Lord of the Flies is a modern classic about several British boys stranded on an uninhabited island. Events occur during some form of military conflict evocative of World War I — though this is never specified. The actors in Lord of the Flies are being evacuated to an unnamed place as a nuclear war occurs.
The terror begins when their plane, unfortunately, crashes after being attacked and is dragged out to sea. They are the only survivors of this plane crash. Remember that none of them is a young adult. They're all kids. This is how Golding introduces us to the unfamiliar island and the boys that find themselves on it.
William Golding's book portrays human nature as intricately nasty and savage. Was he right? Read on to see how the author used a bunch of kids to showcase humanity at its worst. This is your one-stop-shop for a Lord of the Flies Summary, Themes, Characters, and Quotes guide. By the end of this article, you'll be ready to tackle anything your teacher throws at you.
Lord of the Flies is an exciting and disturbing book about savagery. After their plane crashes, a group of schoolboys ends up on a deserted island without adults. They try to govern themselves and maintain order and civility but fail. Descending into violence and brutality. We'll explore each chapter of the book to see the events that lead to Golding's ultimate conclusion about humanity's shackled animosity.
At the beginning of the book, a fair boy named Ralph and a fat boy called Piggy meet on a desert island in the Pacific. They were on a plane with a group of boys being evacuated from England because of a war. But the plane was attacked and crashed on the island. While in the air, they heard that an atomic bomb exploded in England. So we know that a nuclear war is taking place.
They find a conch shell, and Ralph blows into it like a trumpet. The sound calls all the other boys on the plane out of the jungle. No adults survived the crash, just boys between the ages of 6 and 12. Ralph is the oldest and biggest boy on the island. He's 12.
Eventually, a whole choir emerges from the jungle led by a boy named Jack. The boys decide to vote for a chief, and they all pick Ralph. He's beautiful and seems like a natural leader, mainly because he called them with the conch. Jack is unhappy about being voted down; he's humiliated. Ralph likes him and wants to be friends. So he says Jack's in charge of the choir, and the choir will be hunters.
Ralph takes Simon and Jack up to the top of the mountain, and they find out they're on an island. They also find out there are pigs they can hunt, but the first one they see gets away.
After being elected chief, Ralph calls another assembly with the conch shell that has now become part of the tribal ritual. He tells everyone that they're on an island and they're alone. No one knows where they are.
The boys are lucky, however. It’s a good island with food, water, and pigs that they can hunt. Ralph makes the boys set a rule that when they have meetings, the person holding the conch gets to speak, and the conch shell becomes an important symbol in the book. It represents civilization and order. Unfortunately, the positive picture Ralph tries to paint gets somewhat spoiled. One of the youngest boys, who isn’t even holding the conch, asks what Ralph will do about the snake thing or beast that the boy thinks is on the island.
Ralph says there is no beast, but Jack says they’ll hunt for it. This moment is the root of all the problems in the book because this fear of a beast doesn’t go away. The boys can either deal with it Ralph’s way, which is to conquer the fear through reason, saying, “There isn’t a beast,” or Jack’s way, which is to say, “We’re part of a tribe; we’re hunters, together we’re strong enough to hunt and kill the beast.” This is an indication of the leadership differences between Ralph and Jack.
Ralph tells them that they need to light a small fire on the mountain to make smoke so that if a ship passes by, they’ll be rescued. Before he can organize anything, the boys rush off to the top of the mountain and make a huge bonfire. They use Piggy’s spectacles to light it. The fire gets out of control and burns a big patch of jungle, including what they would have used as firewood. Piggy accuses the boys of acting like kids, rebuking them for being out of control. He points out that the boy with the Mulberry birthmark was playing around when the jungle fire started, and now he’s disappeared. No one ever sees him again.
Jack spends his time hunting for pigs, and even after the other hunters get tired and drift off to swim and play, he keeps hunting, though he doesn’t catch anything. Ralph organizes the other boys to build shelters, but everyone drifts off to play and swim, too, leaving Ralph to struggle with the last shelter. One of the oldest boys, Simon, helps and does not follow the mindless masses. Jack and Ralph get into an argument because both are trying to do something meaningful, both are frustrated and not getting enough help, and neither can make the other understand. They agree that the shelters are important because the younger kids are afraid of the beast, and the shelters are like a home that will make them less scared.
A boy named Roger follows the little one named Henry off down the beach and starts throwing rocks at him. He’s making sure not to hit Henry, but it’s clear that the idea of hurting or even killing Henry is exciting to Roger. So now we see another problem on the island. At least one of the boys is a sociopath by nature — and since there are no adults to enforce rules — it’s only a matter of time or circumstances before Roger realizes he can kill.
Jack figures out a way to paint his face. He thinks the pigs are running away from him because they see his pink face in the bushes. Once he puts on the paint, though, he feels free from any self-consciousness. He does a war dance and rounds up the rest of the hunters, telling them they’ll form a line to trap one of the pigs. Jack does manage to kill a wild pig. But while he and the hunters are hunting, they let the signal fire burn out.
Down at the beach, Ralph sees smoke far off from a ship. But by the time he, Simon, and Piggy run up to the mountains — where the fire was — it’s too late, and the ship is disappearing. Ralph confronts Jack about this failure, and while Jack gets respect from the other boys for getting them meat, he’s humiliated again. Jack can’t do anything to Ralph. But he smacks Piggy and breaks his glasses. Piggy gets bullied because he is a fat boy, demonstrating how the world treats people deemed weak, using them as scapegoats for their own failures.
Ralph calls a meeting to set things straight since the boys are not doing their duties, like keeping the fire going or working on the shelters. He tries to lay down some rules. But then he opens a debate to discuss why they’re breaking apart. He says it’s because people are becoming frightened. Ralph wants the boys to discuss why they’re afraid and asserts they should agree that there’s no reason to be. But instead, Jack takes the conch and says the other boys are frightened because they’re sissies and crybabies. Piggy disagrees and says that they’re afraid of each other.
Percival, one of the littluns, suggests that the beast comes from the water, which terrifies everyone. Someone else says it’s a ghost. They have a vote on ghosts, and it turns out that most of them believe in ghosts. Piggy yells at the other boys for being stupid. Jack tells him to shut up and fights with him over the conch. Jack tells Ralph to shut up, saying he’s not a good chief and to hell with all the rules. He says he’s not afraid of the beast because he’s strong, and then he leads off with most of the other boys chanting and singing. At this point, it is clear that the boys’ imagination is spiraling out of control. They gave the beast actual characteristics and allowed it to dominate their minds.
While everyone’s asleep that night, there’s an air battle high up in the sky, and a dead man in a parachute falls onto the island near the mountaintop. Sam and Eric — sleeping by the signal fire — see the parachute but think it’s the beast and run off to tell the others.
Ralph, Jack, and the older boys go looking for the beast at the one place they haven’t ever explored, Castle Rock — at the far end of the island. They don’t find any beasts there, so they turn around and head for the mountain. As they’re on their way to the mountain, they stop to do some hunting, and Ralph gets a taste of how fun it is. Afterward, the boys do this dance where one pretends to be the pig, and the other children pretend to attack him — which gets pretty violent.
When they finally get to the mountain, it’s dark. But Jack insists that they should keep going. Jack, Roger, and Ralph climb up in the dark and see the beast. The three boys run in terror back to camp.
Jack tries to get the other boys to vote Ralph out as chief, but none do. He leaves, humiliated, saying he won’t play with them any longer. He says anyone who wants to hunt can come with him.
The boys build a new fire on the beach instead of the mountain. However, many of the older boys sneak away to join Jack. He and his hunters paint themselves with war paint and kill a sow. Jack and Roger put their head on a wooden pole that they stick in the ground. Jack and his tribe raid Ralph’s group to take fire. They then invite them for a feast, telling them that they can ask to join the tribe.
Simon — who often goes off by himself— sees the sow's head. He has an epileptic fit, but before he does, the head says it’s the beast, also called the Lord of the Flies. It laughs at him and says the beast is inside the boys, not something they can hunt and kill. Then Simon passes out.
When Simon comes to, he goes to the mountain, sees what the dead parachute is, and hurries off to tell the others that there’s no beast.
Ralph and Piggy show up at Jack’s feast. All the other boys except Simon have already come, and most have joined Jack’s tribe. The new tribe leader allows Ralph and Piggy to eat and later makes all the boys dance pig-hunting while chanting, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” In the middle of this, Simon comes out of the forest to tell all the other kids about the man and the parachute. In a horrid twist, all the boys rush to kill him, including Ralph.
The next day, Ralph, Piggy, Sam, and Eric pretend they aren’t part of what happened to Simon. That night, Jack and his hunters raid their former camp — still inhabiting Ralph, Piggy, Sam, and Eric — to steal Piggy’s glasses so they can make fire.
The raided group has one last meeting with the conch, and as they are sitting by the burned-out signal fire, Piggy holds the conch. He says he wants to go to Jack’s camp and demand his glasses back since it’s what’s right.
They go to Castle Rock, and the boys won’t let them come in. After hunting, Jack returns from the jungle and has Sam and Eric seized and tied up. Jack and Ralph fight, but Piggy speaks — holding the conch — and asks the boys whether it’s better to believe in rules, agreement, and getting rescued or in hunting and breaking things up. While talking, Roger dislodges a colossal stone that shatters the conch and kills him. Jack throws his spear at Ralph, who runs away. Jack and Roger then prepare to torture Sam and Eric, who wish to leave in peace.
As the new tribe has a feast, Ralph talks to Sam and Eric, who are now on the lookout. They are now a part of Jack’s tribe. The twins are particularly affected by what’s happened to them at the hands of Roger, and they talk to Ralph about the danger that he is in. Ralph wants them to join him, but they’re too afraid to leave the tribe.
They tell Ralph that Roger has a sharpened stick, something he can’t bring himself to understand. Ralph will be hunted, beheaded, and given as a gift to the beast. He’s too naïve to work this out and tells the boys he’ll hide close to the tribes camp, where nobody would suspect.
Many tutors would like to know if you can describe the reaction of the naval officer in chapter 12. Golding begins chapter 12 with Ralph speaking to the twins, Sam and Eric. Ralph hides close to Castle Rock, but the twins give his position away when Jack puts them under duress. He lights the bushes on fire, and the tribe forms a line to sweep across the island and find Ralph.
The boys start a fire to smoke him out, and Ralph runs from them, fleeing in terror. At the very end of the novel, Ralph is chased to the beach, where he would be doomed if it wasn’t for a naval officer standing on the beach. He saw the smoke from the fire used to smoke out Ralph and arrived to see if there were any survivors on the island.
Seeing the boys, he quickly learns they are disorganized and not playing. When left to their devices, he is disappointed to see British children reduced to savagery rather than maintaining a semblance of civilization.
He asks the boys jokingly if anyone has died. Ralph tries to explain to the officer what happened and starts weeping. The other boys weep too. When he finds out that is the case, he turns away from them, unable to face the evil humanity is capable of.
In Lord of the Flies, A group of British boys have to create a system of organization without a civilizing impulse. They devise rules to govern themselves without adult supervision, eventually becoming brutal and violent. What happens after the British aeroplane crashes demonstrates human savagery as the boys descend into chaos.
We've chosen to present the themes in Golding's book to reiterate the author's ideology concerning human nature. Here's a list of the Lord of the Flies Themes with the most impact on the story.
Chapter 3, “Huts on the Beach”, begins with two concrete images, the beach and the huts. The huts are more important in this chapter, so let us take you through some observations concerning one of the most impactful Lord of the Flies themes.
First of all, we start the chapter with Jack’s hunt. It is intense as he is trying to find a pig and stab it. Jack misses and comes out of the forest. We then see two boys — Ralph and Simon — working on the huts. Ralph is having trouble finishing up the huts. He had a lot of help with the first, a little help with the second, and only Simon’s help with the third. This shows the deterioration of order on the island. It also shows the desire for a home, but not necessarily a willingness to work for a home, which the huts may represent.
This chapter has an antagonism between Jack and Ralph. In fact, on page 51, Golding says, “now the antagonism was audible,” as Ralph is frustrated with the lack of help for the huts. Ralph angrily confronts Jack, frustrating the antagonist because he hasn’t killed a pig yet, and Ralph is talking badly about his hunters. By the time you come to the end of the chapter, Ralph and Jack are likened to two continents on page 55.
At this point, fear and arguments have reappeared among the boys. Jack tells Piggy and Ralph to shut up. He doesn’t care about the rules. He says he will hunt down the beast and leaves, asking other boys to follow if they dare.
Piggy tells Ralph to use the conch to reconvene the boys to organize the meeting. However, Ralph doesn’t do so but believes that if the boys don’t return, failure to restore order will doom them all. Ralph considers relinquishing the chieftainship, but Piggy and Simon convince him not to. He continues being bothered by his leadership role and wants civilization back. Ralph wants to be a successful leader but is still a young boy. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing and is worried about losing control over the boys. Soon, human evil rears its head as the boys kill Simon in their fictional world involving a beast. The younger boys struggle even to remember their homes. Since Ralph represents civilization, his desire to take a human life when he resorts to savage impulses shows that the boys have wholly abandoned civilized society in their hearts.
The early chapters show the main characters acting well-behaved. As time passes, however, and the memory of a passing ship is long forgotten, the whole island turns savage, and all hopes for setting up social norms are abandoned. The boys turn cold as Jack and Roger's true nature emerges, making the British boys a cautionary tale to others that retain their childhood innocence. Human beings are peculiar characters. The human psyche is malleable, especially when they are young. This demonstrates that failure to instill discipline and a sense of morality voids a community of future leaders.
This is the most influential of all the Lord of the Flies themes. We see the fear of the beast manifesting and growing in different forms. Simon and Piggy try to explain that fear lies within them. This represents Golding’s theory that human nature is savage and unforgiving. We see that especially coming out with Jack and the fear he uses to gain the power he longs for. By claiming he can kill the beast, he seems heroic. Safety comes before civilization. Being able to feed and protect the boys makes Jack seem like an apparent leader, so he’s now testing the boundaries of who the boys want to see in charge.
The rescue seems more improbable as the boys begin to spiral away from their central idea of having a signal fire when the ‘littlun’, Percival, says he’s seen the beast in the water. He’ll later have problems identifying himself and where he comes from. This shows us that memory is fallible. The boys are not only forgetting their own lives and identities on the island; they’re also forgetting that things never really were that good here.
Everyone except Simon neglects moral behavior when they don’t have civilization suppressing their savagery. None of the boys is innately moral. In contrast, the fear of punishment and adult supervision has conditioned them to act civilized. Social conditioning’s work is seen at play even in Ralph and Piggy as they willingly participate in the hunt dance.
Golding does not see humanity’s push towards civilization as innate as people’s impulse to commit savage acts. Simon is different from the other boys on the island as he acts morally. He does not base his actions on shame or guilt but rather on an inherent belief in the value of morality.
Ralph and his company's plane is shot down as they are evacuated from a boarding school in Britain. The boys crash on an uninhabited island paradise. They immediately set about destroying the island.
The first instance of humankind's impact on nature is the vast crash site, named the "scar" by Golding. It destroys the island's pristine nature, which has remained free of humanity's influence before the boys' arrival.
Jack and his group accidentally set fire to part of the island as they do not tend to the fire at the novel's beginning. Neglecting responsibility is an innate part of human beings that has terrible consequences. A burn at capitalism, Jack's intent to fulfill his desire, leads to loss for the company. They also kill a small boy in the ordeal.
A pig's head taints Simon's beautiful meditation spot on a spike. Rather than admire the island's beauty, the boys manifest a beast and create evil rites to satiate the beast. The final nail to the coffin of the island paradise is when Jack and his camp burn the island as they chase Ralph to the beach at the end of the novel. We'd only hope that it recovers as the ungrateful human beings survive off it and leave it in ash.
Fear is the overarching theme in Lord of the Flies. This irrational fear begins with the younger boys and eventually spreads to the older boys. It's the only reasonable explanation to the question, "How has Ralph changed since being on the island?" He's grown fearful, as have the others, leading to irrational decisions fueled by fear that lead to Simon's death.
In chapter 5, Ralph blows the conch, and we see him on the beach thinking about what he wants to say during the meeting. When it begins, he says they must put things straight and admonishes the boys for not following the rules. He says there should only be one main rule now. The fire on the mountain stays lit! Ralph expresses his frustration and says that things are falling apart. He doesn’t understand why and says that they began well and were happy. As we can see, Ralph tries to keep the group happy.
He says the boys need to stop being afraid of this beast. Piggy and Jack confirm that there is no beast at all. However, one of the youngest boys, Phil, says he saw something the previous night. Simon admits he likes to go off in the jungle sometimes, but then another little boy starts crying, causing all the littluns to start crying as well. Jack grabs him, asking where the beast is. He says it comes from the ocean. This illogical sequence of events drives the children's society from then onwards.
This character analysis guide allows you to look at Golding's work differently. You need to consider what the author meant and the implications of his work in real life. We'll now look at different characters and how they elicit William Golding's notion concerning human behavior.
Let's look at the most significant characters, quotes, and literary techniques in Lord of the Flies to help us understand the story better.
Lord of the Flies features very peculiar boys. Golding's assumption about humanity's innate darkness is manifested in how the boys from Britain interact with each other and the island. We'll address each character and some quotes they expressed throughout the book that help explain their character.
Ralph’s character truly begins emerging as the boys form a social hierarchy. The other boys stranded on the desert island voted him as leader. His competition is a boy, Jack, who is desperate to be the chief. Ralph gives him control of the hunters, which is a bad move, and then he fails to stand up for Piggy when Jack abuses him. So we can tell that he’s going to struggle to be an effective leader, and we can see there’s going to be a power struggle between Ralph and Jack early on. Ralph gives the boys false hope by telling them that his father would be looking for them and that his ship is likely on its way. Nonetheless, Ralph has some good ideas.
He comes up with a great idea about making a fire that will alert passing ships and boats to their presence. Jack botches this, and they lose an opportunity as a ship passes close to the island. The ship is almost on the horizon when Ralph realizes that the signal fire that Jack, at that point, was meant to keep going has gone out. The boat disappears, and then Jack, with his hunters, covered in face paint, and with a dead pig, arrives! So we can see things are slipping out of Ralph’s control at that moment, and we think he begins to realize that too.
Piggy represents civilization, logic, rationality, and, arguably, science. This is his wheelhouse. He’s an interesting character because he speaks with a bit of an accent. His English is not perfect. He says stuff like, “We was gonna do this” or “We done that.” His grammar is a bit broken, but his intelligence is not. I would say he’s the most intelligent boy on the island.
Piggy has a tragic background. His parents have died, and he lives with his auntie in England. All the boys on the island reject him, but he seems to have been rejected by all the children he went to school with. Piggy’s generally a bit of a reject.
Unfortunately, he’s also physically weak but powerful mentally. However, he is also somewhat a little bit cowardly to some extent. He doesn’t stand up to Jack and is afraid of him to some level. That’s one of the reasons why the island turns to savagery: the boy who represents civilization is, to some extent, weaker than the boy who represents savagery.
Sadly, Piggy’s woes do not end there. In addition to being physically weak, he’s got asthma and is also bespectacled. Piggy inadvertently dies because of his visual impairment as they demand them from Jack’s camp.
Golding shows his decline and eventual death beginning with one of the lenses of his glasses getting broken. He can’t see perfectly well and then has his glasses stolen when Jack raids their camp. So Piggy’s staggering around the island, basically blind, and then he dies when he’s crushed by a boulder which is very, very sad. His death is very important because it signifies the end of civilization.
Piggy constantly gives Ralph advice. So, we have a much more intelligent, more logical boy than the rest, guiding the camp’s leader. Ralph does a bit of a better job as chief in his own right and grows as a character, but Piggy is one of the biggest catalysts. He helps accelerate the development of Ralph’s character and helps us answer the question, "How has Ralph changed since being on the island?" His death signifies the end of civilization because it’s not just him that dies. The conch also shatters an object that, in many ways, represents Piggy.
Piggy discovers the conch and uses it to manipulate the boys to get a chance to speak. If he’s holding the conch -despite not liking him- they accept that in the rules they’ve created in this society, he has the right to hold the floor and speak. The conch is a vivid pink color when they first discover it, and by the end, it’s blistered into this kind of bleached white color. So it has lost power in the same way Piggy has; there is a parallel between them. When Piggy dies, he’s holding the conch, which gets shattered alongside him. The conch’s explosion into tons of fragments signifies the end of civilization.
Jack shows no remorse for Piggy’s death. His reaction is, “That’s what you’ll get” to Ralph for challenging his authority. This is the absolute end of any form of morality, as well, because Jack kidnaps Sam and Eric and forces them to join his tribe. Ralph is left alone to defend himself against the rest of the boys on the island. They plan on hunting him, cutting his head off, and offering it to the Lord of the Flies. So really, this is the end of any rationality, any logic, and any civilization in the boys. It’s their total descent into unbridled savagery.
Piggy is also a deuteragonist. It’s what we would call a sidekick character. They’re not the main character but friends with and close to them. Ralph doesn’t like Piggy much but understands he needs someone like him. Piggy is dynamic because he tries to adapt to the circumstances they’re presented with on the island.
We can confidently say that Jack, the egomaniacal, strong-willed boy, is Ralph’s antithesis. He represents the boys’ instincts for violence, savagery, and power. His obsession with power is evident from the start. Jack is furious when Ralph is elected leader and frequently pushes his role’s boundaries within the group. Early on, he maintains a nuance of moral behavior and propriety instilled in him by society—he was the choirboys’ leader in school, after all.
Jack cannot kill a pig the first time he sees one but is soon obsessed with hunting and devotes all his time to the provider role. He comes up with the idea to paint his face like a barbarian to sneak up on the pig and gives in to his blood lust. As he gets more savage, he gains more control over the other boys, reinforcing his savagery.
We must note that the boys largely follow Jack in shedding off guilt and moral restraint, embracing savagery and violence. We say this largely because Simon, Ralph, and Piggy still believe in civilization. Jack’s love for power and violence is intricately connected, making him feel a double surge of control and exaltation when he exercises control over the other boys. By the novel's end, Jack has learned to use the beast effectively. He controls their behavior —a grisly reminder of how superstition and religion are dangerous tools of power in the hands of an evil person.
Simon is on a different plane of thought from Ralph, Jack, and almost every other boy. He does not represent savagery or civilization but rather an innate spirituality and human goodness deeply rooted in nature. You could say his character is primal, similar to Jack’s, but on the opposite spectrum.
Simon is kind to the little children and is the first to recognize the danger posed by the Lord of the Flies and the Beast. His solitude exploration of the island leads him to the truth that the supposed monster itself is not real but rather a human darkness and savagery that lurks within all of us. Jack and Roger’s decision to stake the pig’s head on a pike symbolizes this notion, as we can see in Simon’s hallucination when the head speaks to him.
Ultimately, Golding concludes with this moral idea of innate evil in all people, which is the primary problem in his book. Simon is a contrast to this notion of evil, representing the innate goodness of humanity. His brutal murder shows the rarity of that good, as the other boys represent an overwhelming volume of evil.
Golding presents Roger as a quiet and intense boy. He is one of the older boys and eventually becomes brutal and sadistic. Midway through Golding’s narration, Roger turns into a real villain, his cruelty surfacing as he terrorizes Henry, the littlun, by throwing stones at him. Roger is still bound to societal rules and makes sure the rocks land a safe distance from the child. However, we can see that it is only a matter of time before he realizes he is unbound by societal constraints as his moral code is broken.
Jack’s ascension to power makes Roger believe that his brutal and violent nature will make him an effective and powerful leader. He does not question Jack when he intends to torture Wilfred without a sound reason. All he can think about is “the possibilities of irresponsible authority.” He does not care about helping Wilfred or Jack’s reasons for doing so.
Roger ultimately allows “senseless violence” to take over and, in “delirious abandonment, pushes the boulder that smashes into Piggy. His moral code is abandoned at this point; he turns his attention to Sam and Eric, threatening them with torture. They would later tell Ralph, “You don’t know Roger. He’s a terror.”
Golding introduces Sam and Eric, twin older boys on the island, as one entity. They largely remain loyal to Ralph throughout the entire book and are easily excited. It’s interesting to see them finishing each other’s sentences and living within their cocoon, away from the other boys.
Sam and Eric participate in Simon’s murder but insist they return to their camp early and do not take place in the latter stages of the hunt dance. They are ashamed to admit they took part in this savage act. When Jack leaves to start his own tribe at Castle Rock, the twins are among the few boys that remain with Ralph to maintain a fire and take care of the littluns.
Sam and Eric bravely join Ralph and Piggy to get the latter’s glasses from Jack’s tribe. They try to warn Ralph about who they are about to face, Jack and Roger, drunk on power and blood-lust but are physically beaten the next day, revealing where Ralph is hiding in the underbrush.
We'll now transition to the top quotes used by Golding in his novel.
In the next few minutes, I’ll use ten Lord of the Flies quotes to help you understand the key themes, main message, and literary devices used in the Lord of the Flies as you prepare for test essays and exams.
1. “All round him, the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat.” P.1. The sound of the shell.
The first thing to say is that this quote tells us the story will be something other than a traditional boys' adventure story like Coral Island. Golding describes the boys' arrival as a scar on the beautiful landscape. It refers to where the plane has crashed, clearing a path through the trees. A bath of heat suggests the indentation caused by the plane was deep and hot. Fire imagery is used frequently in this story.
2. “The creature was a party of boys.”p.15. The sound of the shell.
This is how Golding introduces the choir boys led by Jack. It is also a quote about Ralph and Jack's leadership battle. You may think of choirboys as highly civilized, but the author describes them as a creature. This hints that when the boys form a group, they can develop animalistic tendencies and a mob mentality. I say “can” develop because although savagery is a key theme in this book, it is not inevitable. The battle in the story revolves around who can control the boys. Will it be Ralph? Who is described as mild and fair, or Jack? Who is described as ugly, arrogant, and angry? Ultimately, Jack wins, and Ralph almost gets killed.
3. “We must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire. A fire! Make a fire!” p.37. Fire on the mountain.
Ralph has one main goal. He wants to create a smoke signal that is visible to passing ships so that the boys can be rescued. But the boys lose sight of the goal and get carried away, building a massive fire that burns part of the jungle and kills one of the young boys. This tells us that the boys are looking for excitement and that getting them to keep a small smoky fire going will eventually become problematic.
4. “Rescue? Yes, of course! all the same, I’d like to catch a pig first.” p.54. Huts on the beach.
Jack seems to agree that being rescued is important but notices the question. “Rescue?” He has to think about it before being able to remember. That’s because it isn’t Jack’s real focus. He wants to hunt and kill a pig. So we can infer from this quote that Jack is not very interested in being rescued, which is why the fire soon goes out, and the opportunity to be rescued will be missed.
5. “Round the squatting child was the protection of parents, and school, and policemen, and the law.” p.65. Painted faces and long hair.
Descent into savagery is a theme of this book, but the boys don’t immediately begin attacking each other. Their behavior is initially moderated by the memory of the rules they had been taught in England. You’ll notice this is a vigorous speech called polysyndeton, and it reinforces the way society has several ways to temper our worst tendencies. Here we have four ways by which we’re educated to behave well.
The memory of these forms of authority is enough at the story's beginning. It protects one of the little boys, Henry, from being harmed by Roger, who only throws stones near him but doesn’t hit him. We might note that this constraint will, of course, not last.
6. “When Roger opened his eyes and saw Jack, a darker shadow crypt beneath the swarthiness of his skin. p.65. Painted faces and long hair.
Roger is possibly the most sinister character in this book, and Golding uses a metaphor to suggest Roger’s evil side. Almost all of the Lord of the Flies quotes about savagery are related to Roger! Some integral quotes from Lord of the Flies about the beast are attributed to Roger, arguably the disturbing parts! Golding uses a cold metaphor to explain Roger's entrance into the narrative.
He describes Roger as a shadow that creeps beneath the swarthy or dark skin. The choice of the verb “creeps,” a word associated with being furtive, meaning secretive, is fascinating. He’s hidden a darker or sadistic side that gradually emerges. Roger will torture a pig by jamming a sharp stick further and further inside it. He will kill Piggy and sharpen the stick at both ends, presumably to display Ralph’s head after they kill him.
7. “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said the head. P.158. Gift for the darkness.
Simon, the kindest character in the story, suffers a fit while hiding near where the boys kill a pig. Hallucinating, he sees the pig’s head impaled on the stick and thinks it is talking to him. The rotting head is covered in flies, but the connotation of this name matters. The Lord of the Flies is another name for the devil, and the head tells Simon a terrible truth. The beast is not outside but inside us, so it can never be killed. As long as humans are alive, the potential for evil always exists. It can only be suppressed, resisted, and controlled.
8. “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” p.168. A view to death.
The boys are fearful. During a storm, they chant “Kill the Beast” to create a sense of togetherness. They chant this incantation five times and then murder Simon, who ironically comes out of the forest to tell them that the supposed beast is only a dead airman. Notice that this attack is something that they have rehearsed twice before, pretending that Morris was a wild pig and attacking him but not hurting him. Second, they attack Robert and physically harm him. This time they are so fearful that, in a frenzy, they seem to confuse Simon with the beast and do not stop until they have killed him.
9. “The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.” P.200. Castle Rock.
If the death of Simon can be explained by fear and frenzy, no such excuse can be made for the murder of Piggy. This killing is conscious and cold-blooded. Looking down from above, Roger rolls a massive boulder at Piggy, killing him and destroying the conch. This is relevant because Piggy is a symbol of rational thought, and the conch is the symbol of authority and cooperation. Savagery now rules. In addition, before he rolls the stone, we are told that Roger viewed Piggy as a bag of fat. This removes his human qualities and makes it easier for Roger to kill him.
10. “you don’t know Roger. he’s a terror-
-and the chief
p.210. Cry of the hunters.
At the end of the story, having been captured by the hunters, the twins, Sam and Eric, now realize the threat posed by Jack and Roger. They begin with Roger. “You don’t know Roger.” This chimes with how Golding described him in chapter one, “a slight furtive boy who no one knew.” Now they have good reason to be frightened of Roger and Jack. Jack beats Wilfred for no apparent reason, and Roger commits murder. Roger and Jack retain power through fear, not fun, and the final chapter only leads us to think that Roger is the worst of the two.
Finally, a quick bonus quote.
11. “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” p.225. Cry of the hunters.
At the climax of the story, Ralph narrowly avoids being murdered. But he is no longer the carefree boy who arrived on the island, doing handstands on Golding’s beaches and swimming in clear blue seas. Ralph now knows that humans are capable of extreme cruelty from a young age. But note that the moral of this story is not that all humans are savage but that we all have the capacity for savagery. So when we see prejudice, mockery, and violence used against Simon and Piggy in particular, we should not allow it to happen. We must resist it because, eventually, that savagery spreads, and it will affect us all, as Ralph discovered.
Ralph wants shelters and to be rescued. In contrast, Jack wants to explore the island. Who can be deemed ethically correct, as shelter and food are essential to the boys? These are things that hopefully you’re considering as you read and think about this novel.
Golding allows the reader to perceive a boy from the island accurately by showing us their traits early in the text. These snippets allow us to gain a glimpse into how Ralph sees their situation and what they may do about it. Let's take a look at some Lord of the Flies quotes from Ralph.
“His name’s not Fatty, it’s Piggy!”
This is what Ralph says when Jack is rude to Piggy at the novel's beginning. He doesn’t stand up for Piggy, which shows us he will struggle to be an effective leader.
“Daddy’s ship” “My father”
He talks about his father’s ship, which is idealistic. It gives the boys calls hope, but there is a change in Ralph later after a ship nearly rescues them and disappears over the horizon. He does not refer to him as “daddy” anymore but as his “father,” which shows that there’s a little bit more of a change in character. Ralph is becoming more of a mature person. Perhaps. But at that point, it’s too late because Jack is already taking over the island.
“This is a good island.”
This key quote shows how idealistic Ralph is.
“That was a dirty trick.”
This is what Ralph says to Jack when he punches Piggy. He is not able to effectively stand up to him. He then eats Jack’s meat like a wolf, reflecting his slipping grasp on his power.
“Like a wolf.”
This quote shows Ralph’s descent into savagery as he loses touch with civilization.
“The desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering.”
Ralph is involved in harming Robert and enjoys doing it. He takes part in a frenzied game where they chant and poke at Robert with sticks.
“There were no words and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.”
Simon’s death is brutal. The boys effectively become the thing that they all feared in the novel, the beast. This is the evil within a soul, where the phrase is an ironic echo to the beast. They describe it as having teeth and claws earlier on before they murder Simon.
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness in man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true wise friend called Piggy.”
The presence of an authority figure, an adult, is enough to snap the boys back to reality. Each of the boys weeps, even Roger and Jack-who’d earlier on called scared boys sissies-showing that each person has a darkness within them, the beast.
Knowing those key moments involving Ralph lets us understand him as a character. While he is an ideological leader, he is ineffective and unrealistic. He makes terrible judgment calls, beginning with handing over the military to his rival! Ultimately, Ralph’s unrealistic expectations get Piggy, Simon, and an unnamed boy killed, almost making him face the same fate.
We'll now look at some Lord of the Flies quotes from Piggy.
“Didn’t you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb? They’re all dead” (14).
Piggy mentions the global war to Ralph in the first chapter. This shows us how humankind would live after the next world war if everyone outside the island died. The boys’ society helps us understand how society may look after the world experiences a catastrophic nuclear event. The small-scale version of humanity devolves into war and violence. They quickly degenerate into tribalism and intolerance that ultimately causes war. This does not bode well for humankind as the species’ proclivity for war makes it impossible to correct the course after a worldwide disaster.
“But Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains” (78).
This is a quote that shows Piggy is intelligent. We see Piggy’s body and brain juxtaposed, albeit using insulting language. As I mentioned earlier, he is physically weak but intelligent, so he has value through his intelligence. Jack has no time for Piggy’s intelligence. It’s one of the reasons why he hates Piggy. He is smart enough to outthink Jack and say things about what he wants to do, which undermines Jack’s authority. This is one of the main reasons he hates Piggy. Piggy is an outsider, not only because of his accent, which does not matter, but because he’s a fat boy with glasses and a certain disinclination to manual labor.
“Now you did it. You have been rude about his hunters” (137).
Piggy is intuitive and recognizes that Ralph's insult concerning Jack’s hunters will be detrimental to the boys. Piggy is one of the most sensitive boys on the island and understands that Jack is prideful. He is one of the unique Lord of the Flies characters that use logic and thought to guide them. Ralph wounded him, primarily when his insult was directed at his ability to provide meat for the camp. Piggy’s intuition makes him sense that this conflict will evolve into something terrible. Jack's group will eventually steal Piggy's glasses and hunt the fair boy as the boys fully embrace their savagery without remorse or guilt.
“Come away. There’s going to be trouble. And we’ve had our meat” (151).
This is the second most significant warning Piggy gives to Ralph. He senses there may be some form of sadistic entertainment after the feast on Castle Rock. He is, unfortunately, proven right as Simon stumbles into the war circle from the forest and is brutally killed by the boys, including Ralph and Piggy. They are lured by inherent human cruelty and mob mentality.
“That's right. We was on the outside. We never done nothing, we never seen nothing” (158).
Ralph and Piggy reconvene the morning after Simon’s death to discuss what happened the previous evening. Ralph calls it plain and simple –murder – Piggy cannot admit his culpability by maintaining his dignity and humanity, insisting that they did not do or see anything.
Now that we're done with quotes by Piggy from Lord of the Flies, we'll look at another character, Jack, and later we'll provide some jack quotes from Lord of the Flies with page numbers.
Here are several instances that help portray Jack's character. We'll now look at quotes on Jack, Lord of the Flies.
“I ought to be chief...because I'm chapter chorister and head of choir boy now. I can sing C sharp.”
Jack declares his natural leadership using arbitrary prerequisites. However, he fails to gain Piggy’s crucial vote, losing the leadership position to Ralph. The still-green leader allows Jack to maintain control over the choir boys. While Jack possesses innate leadership skills, Ralph bests him in charm. He also wants to create certain rules to ensure they maintain civility.
“His specs – use them as burning glasses!”
Jack realizes they can use Piggy’s glasses to start a fire. He aggressively takes them from Piggy’s face, foreshadowing their importance to the camp and the boys’ survival. They also show that Jack is physically stronger than Piggy.
“I agree with Ralph. We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything. So we’ve got to do the right things.”
Jack’s assertion about British civilization's superiority leads to tribalism shows a common theme among the Lord of the Flies characters. Ironically, Jack says they should adhere to British civilization rules since he and his followers quickly abandon societal constraints and allow savagery to take over. His convictions are not based on being human but British. The British naval officer arrives, and his disappointment mirrors Jack’s example of Britain as their “society’s” model civilization. He sees the British boys reduced to savages.
“I thought I might kill.”
Jack decides to hunt, and when he returns from the hunt, he tells Ralph it was unsuccessful. Ralph’s frustration with him for not helping out around camp mirrors Jack’s frustration for not killing the pig. Jack is under constant pressure to either catch a pig or help with shelter building. There is a growing tension between Ralph and Jack since they have diverging motivations.
“Eat! Damn you!”
When Jack finally kills a pig, he angrily tells the boys to eat to acknowledge his achievement. He is a successful hunter and can provide for the group. He notices that using rage makes the other boys respect him. This is his first time recognizing that he lusts for control over others and power. Jack will hone this anger and fear it magnifies, to motivate the group and inspire their allegiance. He’ll eventually take over the island and, guided by rage, consume it.
“Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat - !”
Jack believes hunting is more important than listening to Ralph and following his rules. He values hunting and killing more than helping out at camp. His obsession with hunting is greater than his desire for civilization and order on the island. Jack’s hunger for power and control over the other boys is evident as he creates an authoritarian system built around barbarity and hunting.
“I’m not going to play anymore. Not with you...I’m not going to be a part of Ralph’s lot—”
Jack is embarrassed and hurt after Ralph belittles his hunters. He leaves the group and goes off alone. His tears and wording, “play,” remind the audience that despite acting like young adults here, the characters are children. He is humiliated, and we can directly trace his later violence to this incident when he learns that using fear makes the other boys take him seriously.
“Sharpen a stick at both ends.”
Jack’s savagery is apparent and distinct among the Lord of the Flies characters. In a brutal hunting scene, he tells Roger to sharpen a stick at both ends. He intends to mount the dead pig’s head on it and leave it as an offering to the beast. Simon later has a hallucinogenic conversation with the head as it becomes the Lord of the Flies. Jack and Roger sharpen a second stick in the final chapter. Golding does not explicitly state their intentions, but we can infer that they’ll mount Ralph’s head on it and offer it to the beast.
“No! How could we--kill--it?”
The day after Simon’s death, Jack asks Stanley how they could kill the beast. They all quietly suspect they killed Simon. But Jack, as with Ralph on the other side of the island, adamantly denies their actions, saying they killed the beast, not Simon. He needs the group to fear the beast to maintain his grip on power. Jack instructs his hunters to prepare an offering in case it returns in the form of someone or something else.
As with exquisitely detailed Lord of the Flies themes and vibrant characters, Lord of the Flies is chock-full of literary devices that further accentuate Golding's excellence. Here is a list of what this section will cover.
William Golding uses a mix of vivid action scenes and melodious descriptions of nature. He also uses dialogue to fuel his increasingly foreboding style that mirrors the group's and, later, two groups, descent into violence and chaos.
It begins with a clear description of the island after the plane crash. Stranded in the pacific ocean, the fair-haired boy, Ralph, looks around. Golding describes it this way, "all round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat…a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upward with a witch-like cry.”
The author uses generic words such as "jungle", "boy", and "bird," as well as metaphors to showcase some dislocation in the text's reader. This thought-provoking style leaves the audience wondering:
We can immediately identify with the stylistic choices used by Golding to define the boys on the island. They are probably wondering the same thing at this point in the story. We must look at the comparisons used by Golding up to this point and determine if they foreshadow what is to come as the story progresses. Here are the most meaningful comparisons.
These depictions elicit an ominous perception that despite the area's natural beauty, the island has various threats. It also depicts that the boys will leave with a scar from their experience on the island.
Golding uses a somewhat aloof tone that alleviates a sense of closeness with events in the narrative. None of the boys generally expresses sympathy towards the rest. Similarly, Golding uses a tone that does not express sympathy or shock toward anything that happens.
The deaths of Piggy and Simon are told in a matter-of-fact tone. For instance, Golding says, "Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened, and stuff came out and turned red.” We can see Golding expressing the death of civilization and rationality nonchalantly.
The tone does not express surprise as Golding frequently mentions the sea each time such a gruesome event occurs. This makes us believe that death is inevitable: “Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.”
Golding expertly distances the audience from emotions in these scenes by noting details of the natural world rather than focusing on the boys. Nonetheless, the author's exact details concerning the appearance of Piggy's broken body elicit a sense of disgust and horror.
While people can see that the boys gradually turned savage, certain Lord of the Flies characters and events accelerated these issues and can be seen as the catalysts for significant shifts in the novel. Look at the two most appropriate game-changing moments in Lord of the Flies.
1. Jack Summons his Inner Savage
Ralph loses his power and influence over the boys to Jack. He is the only character that notes this and argues with Jack about his failure to keep the fire going, and the latter gets furious. He punches Piggy, breaking his glasses. Ralph doesn’t stand up to Jack effectively at this moment. That evening Jack looks increasingly powerful, feeding the group his kill. Ralph eats Jack's meat like a wolf, suggesting that he’s losing his power, influence, and perhaps his humanity.
Ralph might be the novel's hero, but he has a dark side. The boys come to believe a beast is living on the island, and they go hunting for it. While they’re out, Ralph nearly kills a pig and is thrilled. He’s then involved in a game where they “kill the pig,” which involves poking a boy called Robert with spears. Ralph takes a lot of pleasure in doing so. Another significant moment in the novel involving all of the island's characters is the murder of Simon.
Simon's death is a good illustration of society's impact on Ralph. Jack starts a new tribe and has a feast. Ralph and his tribe join them, and a wild dance occurs in the evening. Simon comes running from the trees to tell the boys that the beast is a dead pilot. They assume he’s the beast and kill him. Ralph is involved in this moment and later refers to it as murder.
At the end of the novel, Ralph is hunted. This begins when Jack’s tribe raids Ralph and steals Piggy’s glasses. Their attempt to get them back leads to Piggy being killed. Sam and Eric are now part of Jack’s tribe after being taken hostage- tell Ralph that he’s to be hunted the next day. He can’t work out why Roger has sharpened a stick at both ends, which the audience knows is to impale his head as an offering to the beast. They will kill Ralph and decapitate him. But he’s unable to put that together.
Ultimately, Ralph is saved after being hunted to the beach's edge. Jack and his group set most of the island on fire to force Ralph into the open. He collapses on the sand in front of a naval officer who’s seen the smoke coming from the island, and the novel ends with Ralph weeping uncontrollably.
Don't let the title fool you. William Golding's 1954 novel, a staple in most 10th-grade classes, has faced intense criticism over the years. The American Library Association (ALA) ranks it 8th among the top ten most frequently banned or challenged books in the US. Parents and other interested parties, such as school administrators, have disputed its use of violence and profane language. Bullying is one of the primary plot lines in this book and is rampant on Golding's island.
The Waterloo, Iowa schools challenged the novel in 1992 due to its lurid passages riddled with sexual connotations, profanity, and defamatory statements concerning God, minorities, the disabled, and women.
It was also challenged in 2000 but retained on the 9th-grade accelerated reading list for English students in Bloomfield, New York.
The Florida Citizens Alliance pushed for legislation in the state to ban close to 90 books, including Lord of the Flies, in April 2019. Their efforts bore no fruits as they were rebuffed by lawmakers that upheld the first amendment.
William Golding's book has certainly made its mark in literature. But how much do you know about the author and the book's relation to society? We'll show you three things about the famous book not taught in high school.
Golding would often refer to himself as a monster to his family. He oscillated between bouts of constant drinking and altogether avoiding alcohol. In a memoir that was never published, titled Men and Women Now, he detailed some of his inner demons. The document was addressed to his wife. Golding mentions that he attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl while on holiday during his first year at Oxford. The girl had been taking piano lessons from him. Golding disturbingly referred to her as "sexy as an ape" and "depraved."
Epitomized by R.M. Ballantyne's "The Coral Island," the genre of stranded boys having fun on an island was once a popular feature in literature. Golding read this novel and other similar tales as a child and to his children.
A looming nuclear war in the wake of a world war saw these narratives change drastically. They now possessed imperialist overtones and featured white, upper-class boys that would frequently encounter native inhabitants. They would "civilize" them by showing them their superior ways, demonstrating how much the narrative had changed.
Golding doubted British boys would act this way if separated from society and the power dynamics back home. This is partly due to his time as a teacher and the war proving vicious, leading to the question of how a civilized nation behaves. His book satirizes The Coral Island, deeming its ideologies "rotted to compost."
Six boys from Tonga got shipwrecked for more than a year after running away from boarding school in 1965. By the time they were found, they had created a commune with tree trunks to capture rainwater, a food garden, a gymnasium with interesting weights, chicken pens, badminton court, and they had a permanent fire going. All they had to achieve this was an old knife blade and a lot of determination.
In contrast to the young boys from Lord of the Flies, the boys from Tonga thrived on an uninhabited island by conforming to the established rules they formed once they reached the isolated patch of land. They worked in teams and solved conflicts by imposing a time-out.
This tells us that Golding's ideas about society are based on the systems of power in his time and do not reflect innate human nature.
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