The Lord of the Flies
William Golding’s book, The Lord of the Flies is a wonderful, fictional book about the struggle and survival of a group of boys trapped on an uninhabited island. This book kept me very interested and made me want to keep reading. The characters were very diverse and each had very appealing qualities in themselves. The setting is brilliantly described and the plot is surprisingly very well thought out. Many things like these make this book such a classic.
Although there are not many characters in The Lord of the Flies, there are many different personalities and differences between them. The first character in the book is Ralph. Ralph is twelve years old with blond hair, and is the most charismatic of the group. He is described as being built “like a boxer,” is somewhat charismatic and is chosen for chief, who makes it his job to lay down rules and try to organize a society. Throughout the novel he is always in conflict with Jack, who wants to be chief himself. Ralph and Piggy agree with each other’s ideas, but Ralph doesn’t realize how important Piggy really is to him until the very end of the novel. Although Ralph never reaches the understanding about the Beast that Simon does, he knows right from wrong.
Jack is about Ralph’s age, with a skinnier build and red hair. His freckled face is described as being “ugly without silliness.” From the very beginning, he seems to harbor emotions of anger and savagery. At first, he is the leader of his choir group, who becomes hunters as the book progresses. Finally, his savage personality and ability to tell people what they want to hear allows him to overtake Ralph as chief. Jack does not believe that the Beast exists and is the leader of anarchy on the island. From the start of the novel he does not like abiding by rules of any kind. He simply wants to hunt and have a good time. Not seeming to care about being rescued, Jack and his tribe are examples of the Beast running rampant. In the beginning of the story Jack, still conditioned by the previous society he had been apart of, could not bear to kill a pig that was caught in the brush. As the plot progresses he becomes less and less attached to any societal norms. Near the end, he feels no shame about the deaths of Simon and Piggy, or his attempt to kill Ralph.
Piggy is a short and overweight boy who wears glasses and represents order and democracy. He is afflicted with asthma and doesn’t care to do strenuous work on the island. He tries very hard to cling to civilization, and tries his best to keep peace. While probably the smartest boy on the island, he lacks any social skills whatsoever, and has trouble communicating or fitting in with the others. His glasses are a very important part of the book, as they are used over and over to start fires.
eSimon is younger than the three boys above are. He is very good and pure, and has the most positive outlook. He insists multiple time that they will get rescued, even when Ralph strongly doubts the possibility. The boys all think that he’s “batty”; he likes to be by himself and sometimes does and says strange things. Simon is the only boy who discovers what the Beast truly is. He learns this during the “interview” with the Lord of the Flies. When he tries to tell the rest of the children he is mistaken as the Beast and beaten to death.
Sam and Eric are two young twins who always travel and do everything together. Without each other, they are incapable of very much. They represent reliance and unity, and because of this become like one person referred to as Samneric. While seemingly loyal to Ralph, they eventually give in to Jack’s threats and join his tribe. While Ralph hoped otherwise, the twins in the end disclose Ralph’s hiding spot to Jack. The loss of civilization led them to lose any real sense of loyalty to others.
A small boy with dirty and shaggy black hair, Roger represents pure evil, even more than Jack does. He has no mercy, and is the first one to intentionally kill another boy on the island when he smashed Piggy with a boulder. He gets sadistic pleasure from torturing a pig and other boys on the island. Roger is one of Jack’s most loyal helpers, and gladly carries out his orders.
The story takes place on an island in the ocean, an island the author never actually locates in the real world. He does this so that you can imagine most of the island in your own way. The author tells us that the island is tropical and shaped like a boat. At the low end are the jungle and the orchards, which rise up to the treeless and rocky mountain ridge.
William Golding gives us a very strong sense of place, and the island shapes the story’s direction. At the outset the boys view it as a paradise; it is lush and abundant with food. As the fear of the beast grows, it becomes a hell in which fire and fear prevail. The island setting works as a metaphor for the world. The boys are trapped on the island as we are trapped on this planet. What happens there becomes a commentary on our world. The island is also described as a boat, and the boys feel they are men about to embark on an adventure. When the story closes, a boat has landed on the island. The boys’ first adventure is over, but they are about to begin another.
The real part of a book is its plot. The Lord of the Flies’ plot was very well written. A group of boys has been dropped on a tropical island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, their plane having been shot down. A nuclear war has taken place; civilization has been destroyed.
Ralph, a strong and likable blond, delights in the fact that there are “no grownups” around to supervise them. The boys have the entire island to themselves. Piggy, who is fat, asthmatic, and nearly blind without his glasses, trails behind as Ralph explores the island. When they find a white conch shell, Piggy encourages Ralph to blow on it. Ralph sounds the conch and the other boys appear.
Among them is Jack Merridew, marching the boys’ choir, military style, in the blazing sun. There are also the twins, Sam and Eric. Simon, short and skinny with black hair, joins the group. Many other boys who are never given names straggle in.
The group elects Ralph as their leader even though Jack would like to be chosen. Ralph, Simon, and Jack explores the island. It’s hard for them to believe they’re really on their own, but once they’re convinced, Jack decides to be the hunter and provide food. A first attempt at killing a piglet fails.
When the conch calls the group together again, they talk about the need for hunters. A small boy with a mulberry-colored birthmark on his face says he is afraid of a snakelike beast in the woods. Is there really such a beast? The boys can’t agree. However, the fear of the beast, of the dark, and of what is unknown about the island is very real and an important part of the story. Ralph convinces everyone that they need a fire for a signal in case a ship passes the island.
Starting a fire is impossible until they use Piggy’s glasses. Then the boys often abandon the fire to play, finding it hard work keeping the fire going. Jack becomes more and more obsessed with hunting and the desire to kill. He says, “you can feel as if you’re not hunting, but-being hunted, as if something’s behind you all the time in the jungle.” Jack and his hunters paint their faces to look like masks.
Hiding behind the masks, they are able to slaughter a pig. Afterward Jack and the hunters reenact the killing, one of the boys pretending to be the pig. Again the fear of the beast is mentioned, and the littlest boys cry about their nightmares while the big ones fight about the existence of the beast. Simon says that perhaps the beast is “only us,” but the others laugh him down. Their fears mushroom when the twins, Sam and Eric, see something that does indeed look like the beast. Jack and Ralph lead an exploration and come back convinced there is a beast. Jack decides he no longer wants to be part of Ralph’s tribe. He leaves, inviting the other boys to follow him.
In spite of their growing terror, Jack leads the hunters into the jungle for the slaying of another pig. He places its head on a stake, much like a primitive offering to the unknown beast. Everyone but the twins and Piggy abandon Ralph to attend Jack’s feast of roast pig.
Alone in the woods, Simon has a seizure and talks to the 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. A dead man who had parachuted from his plane is caught on the rocks. Terrified and sickened by the sight, Simon loosens the lines and frees the dead man, then starts off to tell the others there is no beast.
In the meantime, Ralph has given in and joined Jack’s feast, Piggy and the twins follow. They share roast pig and find that the hunters are now treating Jack as a god, serving him and obeying his commands. Ralph and Jack argue over who should be leader. Jack claims the right because he has killed the pig, but Ralph still has the conch. 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. Lightning cuts the sky apart.
When Simon appears, 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 classes. 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. Jack declares himself chief.
The next day Jack and the hunters plan to cover the island looking for Ralph. He will be stalked in much the same way that Jack has gone after the pigs. Ralph hides and runs, becoming more and more a cornered animal. To smoke him out, a fire is started that quickly spreads over the island.
At the very last moment, when all hope for him seems lost, Ralph stumbles onto the beach and falls at the feet of a man in uniform. Ralph is finally saved. While the officer is disappointed at how poorly the boys have managed themselves on the island; Ralph can only weep “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”
So, in conclusion I really enjoyed reading this great book. It taught me a lot about how things work without discipline and authority. This book showed how when there is a lack of a definite figure of authority, things start to break down and fall apart. I’m really glad that I was able to be given the opportunity to read The Lord of the Flies. I’m sure whoever reads this book will be deeply satisfied.