Taking its cues from the likes of Coral Island, the book details the actions of a group of boys stranded on an island with no adults and without the constraints of society.
When the novel opens, Ralph and Jack find themselves on an island, having just been part of a plane crash. They discover a conch shell and blow on the shell, which acts as a beacon and summons the remaining boys who were part of the crash.
The boys quickly elect Ralph as their leader because he is a good-looking boy and because he has the conch.
The novel details the struggles of the boys on the island and their belief that there is a terrible beast residing along with them. Tensions grow as there are two potential leaders with very different styles, and the boys try and decide how best to dedicate their time and effort towards hunting to bring in food or towards getting themselves rescued. This power struggle eventually ends in tragedy.
Lord of the Flies Summary
Warning: this will contain explicit spoilers.
Lord of the Flies starts with Ralph on an island. He is there because the plane he was traveling on was shot down. He quickly meets Piggy. There are no adults on the island, and this is never really explained. Nor is it explained why the plane is shot down, but we know contextually that it was written against the backdrop of World War II.
The boys discover a conch shell, and another character, Piggy, points out that it can be used as an instrument. Ralph does this, and it draws together all the other victims of the crash. They discuss their situation and elect Ralph as the leader, partially because he looks the part but also because he has the conch. Jack is unhappy about this, but Ralph temporarily appeases him by putting him in charge of his choir. Ralph, Jack, and Simon then go on an expedition to discover if they are on an island, which they are.
Upon returning from their mission, Ralph calls a meeting and informs everybody of the situation. After some debate, it’s agreed that they will light and maintain a signal fire with the hope of getting rescued. The boys do this, but the fire gets out of control. Piggy suggests that they have to be more careful in the future. This highlights how Piggy is often the voice of reason throughout the novel.
Jack takes the choir into the woods, and they attempt to catch a pig. Jack fails in doing this but vows next time, he will kill the pig. The pig may well be symbolic of femininity or temptation, depending on how one interprets the novel. Later, Ralph calls a meeting where he complains about the use of Jack’s time and insists that maintaining the fire be a priority. This leads to increased tension between Jack and Ralph. Simon wonders off and spends some time alone in the forest.
This chapter sees a few social constructs unique to the island appear. For instance, referring to the younger children as “little ‘ens” and the older children as “big ‘ens.” This is a type of class divide. There are hints here as to the true nature of the boys as Roger throws stones at the little ‘ens but deliberately misses as the memory of societal norms acts as a barrier against doing things that society would consider bad. This is foreshadowing for later events.
Later, Jack and Roger go hunting, but they decide to use mud to cover up their faces to help them camouflage. Once again, this covering up of their faces can be seen as symbolic and their descent into savagery.
Piggy suggests building a sundial, so they can track time, but he is rebuked by Ralph, who just wants to play. Later still, the hunters manage to kill a pig, but as a result, the fire goes out. Ralph is angry as there was a ship, and they could have been rescued. Piggy further reprimands Jack, and as a result, Jack attacks Piggy breaking his glasses. Once again, this act is symbolic. Ralph snatches Piggy’s glasses to rebuild the fire.
Ralph holds a meeting to discuss the fact that many of the boys appear to be afraid. Jack dismisses this by highlighting that he and the hunters have been all over the island and have not seen a beast. He is using this as a power play to highlight his importance.
Ralph admits to being scared sometimes, and the discussion continues. The little ‘ens start crying out in fear, and one of them, Percival, confesses to Ralph that the beast comes up from the water. Jack takes his hunters to get rid of the beast, and Ralph contemplates letting Jack lead. He senses a power shift; however, Simon and Piggy convince him not to.
In the middle of the night, there is an air battle, and a parachutist falls to the island. Sam and Eric are out gathering and come across his body hanging from the trees and mistake it for the Beast. They run back to the camp in fear, and an emergency meeting is held.
During this meeting, Jack recommends a hunt for the beast. Piggy tries to rebuke this but is not allowed to talk even though he possesses the conch. Jack states that this rule doesn’t matter anymore, which is somewhat ironic given that earlier, he had claimed that the rules are what made them British.
Piggy stays with the little ‘ens while everyone else goes hunting the beast. As they “hunt,” Simon is frustrated with himself for not being vocal during the meeting. Ralph says he will face the beast alone as he is chief, but Jack follows him anyway. There is a momentary lull in their tension as they discuss their adventure from way back in Chapter 1. After not finding anything, Ralph decides that they need to keep the signal fire burning. This is unpopular, but the group agrees to it grudgingly.
This chapter begins with Ralph dreaming that he will be stuck on the island forever. He is reassured by Simon, who is developing into an almost prophetic character. Ralph joins in on a hunt and momentarily gets embroiled in the fervor surrounding such activities when he hits the pig with a spear. He then takes part in a hunting role play where fervent chanting gives way to physical violence as they all get a little heavy-handed with Robert, who plays the role of the pig.
The boys advance to the mountain, where they believe the beast to be. There is a lot of fear in Ralph, but Jack goads him into continuing the mission. In the last section of the mission, Jack goes alone and claims to see something atop the mountain. The boys all run in fear.
The boys discuss what they have seen. Piggy struggles to believe it. Jack says that he and the hunters can handle the beast, but this is dismissed by Ralph, who belittles the hunters, thus further angering Jack. Jack, who is frustrated, decides to call a meeting himself where he calls Ralph’s leadership into question. He calls for a vote, but he does not get voted in. He runs off, taking most of the hunters with him.
The remaining boys light a fire on the beach. Meanwhile, Jack addresses his hunters, who decide to just hunt and not to worry about the beast. However, they decide to leave it tributes to appease it. They successfully kill a pig and leave its head on a pole. Later in the chapter, Simon sees this and converses with it in an almost trance-like state.
Jack decides to have a feast with the newly killed pig. But, since they don’t have a fire, they take the opportunity to raid the camp and steal burning logs to make their own fire. They then invite Ralph and the others to their feast, and the boys accept.
Simon awakens from his fit and comes to the realization that the beast is actually within the boys themselves.
There is more debate between Ralph and Piggy about attending the feast, but they do. At first, this is okay. Jack orders that they are given meat. However, Jack asks if they wish to join his tribe, which starts a heated debate between Jack and Ralph about the leadership of the group.
A storm swells, and the boys once again act out the killing of the pig through role play, but this time more violently. Simon stumbles across them, but due to the chanting and the storm, the boys cannot hear him and mistake him for the beast. The boys viciously murder him before his body is swept out to sea in what could be interpreted as a return to nature.
Sam, Eric, Piggy, and Ralph all try to come to terms with their guilt for their part in Simon’s murder. Meanwhile, at Castle Rock, Jack and his followers have tied up a boy and are beating him seemingly without reason. They decide they need to fortify their cave before hunting again and hatch a plan, so they have a constant supply of fire.
Jack’s tribe attacks the boys, and a fight ensues. Piggy theorizes that they were trying to steal the conch, but actually, they were after his glasses.
Discovering that they have lost Piggy’s glasses Sam, Eric, Ralph and Piggy decide to confront Jack’s tribe and attempt to reason with them. Three of the boys take spears, but Piggy refuses to, instead of taking the conch as he believes it will highlight to the tribe what they are lacking.
They arrive at Castle Rock and are met by armed guards. Roger throws rocks at them from atop the mountain. Jack arrives, and Ralph tries to convince him to give back the glasses, but a fight ensues before Piggy reminds Ralph of the reason they were there in the first place. Jack orders for the twins to be tied up.
Once again, Ralph and Jack clash before Piggy demands to speak. While he is talking, Roger launches a boulder at him, and it kills him, destroying the conch in the process (a symbol for the end of civilization). His body is pushed into the sea. The twins are captured and tortured, and Ralph is forced to escape as the tribe attempt to kill him.
Ralph escapes and hides nearby to Castle Rock. He takes the pig’s head (that has been dubbed the Lord of the Flies) and removes the spear from it.
He comes across Sam and Eric and tries to convince them to join him. They refuse as they are too scared. He tells them of his plan but later regrets this. The next day the whole tribe tries to capture Ralph and set fire to the island in the process. Eventually, Ralph is saved by a naval officer who shows up just in time and presumably saves the boys from the island.
What is the main point of Lord of the Flies?
The loss of innocence and a quick descent into savagery when social norms are broken is the main point of Lord of the Flies.
Who is the antagonist in Lord of the Flies?
The main antagonist is Jack Merridew. He continually stands in the way of any attempts to organize the boys and reinstate democracy.
What are the 3 main themes in Lord of the Flies?
Three of the main themes of Lord of the Flies are loss of innocence, civilization vs. savagery, and struggle to create democracy.