first published in 1954
by Faber and Faber limited
Two boys meet on a beach. Ralph is fair and Piggy is fat and has got specs. They are part of a group of boys who were transported out of England after an atomic bomb has fallen on it. Their plane was attacked and it dropped the boys on an island before it crashed. Only boys have landed on the island. There are no grown-ups, there is no one who can tell them where they are.
Ralph and Piggy find a conch, a valuable shell which you can use as a horn. Ralph blows on it and all the boys come running to him, including a bunch of little boys and Jack and his choir. They decide that they need rules and a leader. The two people who seem to be capable of leadership are Ralph and Jack. Ralph seems capable because he has found the conch and organised their first meeting. Ralph is the leader of the uniformed choir. Those uniforms look powerful, which makes Jack powerful, because he can give orders to the uniformed boys. They vote and Ralph becomes the leader. To keep Jack happy, Ralph makes him the leader of the hunters.
Meanwhile Ralph and the littluns make shelters. The littluns are scared because someone saw a ‘beasty’. They are crying a lot even though the older, more sensible ones try to calm them by saying there isn’t a beast on the island.
The hunters don’t want to watch the fire, they want to hunt. They leave the fire alone to go hunting. That wasn’t smart. The littleuns see a ship for the first time. But the fire is dead, so the ship won’t notice them. Ralph is angry at Jack. How could he do that? Doesn’t he want to be rescued? They become more and more distant from each other.
Jack becomes interested in the beast of the littluns. He wants to spend more time hunting, hunting pigs for meat and hunting the beast. Ralph thinks that rescue is still the most important thing. They go hunting together for the beast, to keep the littluns satisfied. Searching the whole island seems to be the best way of finding the beast. When they arrive at the highest place of the island, where the fire used to be, they see something, a shadow. They get scared and run away.
The difference between the opinions of Jack and Ralph splits up the group. Jack starts his own camp. Jack gets good at hunting. He catches many pigs and gives feasts for everyone, there is enough meat. This makes his camp very popular. Jack’s tribe starts to paint their faces, it makes them look stronger. They become more and more like animals, like wild beasts without rules. The only things they care for are hunting, feasting and the beast. To keep the beast satisfied they give it the head of the pig, as a sacrifice. The head attracts a lot of flies. Simon sees this and calls it the lord of the flies. At the highest place on the island Simon also sees a dead parachutist, his parachute blowing in the wind. The others must have thought that this was the beast! He runs to Jack’s camp to tell him. When he arrives there, Jack thinks he’s the beast. They kill Simon.
The group of Ralph becomes really small. The only members are Sam and Eric, inseparable twins, Piggy, a few littluns and Ralph himself. The only valuable things are the specs of Piggy and the conch.
He runs to the beach, falls on his knees and doesn’t feel like getting up anymore. To his surprise he hears a friendly voice, a voice of a grown-up. When he looks around he sees a navy officer. He is saved. For the first time he is allowed to cry.
The Main Characters
Leadership, smart, brave.
He is a very good leader. He has priorities, like keeping the fire burning and building shelters. He thinks of being rescued and what they should do to get rescued. If Jack wouldn’t have been on the island, I think, he would have been able to remain the leader. If they hadn’t been tempted by meat and feasts the boys would have stayed with Ralph because Ralph takes care of everybody. He listens to everybody. He is for democracy.
He is smart. Not smart like Piggy, but smart in his own way. He is reasonable. In the end he seems to be the only one who is still thinking. That makes him look smart, especially in comparison with the rest.
Ralph is brave. He wants to explore the unknown island. He isn’t scared of the beast at the beginning and he doesn’t care that there are no adults on the island. He is actually happy about that because he can do whatever he wants.
Mean, wild, powerful.
Jack is mean. He is not nice to his choir boys. He lets them suffer with their uniforms in the heat. He is not nice to Piggy. He is always mean to Piggy. Nobody has a clue why he is not nice to Piggy but from the beginnig he seemed to hate Piggy. He is not nice to Ralph. He wants to hunt Ralph, but maybe that’s because he wasn’t thinking reasonably anymore by the end of the book.
Jack is wild. He doesn’t seem to be scared of anything, not scared of the unexplored island, not scared of breaking the rules and not scared of looking like an animal. In the beginnig of the book he wasn’t wild. He was the one who best observed the rules. He became wild after he discovered that there was no one to punish him. That he could do whatever he wanted.
Jack is powerful. By end of the story he is the one who has most power. He rules alone over everybody. He doesn’t listen to those who have less power than him. He is almost a dictator. Everybody listens to him but hey have nothing to say.
Smart, scared, unwanted.
Piggy is smart. Ralph very often wished he was as smart as Piggy. Piggy is the one who is the most grown-up. I don’t think he had many friends before he landed on the island. I think he could get along best with adults. That is why he is thinking so much, he has to do something in his spare time.
He is the most reasonable one. He doesn’t want to break the rules. Maybe he thought that everybody would get mad and wild. Maybe that’s the reason why he didn’t want to break the rules, which I think is very smart.
Piggy is scared when he finds out that there are no adults on the island. He is scared of Jack, who doesn’t seem to like him. He is scared of the water, he thinks it’s too hot and I don’t think he was able to swim. He is afraid his asthma wil get him into problems, that’s why he doesn’t want to run.
Nobody on the island seems to like him. Everyone seems to think he’s an outsider. He is fat, he has specs and he is smarter than the others. He hasn’t got any good friends on the island. He gets on well with Ralph but they aren’t friends.
Violent and Disturbing Parts
The part where they kill Simon.
The way they’ve killed Simon is really violent, they screamed, stuck, bit and tore. They used their teeth and hands to kill Simon. This makes it clear that they the idea that they could manage quite well on the island without any adults is not true. They killed somebody. They said it was only an accident. But I think they all, and especially the older ones, knew that it wasn’t just an accident. They knew that it was horrible to kill someone, and that it was the beginning of the end.
All the boys want to forget that they killed somebody. They want to forget their responsibilities as a human being. I guess that this is one of the reasons why they stayed partying with Jack. They didn’t want to remember the things they did. With Jack they could forget and live like animals. Ralph would remind them of the things they did.
William Golding changes his way of writing a little bit in this part. He makes short sentences. The reader has reached an exciting part of the story and wants to get on fast. Things now happen quickly. But the descriptions are still very good. At the end of some sentences he uses a lot of words. These words are no sentences but just single words that describe the situation.
“Now out of terror rose another desire, thick, urgent, blind.”
I think these words build up the excitement. You can read them very fast. In an exciting part I always want to read faster. My problem is that I always skip half of the words. These words are ideal. You can read fast because there are no sentences. Just words which describe enough.
The part where Piggy is killed.
You know that something is going to happen. First Jack’s tribe takes Sam and Eric. Then they have a quarrel with Ralph and Piggy. Somebody is throwing stones at Ralph and Piggy. A rock hits Piggy. It breaks the conch and Piggy falls off the cliff. I think it is rather violent to kill somebody that way. It is disturbing because now you know that Ralph is totally alone. He has no one to help him. He must survive alone on an island filled with enemies. It is important because Jack’s tribe has really gone mad. You can’t call this an accident anymore. This is murder.
I think the part in which Ralph describes the dead Piggy is really disturbing. Ralph describes him as a dead pig. It seems cruel and senseless.
This time it seems like the writer is slowing down. He is describing all the little details like the feeling Jack had when the rock was thrown down and he could just fling himself flat on the ground. This way of writing works very well. It makes you feel like there’s a lot of adrenalin, like every little detail is important. The writer wants to keep you focused on the story.
Golding’s View of the Basic Nature of Man
I Think Golding’s viewpoint concerning the basic nature of man is negative. He doesn’t feel that man is basically good. I guess he thinks that the basic nature of man is evil.
He uses children in his book to explain what will happen if there are no rules. Children are pure and not yet infected by the way adults think. They do what they want. They don’t care about the opinions of others. They represent the basic nature of man. I think that is why Golding chose children to be his main characters.
It isn’t the basic nature of man to think about what’s good and what’s evil. The children don’t do this. They start to behave like animals; they murder and feast. Only a few boys haven’t forgotten what their parents told them about good and evil. That it is a horrible thing to kill. Those are the boys which were already more grown up when they arrive on the island.
I think that if the basic nature of man is good, it means that man can distinguish between good and evil. The children in this story can’t do that. They have lost this knowledge completely. That’s why I think William Golding thinks the basic nature of man is evil.
Why Almost Nobody Listens to Piggy
Maybe Golding wants to tell that looks are important in a community. You can be smart, but if you haven’t got the right looks, if you are fat like Piggy, nobody will listen to you. Only because you don’t look like a leader. The people want somebody who looks powerful, who looks like he can guide them through tough periods. It doesn’t really matter what he says.
I think Lord of the Flies is a novel about power. About how power is divided between people. About who is the most powerful.
In the beginning Ralph had most power. He was the leader. By the end Jack had gained most power. And Ralph had lost all his power.
It’s also a novel about the power of groups. If you are in a group you are more powerful than the ones outside the group, the loners. In a group you can protect each other, you are strong together. To be able to recognize everyone from the same group you can look like each other, It looks very powerful when all the boys of Jack’s tribe are painted. Like they are one. If you aren’t painted, you are the outsider. You can also have your own songs. The same rhythmic words. It doesn’t sound very important, but I guess it is really freaky to hear if you’re the one who their hunting for. The song of Jack’s tribe was:
Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!
In the end everybody wanted te be in the tribe of Jack. He seemed really strong with the painted faces and the hunting song.
So it is a novel about the power to use symbols to control a group.
The colour of this picture reminds me of the story. It reminds me of the part in which Jack’s tribe has set the forest on fire. It has the colour of fire. The person in the middle represents Ralph. The person is standing in a space without openings, almost a jail. The person can’t get away.
Ralph can’t get out of the forest. But he has to. If he stays he will get burned. But if he runs away, out of the forest, to the beach, he will be an easy victim for Jack’s tribe. The island is like a jail. He can’t get away. There are no safe places. The person in the picture looks desperately and a little bit angry at the fire. For me it’s easy to imagine Ralph with the same desperate and angry expression.
This picture reminds me also of Ralph’s situation at the end of the book. There are two men standing against a wall. They are blinded. It looks like an execution. They haven’t got a clue about what will happen with them next. Will they be killed? Or are their guards friendly and will they survive? They are at the mercy of the enemy.
It is the same with Ralph. He thinks Jack will kill him if he gets out of the forest. He will be handed to the enemy.
In my imagination the island on which they live looks like this tropical island. It looks almost like paradise. But in truth it is a scary place. A place without rules, a place where you are allowed to murder.
The contrast between the beautiful island and the violent community makes the story a little bit surreal.