Lord of the Flies Summary

Lord of the Flies summary

A group of English school boys find themselves stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes over the Pacific. Those who survive the crash elect Ralph, one of the oldest boys, as their leader. However, Ralph does not receive the votes of the charismatic Jack Merridew, the leader of a boy's choir, or the other members of the choir. Ralph who that the groups main goals should be to have fun, survive, and maintain a smoke signal to catch the attention of the outside world. 

Ralph along with Jack, and another boy named Simon become the main leaders of the group. However, soon the boys lose interest in the day-to-day tasks Ralph wants them to perform to aid their survival and rescue, like maintaining the signal fire and building shelters. Instead of working, they waste their time playing and hunting pigs. When Jack defies Ralph’s authority, the boys degenerate into a savage tribe under Jack's leadership. The tribe kills Simon and Piggy (Ralph's unpopular confidante), but Ralph escapes. The boys set the island on fire in an effort to drive Ralph out of hiding. A British warship, seeing the smoke, stages a rescue. Ralph and the other children are saved.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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 disappear. For Jack the early fun of hunting becomes a compulsion to track down and kill. He teaches his hunters to circle and close in on their prey, and in the circle the boys become bloodthirsty savages.

Fear works to intensify the power of the mob. Some of the little boys are afraid of a “beastie,” and their fear spreads to all the boys. Only one boy, Simon, has the insight to know that the beast is inside them and the savagery they have always suppressed is what they should fear. Seeing something move among the rocks, the boys conclude that they have found the beast and are terrified. Only Simon has the courage to investigate. He finds a dead aviator, his parachute lines entangled in the rocks. Exhausted from his search and sick at what he has found, Simon crawls down the mountain, arriving on the beach to find himself in the middle of a circle of madly dancing, paint-smeared boys. In a blind frenzy, somehow thinking Simon is the beast crawling toward them, they kill him.

Although Piggy refers to Simon’s death as an accident, Ralph knows it was murder and says he is scared “of us.” Like Simon, Ralph knows the beast is within; he becomes the next scapegoat. The circle is closing on Ralph when the boys are rescued by officers from a cruiser. The perspective changes immediately. One officer remarks, “Fun and games.” He asks Ralph jokingly, “Having a war or something? . . . Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?” The reader knows, as Ralph does, the awful truth of two dead bodies. The officer’s naïveté reinforces the irony of the entire novel. The boys come out of a world at war. They land in an idyllic spot where their basic needs are met and where they can escape the carnage of the adult world. Since evil is within them, however, they, too, war on one another. They return, finally, to a world at war because escape from the island is not escape from evil. Evil is in the hearts of people.

Lord of the Flies Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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 claw their way up the mountainside, but they are too late to start the fire again in time for the passing ship to see it. Below, they see Jack and his hunters (who should have been tending the fire) carrying the carcass of a pig. Jack is ecstatic, exclaiming over the spilled blood. When Ralph admonishes him for letting the fire die, Jack lashes out, breaking a lens of Piggy’s glasses.

Meanwhile, a veiled fear has begun to spread, especially among the youngest boys, the “littluns,” of something that haunts the night. At an assembly, Ralph tries to insist that the rules be followed and the fire kept burning, but discussion turns to the “beast,” and the gathering soon degenerates into chaos, with Jack refusing to abide by Ralph’s rules.

One day, a victim of the air war being fought overhead falls from the sky in a parachute. He lies against the rocks, dead, buffeted by the wind. Sam and Eric (twin brothers later dubbed “Samneric”) are tending the signal fire when they see the corpse, and they run back to camp, screaming that they have seen the beast. Leaving Piggy to watch the littluns, Jack and Ralph go to search the far end of the island, thinking the beast might live there, but find nothing.

Night falls, and Jack challenges Ralph to accompany him up the mountain in the darkness to seek the beast. At the top of the mountain, near the place where the boys have built their fire, they see a dark shape and, when the wind blows, a skeletal face. They flee in terror. Back at the base camp, Jack seizes the conch and speaks out against Ralph, asking the boys to vote, by a show of hands, to reject him as chief. When the boys refuse, Jack goes off by himself.

Believing that the beast is guarding the mountain, the boys agree to Piggy’s suggestion that they build a signal fire on the rocks near their bathing pool. As they work, however, several of the older boys slip off to follow Jack. With this new band of hunters, Jack pursues a sow caught feeding her litter. Running the sow down, the boys fall on her in a frenzy and kill her. Then, as an offering to the beast, they mount the pig’s severed head on a stake.

Unbeknown to Jack and his band, Simon, hidden beneath some vines, has witnessed their ritual. When the other boys leave, Simon has a silent conversation with the pig’s head—“the Lord of the Flies”—during which it seems to reveal to him that the beast is actually something within the boys themselves. Jack and his followers, smeared with body paint, burst into Ralph’s camp, and Jack invites everyone to join his band and feast on roast pig.

Meanwhile, Simon inches his way to the mountaintop, where he discovers the dead parachutist. All the other boys, including Ralph and Piggy, have gone to Jack’s camp to eat the pig. Under the threat of a downpour, they begin to dance and chant, miming the killing of the sow. Suddenly, Simon bursts into their circle, trying to tell them of his discovery. The boys, maddened by the chanting, attack and kill him, thinking him the beast.

Ralph and Piggy return to their camp. Only Sam and Eric and the littluns remain with them, and all deny—to themselves as well as to one another—any responsibility for the killing of Simon. Later, Jack and two of his hunters attack them. Ralph and Eric fight viciously, but in the end, Jack and his party make off with Piggy’s glasses, which they need to light a fire of their own.

When Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric go to Jack’s lair to demand the return of the glasses, Jack’s followers seize Samneric, and Ralph and Jack fight until Piggy, holding the conch, demands a chance to speak. As Piggy speaks, drawing a line between savagery and order, Roger, standing watch on a cliff overhead, sets loose a boulder that crashes down on the boys, smashes the conch, and crushes Piggy’s skull. Alone now, Ralph runs; he is pursued by Jack and his followers, who are hurling spears, but he manages to escape.

Later, Ralph creeps back to the encampment and discovers that Samneric, threatened with torture or worse, have become part of Jack’s tribe. They tell Ralph that Jack has sharpened a stick at both ends and will hunt him down.

In the morning, Ralph is discovered and forced out of his hiding place. Pursued, he manages to wound two of the boys, but when he attempts to hide again, the hunters light a fire to smoke him out. The chase becomes a frantic fight for life that ends when Ralph suddenly comes upon a uniformed naval officer whose cutter is moored on the beach. “We saw your smoke,” the officer says, grinning at what he presumes to be a boys’ game of war.

Lord of the Flies Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

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.

Lord of the Flies Chapter Summary and Analysis

(The entire section is 0 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
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.


(The entire section is 3413 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

New Character
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...

(The entire section is 1760 words.)

Lord of the Flies 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...

(The entire section is 1728 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
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...

(The entire section is 2469 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

New Character
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...

(The entire section is 2742 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

New Character
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...

(The entire section is 1629 words.)

Lord of the Flies 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...

(The entire section is 2146 words.)

Lord of the Flies 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...

(The entire section is 2549 words.)

Lord of the Flies 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...

(The entire section is 1475 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
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...

(The entire section is 1600 words.)

Lord of the Flies 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...

(The entire section is 1623 words.)

Lord of the Flies Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis

New Character
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...

(The entire section is 2601 words.)