Lord of the Flies Summary
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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Lord of the Flies Summary

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which a group of schoolboys are stranded on a desert island and attempt to establish their own society. 

  • Ralph, the elected leader, argues that the main goals should be to have fun, survive, and maintain a smoke signal to catch the attention of potential rescuers.
  • The boys lose interest in the daily tasks Ralph assigns, like building shelters, and instead play and hunt pigs. 
  • When another boy, Jack, defies Ralph’s authority, the boys degenerate into savagery and set fire to the island. A ship nearby sees the smoke and rescues them.

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Summary

William Golding's Lord of the Flies opens in the midst of a war with a group of British schoolboys stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, with no adult supervision. Two boys, Ralph and Piggy, meet near a lagoon, and Ralph finds a conch shell while swimming. At the urging of Piggy, Ralph blows into the conch, summoning the other boys. Once everyone is assembled, they decide to hold an election. Ralph becomes chief due to his age, charisma, and role as the blower of the conch. Jack Merridew, who also sought leadership, is appointed to turn his group of choir boys into an army of hunters. The older boys—such as Ralph, Piggy, Jack, and Simon—perform the majority of the work, whereas the younger boys ("littluns") prefer to play. The littluns also become afraid of a “beast,” which the older boys dismiss as the product of nightmares. 

After exploring the island, Ralph decides that the boys should try to build a fire in order to signal passing ships. The first attempt ends in disaster. The fire, lit using Piggy’s glasses, burns out of control and destroys a large part of the island, and a littlun goes missing in the blaze. After Piggy scolds them for their recklessness, the boys learn from this mistake, and Jack’s hunters agree to maintain the signal fire. However, Jack becomes increasingly obsessed with hunting, to the point of donning face paint, neglecting the fire, and squandering a potential rescue in favor of killing a pig. Ralph and Piggy scold Jack, who proceeds to hit Piggy, breaking one of the lenses of his glasses. Ralph calls an assembly in order to further scold the hunters, but Jack uses the younger boys’ fear of the “beast” to garner support for his cause. 

One night, while the boys are sleeping, the corpse of a parachutist lands on the mountain where the boys make their signal fire. Samneric mistake the corpse of the parachutist for the beast. Ralph, Jack, and Roger search for the beast and investigate a new part of the island, with Jack noting its potential as a fortress. They climb the mountain and find the corpse of the parachutist, but they all flee in terror, believing it to be the littluns' beast. At the next meeting, Jack attempts to stage a coup, calling out Ralph’s cowardice while confronting the alleged beast. However, the boys refuse to vote Ralph out of office, so Jack, in tears, leaves the group. Shortly after leaving, he convinces his hunters to leave Ralph’s group entirely. They move into the fortress the boys had previously discovered, which they name “Castle Rock.” As the night goes on, most of the older boys quietly join Jack’s group. 

Ralph, Piggy, Simon, and Samneric are the only “biguns” who remain in the original group. At Piggy’s suggestion, they attempt to create a new signal fire on the beach, away from where the beast was seen. Meanwhile, Jack and his hunters decide to hunt and cook a pig in an effort to tempt the rest of the boys over to their side. After brutally slaughtering a nursing sow, they mount its head on a stick as an offering to the beast. Simon witnesses the hunt from his favorite spot in the forest, and when the hunters have gone, he hallucinates having a conversation with the head, which is identified as the “Lord of the Flies.” It tells him that the beast—the brutality and fear that it represents—exists within all humans. Simon,...

(The entire section is 1,024 words.)