tionLord of the Flies – Summary and Background Information
The story takes place on an island somewhere in the ocean. The island is described by the author as tropical and boat shaped. Along the coast there are sandy beaches followed by a variety of vegetation and “creepers”. There are also the orchards, which rise up to the treeless and rocky and rugged mountain ridge which extends out of the ocean. Judging from the predicament and dialogue in this story the date in which it takes place is probably the mid 1900’s during World War II.
The mood created in this story is very complex and rapidly changing. It changes from that of a scary, recessive mood to a light, and cheery one. The way in which the story is written the mood can change literally from chapter to chapter. In the beginning it starts out light and happy and as the novel progresses and the boys start to battle, it starts to become dark and savage.
Jack is red-headed and thin he is also introduced as the leader of the boys’ choir. To his dismay he loses the election for leader and he becomes the head hunter and is also in charge of maintaining the signal fire. As the story progresses he and his hunters begin to “slack-off” and abandon their duties in caring for the fire. In the end Jack and his hunters leave Ralph and start their own tribe on the rocky side of the island.
Ralph is a tall, blond and is one of the oldest boys on the island. In the beginning of the story he is pictured as the leader of the boys when he blows the conch shell to call the first assembly. During the course of the story he tries to maintain the structure of their civilization and is continually forced to compete with Jack for approval from the boys.
Piggy is a fat, asthmatic boy with bad vision. Throughout the story his weaknesses are preyed upon by the other boys much like that of the “pigs” on the island, thus the name. But despite his appearance, Ralph begins to depend upon Piggy for intellectual and spiritual guidance. Do to his vision, Piggy had unusually thick glasses, which was a benefit to the others on the island, and aided in the lighting of the signal fire and in the roasting of the pigs.
Simon was a skinny, silent boy with black hair. He was neither liked nor hated and was abnormally silent throughout the story. The way he is portrayed in the story it is as if he were always contemplating life and his situation on the island. Aside from thinking, Simon also does the necessary chores and obeys all commands from his superiors.
The story starts with a large group of boys crawl on to the beach of a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Their plane was been shot down, and World War II has begun to take place. The boys figure that civilization, as they know it, may no longer exist.
Ralph is elected as the leader of the group and Jack decides to be the hunter and provide food for the group. The boys explore the island. They find that it is hard to believe that they’re really on their own but their adventuring proves their suspicion. While adventuring Jack’s first try at slaying a wild boar fails.
Another assembly is had and they talk about the need for hunters. One of the smaller boys, says he fears a horrid beast that he saw in the vast jungle. The fear of the beast, of the dark, and of what is unknown about the island begins to affect the boys’ ways of thinking. Ralph makes an executive decision and convinces everyone that they need a signal fire to aid in their being rescued. Starting a fire is impossible until they use Piggy’s glasses, they are so thick they act as a magnifying glass, igniting the tinder. To Ralph’s dismay the boys begin to abandon the fire to play, finding it hard work keeping the fire going.
Their fears of the terrifying beast grow worse when the twins, Sam and Eric, see the beast once again. This is when Simon takes into affect his method of thinking, suggesting that the beast is not a physical beast but a beast in their heads, a figment of their imagination.. Jack and Ralph laugh at Simon’s claims and lead an exploration to the rocky cliffs. Upon returning they were convinced, there was a beast on their island.
It is at this time that the inevitable occurs, Jack decides he no longer wants to be part of Ralph’s tribe. He then leaves, inviting the other boys to follow him.
In spite of their growing terror, Jack leads his newly found tribe of hunters into the jungle for the slaying of another pig. He places its head on a stake, as an offering to the unknown beast. Deserting Ralph, Piggy and the twins, the rest of the boys join Jack’s roast and his tribe.
Alone in the woods, Simon begins to daydream and talks to the fly-covered pig’s head on the stake. In Simon’s hallucination the head becomes the Lord of the Flies and says, “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?”
A great storm builds over the island, and Simon starts back to where the other boys are. As he stumbles through the jungle, he discovers the beast that the twins thought they saw. It was a dead man who had parachuted from the sky and had gotten caught on the rocks. Terrified and sickened by the …..sight, he then starts off to tell the others there is no beast.
In the meantime, Ralph, Piggy and the twins have given in and joined Jack’s feast. Ralph and Jack begin to dispute over who should be the leader. Instead of fighting, Jack suggests they do their pig-killing dance. They begin to chant, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” as the storm overhead gathers force. Piggy and Ralph join the circle to dance with the others as the storm continues to gather force.
When Simon returns, the boys have ceased to be boys playing a game and have become a dangerous mob. They attack Simon, calling him the beast and killing him with their hunting sticks. Only then does the storm finally break and the rain begin to fall. During the night the tide carries the dead boy out to sea.
The next night Jack and two hunters attack Ralph and Piggy and steal Piggy’s glasses. Nearly blind without his glasses, Piggy decides that he and Ralph can do nothing but ask Jack to give them back. Sam and Eric, the only others who have remained with Ralph, go along. They take the conch with them.
The fight that has been building between Jack and Ralph over who should be leader finally breaks out. The hunters drag the twins off. A giant boulder is hurled over a ledge, demolishing the conch and striking Piggy. Flung over the cliff, Piggy dies when he hits the rocks below. Considering himself victorious Jack declares himself chief.
With the war between good and evil being waged, Ralph continues to stand his ground and fight for the side of good. But Jack and his hunters continue their downward spiral into evil.
Alone and scared he retreats to the jungle, still not giving in to Jack’s temptations and taking the easy way out. He sneaks to the hunter’s camp and converses with Sam’n’eric, who have been converted to hunters. From them he discovers that Jack plans to kill him, no matter what it takes, and place his head on a savage offering to the beast.
Frightened, and confused Ralph hides in the woods, fearing his very life. But the hunters light the forest on fire, planning to smoke him out. Ralph is forced to leave his hiding place and make a run for it. Ralph runs through the jungle trying frantically to lose the savage hunters as they sing their terrifying pig-hunting song.
Finally as Ralph runs out of the forest and on to the sandy beach he falls to his knees, at the mercy of the rampaging tribe. As he looks up he sees a group of sailors standing before him. The boys then see the evil deeds that they have done As they begin to talk with the men they discover that the sailors had seen the smoke from their fire and came over, the savage boys were finally going back to civilization.
Due to the book’s complicated make-up and sub-plots a variety of themes are created. The most obvious of the themes is man’s need for civilization. Contrary to the belief that man is innocent and society evil, the story shows that laws and rules, policemen and schools are necessary to keep the darker side of human nature in line. When these institutions and concepts slip away or are ignored, human beings revert to a more primitive part of their nature. The other obvious theme in the story is the battle between good and evil. Ralph symbolizes good and Jack symbolizes evil, and throughout the story they fight for control of the group.
This was the most interesting book I have ever read. It is sort of a cross between Alive and Hatchet. Because the book is extremely addictive and written so superbly, it did not take long for me to get into and finish it.
The characters were probably the most interesting element in Lord of the Flies. All British and male, the young boys in this story portray the savagery and sadistic nature to which all but a few succumb. The other boys are the only symbol of sanity on the island. There is also a very interesting conflict between Ralph and Jack. But in truth, I rather dislike the ending, to me it seems like there is something is missing and that for such a complicated novel it leaves something more to be desired.
If I were to give this book a rating I would rate it very highly. The book was so involving and fascinating I would have to give it 4.5 stars out of 5. I recommend this book to anyone who takes pleasure in the reading of a good adventure.
About the Author
William Golding was born near Newquay, Cornwall, SW England, UK. He studied at Oxford, became a teacher, and served in the navy in World War II. Then he returned to teaching until 1961. Poems (1934) was followed by his first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954), widely considered to be one of the greatest English-language novels of this century. Other books quickly followed, such as The Inheritors (1955), Pincher Martin (1956), Free Fall (1959), and The Spire (1964), each confirming Golding’s power to create contemporary myth and touch on the darker matters of human nature. Later novels include Darkness Visible (1979) and the trilogy Rites of Passage (1980, Booker Prize), Close Quarters (1987), Fire Down Below (1989), republished under the general title “To The Ends of the Earth in 1991.” He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, and knighted in 1988.