How do the boys come to be on the island in Lord of the Flies?  

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William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies is set in a wartime era (we assume World War II although it is not explicitly stated in the text). In chapter one when Piggy and Ralph first meet on the island, it is clear that the boys were on an airplane together and have crash landed on the island. When the boys initially meet, they recount the crash.

“This is an island. At least I think it’s an island. That’s a reef out in the sea. Perhaps there aren’t any grownups anywhere.”

The fat boy looked startled.
“There was that pilot. But he wasn’t in the passenger cabin, he was up in front.”

The fair boy was peering at the reef through screwed-up eyes.
“All them other kids,” the fat boy went on. “Some of them must have got out. They must have, mustn’t they?”

The fair boy began to pick his way as casually as possible toward the water. He tried to be offhand and not too obviously uninterested, but the fat boy hurried after him.
“Aren’t there any grownups at all?”

“I don’t think so.” (7).

This dialogue indicates that there are no adults on the island and that there were few adults on the plane initially. As Ralph and Piggy discuss the events that led up to the crash landing on the island, you learn more about the setting and the events that are occurring in England at the time. Ralph assumes that the pilot "must have flown off after he dropped us" (8). However, we quickly learn that there was some sort of accident that caused the plan to crash. Piggy assumes "we was attacked!" because as they crashed he "looked through one of them windows. [He] saw the other part of the plane. There were flames coming out of it" (8) 

The plane leaves a "scar" on the island, but the actual aircraft is washed out to sea (with children still in it).

It is evident based on the initial character descriptions of Ralph, Piggy, Jack and the choir boys that the children are all in school uniforms and grouped by the school they attend. 

These assumptions are also supported by historical events that occurred during World War II in England. 

Due to the German campaign known as the Blitzkrieg or "lightening bombing" of London, there was a mass evacuation of people from Britain. The majority of these evacuees were children. Hence the evacuation became known as "Operation Pied Piper." According the BBC website, nearly three million people (the majority were children) were evacuated from cities around England. As a result of the evacuation, many families were separated and the children were accompanied by their teachers rather than their parents. 

The following is a description of what evacuation day looked like in London.

In London, the schoolchildren sang 'The Lambeth Walk'. Elsewhere there were choruses of 'Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye'. For most it was 'like going on an adventure': a phrase that is still uppermost in the minds of evacuees 60 years on.

'We marched to Waterloo Station behind our head teacher carrying a banner with our school's name on it,' says James Roffey, founder of the Evacuees Reunion Association. 'We all thought it was a holiday, but the only thing we couldn't work out was why the women and girls were crying."

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With the background setting of Lord of the Flies as World War II, the British plane, in which English schoolboys are probably being evacuated from the cities because of the Nazi bombings, crashes after being shot down near a tropical island.

Most likely, the boys are part of Operation Pied-Piper, in which urban children were relocated to places where the risk of bombing attacks was lower or virtually non-existent. These children, numbering in the millions, were transported from the cities to rural areas in England; in addition, many were sent to areas where the British lived, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. This movement was the largest and most concentrated evacuation of population in British history.

When the boys of Lord of the Flies land on the island, having come from war-torn England, they feel as though they have landed on paradise. Indeed, they may feel more fortunate that those children who have been transported to areas where they must line up and be selected by adults willing to take them:

...billeting officials would line the newly arrived children up against a wall or on a stage in the village hall, and invite potential hosts to take their pick. The phrase, “I’ll take that one” became a statement indelibly etched in countless children’s memories.

At any rate, Ralph immediately delights in having found himself on an island that resembles Coral Island, the island from a novel by R.M. Ballantyne in which English schoolboys are shipwrecked and survive with their English ingenuity and resolve, defeating savages on this island.

 

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