies at a time when Europe is in the midst of nuclear destruction. A group of boys, being evacuated from England to Australia, crash lands on a tropical island. No adults survive the crash, and the novel is the story of the boys' descent into chaos, disorder, and evil.
As the story opens, two boys emerge from the wreckage of a plane. The boys, Ralph and Piggy, begin exploring the island in hopes of finding other survivors. They find a conch shell, and Piggy instructs Ralph how to blow on it. When the other boys hear the conch, they gather. The last boys to appear are the choirboys, led by Jack Merridew. Once assembled, the boys decide they need a chief and elect Ralph. Ralph decides that the choir will remain intact under the leadership of Jack, who says they will be hunters.
Jack, Ralph, and Simon go to explore the island and find a pig trapped in vines. Jack draws his knife, but is unable to actually kill the pig. They vow, however, to kill the pig the next time. When the three return, they hold a meeting. The conch becomes a symbol of authority: whoever has the conch has the right to speak. Jack and Ralph explain to the others what they have found. Jack continues his preoccupation with his knife. The boy with the clearest understanding of their situation is Piggy. He tells them they are on an island, that no one knows where they are, and that they are...
(The entire section is 1577 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Bill, Robert, Harold, Henry: Generic members of Jack’s choir.
Jack Merridew: Leader of the choir. Tall, thin, red-haired, charismatic. He rivals Ralph’s leadership qualities.
Johnny: The first boy to respond to the conch.
Maurice: Member of Jack’s choir. Second in height to Jack.
Piggy: Fat, thickly bespectacled, intelligent.
Ralph: Twelve years old. Tall, athletic, fair-haired. A natural leader. He first meets Piggy, but likes Jack.
Roger: A strange, secretive boy. Member of Jack’s choir.
Sam and Eric (Samneric): Identical twins. Bullet-headed and
robust. They do everything together.
Simon: A pallid boy, prone to epileptic seizures. Also a member of Jack’s choir.
The novel is set in an unspecified time in the future during an apocalyptic atomic war. A planeload of British schoolchildren has been shot down and has crash-landed on a deserted island. One of the survivors, Ralph, emerges from the jungle.
Ralph is making his way through the portion of jungle scarred by the wreckage of their crashed plane when he encounters Piggy. They determine that they have crash-landed on an island and some other boys may have made it out of the wreckage. The rest, along with the wreckage, have been dragged out to sea by the tide.
Piggy asks Ralph his name and Ralph tells...
(The entire section is 3413 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
The boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark—He is not identified by name because, at the time, Piggy had failed to get the names of all the boys. His birthmark is a strikingly noticeable feature, however. That is why the boys notice he is missing after the fire.
Having returned from the mountain with Jack and Simon, Ralph blows the conch and calls another meeting. The boys assemble on the tree trunks around the clearing, which they now refer to as “the platform.” Ralph informs them that the expedition has determined they are on an uninhabited island. Jack quickly interjects that, because of this and the presence of pigs, there is now a need for an army for hunting instead of protection. They tell of the piglet’s escape and Jack, angry at the memory, slams his knife into a tree again.
Ralph tells them that there are no grownups on the island, and they will have to take care of themselves. To maintain order at the meetings, he decrees that only a person holding the conch shell may speak, similar to a process they knew as “Hands up” at school. Jack becomes excited at the prospect of having lots of rules, but more so because he will be charged with enforcing them.
Piggy takes the conch to speak and Jack looks to Ralph for permission not to allow it. Ralph allows Piggy to speak. Piggy informs the group that no one on the outside has any idea where they are...
(The entire section is 1760 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
The chapter opens with Jack hunting a pig with a five-foot sharpened stick. He moves stealthily through the jungle on all fours following tell-tale signs left by the animals: cracked twigs, tendrils of creeper vines polished smooth by the bristles of passing pigs, and hoofprints. He sniffs the air for information and examines some fresh droppings. He spots some tracks that lead to a pig-run behind some vines and hears a pig moving in the vines. Jack hurls his weapon, but the spear misses and “the promise of meat” runs maddeningly away.
He returns to the beach where he finds Ralph standing by a marginally successful attempt at building a hut. He asks Ralph for something to drink, and Ralph directs him to a coconut shell filled with water. Jack drinks and comments on how much he needed that. Ralph hardly notices him because his attention is focused on building the hut with Simon. Inside the hut, Simon makes a mistake and the portion they are constructing falls apart. He sheepishly apologizes.
Ralph and Simon are frustrated because several days’ worth of hard work has only produced two shaky shelters. Ralph chides Jack for running off hunting and neglecting the building of huts. Jack says his job is hunting. Ralph says he is frustrated because the littluns are not much help. Simon tells him to set them straight, and Ralph complains that they only listen to him for short periods of time, and then run off...
(The entire section is 1728 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Henry: Biggest of the littluns. Distant relative of the boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark. He is teased by Roger.
Percival Wemys Madison: One of the smallest of the littluns, a “mouse-colored boy” not very attractive “even to his mother.” Plays on the beach with Johnny and Henry. Cries a lot. Thought a little batty by the others.
The chapter opens with exposition that establishes the beauty of the island and the lazy rhythm of the castaways’ daily lives; they play all day. The midday seems to cause hallucinations in them that Piggy calls “mirages”:
Strange things happened at midday. The glittering sea rose up, moved apart in planes of blatant impossibility; the coral reef and the few stunted palms that clung to the more elevated parts would float up into the sky, would quiver, be plucked apart, run like raindrops on a wire or be repeated as in an odd succession of mirrors. Sometimes land loomed where there was no land and flicked out like a bubble as the children watched.
Percival, who is generally miserable, cannot adjust to the island’s rhythm and spends a two-day crying jag in one of the shelters. The others dismiss him as “batty.”
The smaller boys are identified as “littluns.” They mostly play all day and obey Ralph and the conch both out of a vaguely remembered sense of...
(The entire section is 2469 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
Phil: Littlun who speaks of his dream of the beast.
Ralph walks down a narrow path, concerned about the up-coming meeting. “He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one’s waking life was spent watching one’s feet.” He is determined that the meeting “must not be fun, but business.” He wanders past the bathing pool and contemplates their meeting place (called “the platform”). He notes that one of the essential distractions is a springy log that the children bounce on instead of concentrating on the meeting. He notices no one has taken the time to fix the thing, but cannot quite grasp why. It will be the first assembly they have had so late, and the appearance of the platform is eerily altered by the approaching dusk.
Ralph chastises himself for his inability to think clearly: “Once more that evening Ralph had to adjust his values. Piggy could think. He could go step by step inside that fat head of his, only Piggy was no chief. But Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains. Ralph was a specialist in thought now and could recognize thought in another.”
He blows the conch and the others come. Those who were aware of the missed rescue are solemn, affecting those who weren’t aware. They fear Ralph’s anger. Ralph begins by trying to convince the others that a...
(The entire section is 2742 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
Parachutist: Killed in an air fight over the island, his dead body lands on the mountainside and is, from a distance, mistaken for the beast by the boys.
When Percival’s nightmare ends, Ralph and Simon carry him to a shelter and the boys eventually settle into an uncomfortable sleep. As they sleep, 10 miles above the island, aircraft from the war are engaged in an air fight. A plane explodes, and unbeknownst to the boys, the corpse of a pilot parachutes onto the island. It lands on the side of the mountain and comes to rest in a sitting position, the lines tangle and anchor him to the rock. The wind, catching the parachute, causes the corpse to rock forward and back, “So as the stars moved across the sky, the figure sat on the mountain-top and bowed and sank and bowed again.”
The next morning, while the island is still dark, Samneric awake to find the signal fire they were to maintain has gone out again. They relight it from the smoldering coals and in its glow they see the figure on the mountainside. Terrified, they flee back to camp. They wake Ralph and Piggy and tell them they’ve seen the beast. Ralph has them verbally call the others to assembly. He does not wish to blow the conch for fear of alerting the beast.
In assembly, Samneric receive the conch and paint a frightening picture of the beast they believe they saw, one with eyes, teeth, and claws....
(The entire section is 1629 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
Still in pursuit of the beast, Jack is leading the boys along a pig-run, and Ralph is content to follow. They stop to eat some fruit, and Ralph, suddenly aware of the heat and his own griminess, longs for a chance to wash his shirt, cut his hair, wash with soap, and cut his nails. He notices that his nails are bitten down to the quick, but does not remember doing it. Then he observes the others and their similarly disheveled appearances, and notes that they have all accepted these changes as normal.
Ralph wanders down to the beach and contemplates the ocean on the far side of the island. He considers its vastness, and it reminds him of their hopeless situation and their limited chance for rescue. He notes that rescue seems plausible on the other side of the island, because the mirages they experience soften the aspect of the vast ocean surrounding them. Unconsciously, he is tense, gripping a rock, arching his back, mouth strained open.
Simon appears at his elbow. “You’ll get back,” he says, insightfully knowing what Ralph is thinking from observing his posture. Ralph calls him batty and Simon repeats that he just thinks he’ll get back all right. The two boys suddenly smile at each other.
A short time later when the boys are back near the pig-run, Roger calls Jack up to inspect some fresh pig droppings. “Jack bent down to them as though he loved them.” He tells Ralph they need meat, even...
(The entire section is 2146 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Piggy, upset by the news that the beast exists, stares up at the mountain from the beach. Ralph assures him that it does indeed exist. Piggy questions it again and Jack nastily tells him to go see for himself. Ralph adds that it had teeth and “big black eyes.”
Ralph is worried because the beast squats near where they must build the signal fire. “We’re beaten,” he says. Jack offers his hunters and Ralph calls them “Boys armed with sticks.” Jack angrily walks away and calls a meeting by blowing the conch.
He tells the others that he’s seen the beast. He tells them that Ralph thinks the hunters are no good and cowards. Jack accuses Ralph of being like Piggy and of being a poor leader. He tells them Ralph is a coward as well, and that he ran from the beast while he and Roger stayed behind and faced it. He tells them Ralph is “not a hunter. He’d never have got us meat. He isn’t a prefect and we don’t know anything about him. He just gives orders and expects people to obey for nothing.” Finally Jack asks them to vote again to see if Ralph should not be chief.
No one moves. He asks again but the boys remain silent. Angry, and with tears of humiliation in his eyes, Jack lays the conch at Ralph’s feet. “I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you.” He asks those who wish to hunt to join him and then walks off.
Piggy assures him they can get along without Jack...
(The entire section is 2549 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Simon wakes from his seizure-induced sleep and makes a decision, “What else is there to do?” There is no reply, even from within. He leaves his secret place. He travels to the mountain where the figure of the dead parachutist rocks in the breeze. Despite his fear, he approaches the figure and sees that, like the pig’s head, it too is covered with flies. Simon crawls close to the figure and looks into its face and finally understands what it truly is. “Then the wind blew again and the figure lifted, bowed, and breathed foully at him. Simon knelt on all fours and was sick till his stomach was empty.” Then, despite his revulsion, he frees the parachutist’s lines from the rock so that it is no longer trapped.
He looks to the beach and sees the boys far away, and he sees too that the fire, which they moved to be away from the beast, is out. He decides, “The beast was harmless and horrible; and the news must reach the others as soon as possible.” He starts toward them down the mountain.
Back at the lagoon, Piggy and Ralph are bathing idly in the pool. Ralph squirts some water at Piggy. They muse about the whereabouts of the others. Piggy says they have gone to join Jack’s party, “Just for some meat.” Ralph says he doesn’t care. Piggy suggests joining them, and Ralph stares at him until he adds, “I mean—to make sure nothing happens.” Ralph squirts some more water at his friend.
(The entire section is 1475 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
Wilfred: A member of Jack’s tribe, beaten in punishment for an unnamed offense.
Stanley: Tribal member, asks if they really killed Simon.
Piggy carefully watches Ralph approach. Somehow, Ralph still maintains his leadership charisma, despite what happened to Simon. He is limping, bruised, and has dead leaves in his hair. Together, they determine that only Ralph, Piggy, Samneric, and some littluns remain loyal to the conch. Ralph and Piggy sit on the platform facing the shell.
Ralph begins to talk about Simon and what happened. He says it was murder. Piggy insists that it is no good to talk about it like that. He says it was only because they were scared. “I wasn’t scared,” said Ralph slowly, “I was—I don’t know what I was.” Piggy suggests, desperately, that Simon may still be alive and that he was only pretending. He suggests that maybe it was an accident.
Ralph says, “I’m frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home.” Piggy insists again it was an accident. Piggy says they should not tell Samneric that they were at the dance, and they then rationalize that they were only on the outskirts of the dance and not really participants after all. Piggy says the four of them can live by themselves and keep the fire going.
Samneric emerge from the jungle with wood. The moment is awkward. Soon they all begin...
(The entire section is 1600 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis
It is dawn on the beach, and Samneric watch as Ralph tries unsuccessfully to restart the fire from embers in the ashes. “Piggy sat expressionless behind the luminous wall of his myopia.” He is livid over the loss of his glasses, insisting Ralph call a meeting, even though it is only him, Ralph, and Samneric.
Ralph blows the conch and Piggy takes it and says, “I can’t see no more and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island. I voted for you for chief. He’s the only one who ever got anything done. So now you speak, Ralph, and tell us what. Or else—.”
Ralph tries to respond but is unable to bring his response to a definite point. He labors the point that they would have given the fire to Jack if he had asked, and now they cannot build a signal fire for rescue. He is unable to say more.
Piggy insists that Ralph do something. Ralph considers washing and brushing their hair and going civilly, to prove they aren’t savages. Sam suggests taking spears and Piggy defiantly refuses. He declares he is going to tell Jack Merridew what he feels in a proper manner. The others tell him he will get hurt and he replies, “What can he do more than he has?” Piggy insists on carrying the conch when he goes, telling them:
‘I’m going to him with this conch in my hands. I’m going to hold it out. Look, I’m goin’ to say, you’re stronger...
(The entire section is 1623 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis
Naval officer: He is the first ashore from the rescue ship to encounter the boys.
Ralph lay in hiding in the jungle assessing his wounds. He is close to Castle Rock for his pursuers did not follow him far. He glimpses a savage he believed was Bill, but “This was a savage whose image refused to blend with that ancient picture of a boy in shorts and shirt.”
As the afternoon wanes, he sneaks closer and sees Robert, armed with a spear, idly manning a sentry post. Behind Robert, a cooking fire is roasting the pig. Ralph’s mouth waters. A figure gives Robert a piece of meat and Robert begins to eat. Ralph retreats to eat some fruit, knowing he is momentarily safe as the feast progresses. He also knows that any bond between he and Jack is gone, and Jack will pursue him forever. “No,” he rationalizes. “They’re not as bad as that. It was an accident.”
He approaches the fruit, and two littluns, frightened of his bloodied appearance, run off. He eats and approaches the empty shelters. He cannot stay there for he is too alone. He wishes to try again with Jack so he walks toward Castle Rock again.
He wanders into Simon’s old hiding place and sees the pig’s head mounted on a stick. It is only bone now, having been picked clean by the flies. He knows the skull is significant, but cannot understand why. It stares at him and grins.
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