Lord of the Flies Book summary

William Golding

Overview

About

Published by Faber and Faber in 1954, Lord of the Flies was written by William Golding and is considered one of the classics of English literature. The allegorical novel, originally written in English and eventually translated into many other languages, begins like the tale of some adventures that a group of kids embarked. However, their heroic survival stories soon turn into an allegory for human nature. While it was written decades ago, readers still find Lord of the Flies as real and fresh as when it was first published.

Plot Summary

Written by William Golding, Lord of the Flies is an allegory of human nature and shows how human society would collapse on itself if there was a lack of law and order and humans were not subjected to any form of accountability. This is precisely what happens in the story, when a group of British boys find themselves stranded on an island after they are involved in a plane crash. Baffled by the chain of events, the boys try to make sense of the world around them and make attempts to rescue themselves as well as their fellows.

Ralph and Piggy, two friends who later try to lead the group, are walking on the beach and contemplating about what happened. Upon realizing the absence of any adults among the survivors, Ralph and Piggy take it upon themselves to rescue any other children who might have survived the plane crash. Ralph finds a conch shell on the beach that he blows into to sound an alarm in an attempt to gather all the boys. While Ralph believes that a rescue is imminent, other boys argue that it might not be the case and that they need to organize themselves in order to survive in this place. Through an election, the boys choose Ralph to become the leader of the entire group. However, the decision was not unanimous, as a chorus led by Jack Merridew did not vote for Ralph.

Nonetheless, Ralph won the majority of votes and immediately established a rough form of government, assigning each boy some form of responsibility as well as allowing them to enjoy their freedom. Ralph asks all of them to work together to ensure their survival and keep a smoking fire going at all times to attract any ships that maybe passing by.

They patrol the island to locate all the sources of food. Simon, another of Ralph's friends, begins overseeing the construction of shelters for some of the younger boys. After a detailed search of the island, the boys conclude that the island is deserted and their only sources of food are a few fruits and berries and a herd of wild pigs. Jack, along with his choir mates, decides to form a hunting party to hunt those wild pigs and cook them for food.

The organization and rough government are short lived, and soon the boys find themselves in disarray. Many of them refuse to do their chores and, instead, spend the entire day playing and sleeping. Moreover, a rumor spreads among the group that there is a blood- and flesh-eating monster residing on the island. While Ralph tries to talk some sense into the boys, Jack insists that the monster is real and that he and his hunting party are going to track it down and kill it. This also helps boost his popularity among the group.

Jack soon organizes a hunting party and takes many boys who are on smoke duty with him. While they are successful on their hunting trip and do catch a pig, they miss their chance at rescue when a ship passes by the island and does not stop because neither fire nor smoke are visible. Upon the return of the hunting party, Ralph confronts Jack and accuses him of causing them to miss their chance of survival. Out of anger, Jack beats Ralph's friend Piggy and breaks his glasses. Ralph is disappointed due to this whole episode of chaos and wants to step down as the group leader, but his friend Piggy insists that he stay on, arguing that things could get much worse if Jack were to become the leader of the group.

One evening, there is a dogfight of planes nearby, and another plane crashes on the island. The pilot of the plane manages to get out but does not survive the fall. His corpse gets stuck in a tree along with his parachute. One of the boys spots his corpse and is terrified thinking that it is the monster that they were talking about. Jack, Ralph, and another boy named Roger head out to find the monster and spot the corpse as well. Frightened, all three of them run back and are convinced that the monster is real. A meeting is called in which Jack attempts a failed coup. When the boys refuse to remove Ralph as their leader, Jack leaves and starts his own tribe. Soon, more and more boys join his tribe, lured by the roasted pigs that his tribe of hunters provide.

Jack's tribe soon resorts to savage ways and performs a ritual to satisfy the monster. They mount the head of a pig on a stick and run around it in circle. Simon, who is wandering in the woods for some alone time, observes Jack and his tribe performing the ritual. Simon sees that the pig's head mounted on the stick is covered with flies. Simon soon hallucinates and has a vision of a face made of flies, which he refers to as the Lord of Flies. The hallucination tells Simon that there is no blood- and flesh-eating monster and that the real monsters are the boys themselves. It also tells Simon that the boys will kill Simon because he represents the soul of man.

As Simon returns to camp, he spots the corpse of the pilot and is convinced that the monster is real. He runs back to inform the group of boys, crashing through the trees. The crazed tribe mistakes him for the monster and attacks him, ultimately killing him.

After this terrible incident, the boys fight with each other once again when Jack and his tribe try to snatch Piggy's glasses, which are the group's only means of starting a fire. While Jack has the backing of the entire group on his side, Ralph only has Piggy and two other boys with him. As the two groups fight, Jack's tribe captures the two boys and tortures them to join their tribe. In the process, they kill Piggy. Witnessing this, Ralph flees the scene.

Jack orders a group of hunters to follow Ralph and kill him. They also set the woods on fire to drive him out. Slowly, the flames begin to engulf the entire island; terrified of the fire, Ralph runs towards the beach. Meanwhile, a navy ship passing by spots the smoke coming out of the fire and turns toward the Island. Ralph makes it to the beach and finds himself at the feet of the naval officer, who also happens to be the captain of the ship. Soon, all the boys arrive at the beach; seeing the ship, they all break down and start crying. The naval officer is stunned at what the boys have done to each other and to the Island. Then, he turns back and thinks of his own warship contemplatively, recognizing that, in many ways, it is no different from what the boys have done.

  • Author(s)

    William Golding
  • Publication date

    September 17, 1954

  • Language

    English

  • Classification

    Allegorical novel

  • Pages

    224

Keywords

Literature

Publisher

Faber and Faber