Lord of the Flies Additional Summary

William Golding

Summary

(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...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 1107 words.)

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.