London 1987; First print: 1954
A group of boys have to build a new civilization on a Tropical Island.
Two boys meet on the beach of a lagoon. One of them, called Ralph, is handsome, the other one, called Piggy, is fat and wears thick glasses. From their conversation it becomes clear that they belong to a group of children who were being transported somewhere after an atomic bomb has fallen on England. But their plane was attacked, and it had dropped the boys before it crashed. Piggy thinks that there are other boys alive and he wants to organize them.
The two boys find a conch shell and Piggy suggests that Ralph should blow on it to summon the other boys to come to a meeting. They aare surprised at the loudness of the sound. Soon boys begin to answer Ralph's call. Piggy immediately begins to ask for names and tries to remember them.
There is also a party of choir boys, all dressed alike, and they march in military order. Their leader, Jack, wants to be the leader of all the boys, but the majority vote for Ralph. In order to gain Jack's support, Ralph suggests that the choir-boys can be hunters under Jack's leadership.
Ralp, Jack and another boy, called Simon, decide to go on an expedition to find out if they are on an island or not. On their way up a mountain they come upon a wild piglet, which Jack wants to kill. He waits too long, however, and the piglet escapes.
When they return the boys have another meeting at which they try to establish some rules, because they now know that they are on an island and that they will have to look after themselves. Jack is delighted by the idea of punishing those who break the rules. No one pays any attention to the sensible advise that Piggy gives. When one of the little boys tells about a beast he has seen, all the boys begin to feel a little uneasy. Ralph says at the meeting that they will have to build a fire on the mountaintop as a signal for ships and planes.
Immediately Jack tells everyone to follow him and they all dash to the mountaintop. A huge pile of wood is made and the problem of the lack of fire is solved by using Piggy's glasses to start the fire. But soon the fire is out of control and the whole mountaintop burns. Piggy lectures the boys of their stupidity. At first no one pays any attention to what he says, but when Piggy says that one of the little ones is missing and may have been burned, they feel ashamed.
On the beach Ralph and Simon build huts, while most of the boys keep running off and rather swim in the lagoon than build huts. The boys enjoy having meetings and are enthusiastic about new ideas, but they quickly lose interest. At first Jack and his hunters cannot get any meat and when Ralph suggests that Jack had better help to build the huts, the growing antagonism between the boys becomes apparant.
Soon life on the island develops into a routine. The little boys play together and suffer from chronic diarrhoea. Jack and his hunters paint their faced because they think that the pigs will not see them so quickly, but their painted faces excite them and they behave like little savages when they start hunting again.
Later that afternoon Ralph and Piggy are lying on the beach and see the smoke of a ship, but to their astonishment they also seethat the fire on the mountaintop is out. They run to the top and light the fire again, but the ship has already disappeared. Just at the moment when Ralph and Piggy realize that Jack and his hunters have neglected their duty of maintaining the fire, the hunters return with their first pig. They will not listen to criticism. The blood and the killing seem to have made them half-crazy and an angry Jack slaps Piggy in the face, breaking one of the lenses of his glasses.
Later that day the boys have a feast but Jack refuses to give Piggy any meat. Simon shares his piece with Piggy. After the meal the hunters start dancing in a savage way, re-enacting the killing of the pig. After a while Ralph announces a meeting and walks down to the beach. He realizes that this meeting must be effective, otherwise the boys will lose all discipline. Ralph severely criticises them for not obeying the most elementary rules and for giving up to soon if a task is no longer considered pleasent. He explains again how important the fire is and talks about fear and when one boy after another talks about terrifying dreams and experiences, Ralph realizes that he has lost control of the group. Jack openly rebels and says he will not obey any rules. He leads all the boys away. Only Ralph, Piggy and Simon stay behind.
During the night a dead parachutist drops onto the island, but the boys are all asleep, even the twins, Sam and Eric, who are supposed to be watching the fire. The flapping of the parachute wakes them up and in terror they flee down to the beach and tell everyone about the beast that has attacked them. The story even frightens Ralph a little. Jack calls for a hunt in which most of the boys join, since they are afrais to stay behind. They reach a hill they have not seen before. Steep cliffs give it a shape of a castle and the booys talk about building a fot there.
When Ralph tells them that they have to continue the search and that the fire has to be lit again, they obey only reluctantly. Later that day the boys fail to kill another pig, but again they are exhilerated by the idea of hunting and killing and they kave another savage dance. One of the boys pretends to be the pig and is hurt by the excited dancers.
When the group finally reaches the top, after the searchhas been continued, they see a strange shadow, something like an ape and terrified they all run away.
The next day Jack takes the conch from Ralph and blows it in order to have a meeting at which he tells the boys that they have seen the beast and that Ralph is a coward and ought not to be chief. But this motion against Ralph does not get any support and Jack announces that he is going off on his own. Simon then proposes to go up to the mountain to find the beast, but no one likes his idea. Piggy then suggests that they build a fire on the beach instead og on the mountaintop. When the fire is finally burning, however, Ralph and Piggy become aware that most of the bigger boys have disappeared in order to join Jack, who has gone to the other side of the island.
Jack leads his new tribe on a pig hunt and the head of the pig they catch is put up a pole as a gift to the beast. Later they rais Ralph's camp and steal fire. Jack announces that there will be a great feast at night.
Meanwhile, Somon has walked through the jungle and is stsring at the pig's head, which is covered with flies. He suddenly imageines that the head - the Lord of the Flies - is speaking to him. It warns him that nobody can escape from the beas because the beast comes from within. Simon faints and when he revives he dicides to climb the mountain. At the top he discovers the dead pilot and the parachute. He walks down to tell the other boys the truth about the beast.
Ralph and Piggy have also decided to go to Jack's beach. Here Ralph tries to re-establish his authority, but is unsuccesful. Later Jack orders his tribe to dance and this dance is another indication that the boys have lost most of the traces of civilization. When they see a black shape coming out of the jungle, they think it is the beast and in a frenzied attack they beat it to death. Only when it is dead they realize that is is Simon.
The next morning Ralph and Piggy discover that everyone has joined Jack, except the twins Sam and Eric and some small boys. Ralph feels partly responsible for Simon's death, but Piggy tries to comfort him.
On castle Rock Jack rules like a tyrant. He warns his tribe against Ralph and Piggy. He says they are dangerous and he sets guards at the gate. During the night he raids Ralph's camp again and when the attackers have withdrawn, Piggy finds that his glasses have been stolen.
In the morning Ralph and the other three boys discuss their situation. Not only is Piggy practically blind, but they are also unable to build another signal fire. Therefore they go to Jack's camp and try to reason with him, but this meeting ends in a fight between Jack and Ralph. The twins are taken prisoner by the hunters. One of Jack's boys, a little sadist called Roger, topples a heavy boulder over an edge, and Piggy, who cannot see the danger, is swept over the cliff by this piece of rock. The conch he has been carrying is shattered. Ralph manages to escape although Jack orders his hunters to throw spears after him. He hides in the jungle and tries to understand how a group of ordinary boys can turn into a band of uncivilized, barbaric savages.
At night Ralph secretely visits Jack's camp and is informed by the twins that the next day there will be a big hunt with Ralph as the prey. The brush where he is hiding is set on fire in the morning and he is forced to run for his life. Although the fire spreads rapidly the hunt is continued and Ralph is slowly driven to the beach. Just when he is about to give up, he looks up and sees a man in a naval uniform standing in front of him. This officer tells him he has seen their smoke and has come to rescue them. At the sight of the officer Jack and his savages have stopped in silence.
The officer is shocked when he learns that two boys have been killed and that the boys have been acting like savages. When Ralph thinks of what has happened and that he is safe now, he starts crying. Soon the other boys, who have come nearer, start crying, too.
Ralph: He is a handsome boy who wants a democratic society . He is rather wise and the others choose him to become their leader.
Piggy: He is a very intelligent, fat boy who warns the others against the bad influence of Jack.
Jack: He is the evil one in the story, he has a big mouth from the beginning and he encourages the other boys to do savage things. He is blood-thirsty and barbaric.He is also the only one to change a lot in the course of the story (except for the boys who change with him, under his influence). He looks normal in the beginning of the book, but then he becomes evil and in the end he changes back to a normal boy.
The expression 'Lord of the Flies' is a translation of 'Beelzebub', the name of a devil in the Old Testament. In this novel the name is given to a pig's head which the boys put on a stick as a peace offering for the 'Beast' in the jungle. They do this when they have lost practically all traces of civilization.
Lord of the Flies is a future-fiction novel, which is the opposite of a historical novel. In a historical novel the author places a fictious story against a historical background. In a future-fiction novel the author sets his story somewhere in an imagined future. In Lord of the Flies it is assumed that an atomic war has been going on.
A group of boys is isolated on a tropical island with a beach, a lagoon, a mountain, a castle-shaped rock and a jungle, each of them elements which Golding uses to test the possibility and strength of a new society.
The story takes place at some time in the future after an atomic attack on England. There is still a war going on when the boys land on the island.
Point Of View
The story is told by an omniscent author, who may enter the minds of any of his characters, but who als remains at a distance, and is rather objective. Golding seems to demand reason and common sense from his readers, two characteristics that gradually disappear from the island.
In the writer's opinion the truth about human life is that in every human being evil is present and works as a destructive force when for some reason the rules on which a society is based no longer prevail. Then civilization is destroyed by the basic savagery in man.
William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911. He studied English literature at Oxford. During the Second World War he served in the royal Navy. After the war he spent his time teaching and writing. Lord of the Flies was his first novel and soon recognized as a major work of art. The Paper Men (1984) is his most recent novel. In 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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