Lord of the Flies Study Guide

Lord of the Flies By William Golding

A plane crashes on a deserted island, leaving only boys of ages thirteen and under. They rapidly convene, and elect one of the oldest, Ralph, their chief. Ralph decides the focus will be on keeping a signal fire lit to attract a passing ship and get rescued.

Ralph's competition, Jack, was the leader of a choir and has several of his choirboys with him. Jack connives to have his boys gain importance by becoming both hunters and the primary caretakers of the fire. The order quickly crumbles, as most of the boys do little work. Jack puts priority on hunting over the signal fire, and the boys miss an obvious opportunity to be rescued.

The boys quickly decide that there is a Beast on the island, and the younger boys begin to get scared. Jack takes advantage of this by putting his hunters in the position of defenders. The boys come across the corpse of a paratrooper who landed on the island, and they decide that it is proof of the Beast's existence. Jack breaks off into his own tribe, stealing kids away from Ralph with the promise of meat and safety. Jack's tribe rapidly become primitive and animalistic.

Simon, the third-in-command and part of Ralph's tribe, comes across a dead pig head on a stick (left behind by the hunters) and sees it swarming with flies. He has a vision in which the head identifies itself as the "Lord of the Flies", and also as the "real Beast". It informs Simon that the boys created the Beast, and it lives on inside of each of them. Simon endeavors to explain the truth about the Beast to Jack's tribe, but in their savage state and the darkness, they mistake him for the beast, and murder him.

Ralph's tribe is quickly stolen completely, and Ralph, the sole 'civilized' child, is forced to run and hide from Jack and his savage children. He skillfully manages to avoid being killed for quite some time, finally getting the attention of a passing ship. When the ship's officer confronts the boys, they shape up quickly. In the final scene, Ralph cries for the deaths of the innocent and his own close brush with the darkest side of human nature.

A naval officer lands on the island near where Ralph is lying, and his sudden appearance brings the children’s fighting to an abrupt halt. Upon learning of the boys’ activities, the officer remarks that he would have expected better from British boys, believing them only to be playing a game, unaware of the two murders that have occurred and the imminent occurrence of a third one. In the final scene, although now certain that he will be rescued after all, Ralph cries, in mourning for his friend Piggy, his own loss of innocence, and his newfound awareness of the darkness of human nature.

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