Summary of The Lord of the Flies

In post-war English classical literature, the first and most famous novel by the English writer William Golding is known as Lord of the Flies. It was first published in 1954, thanks to the work of Faber & Faber, Ttd.

About the work

According to what the critics have pointed out, with respect to this novel belonging to the English literary tradition, Golding’s work can be considered an entire publishing phenomenon, since the same year of its publication, and even the following years, was only moderately valued by the Critics, but not so by the public.

However, years later, Lord of the Flies became a true classic, perhaps due to its promotion by the English education system, where it began to be used as part of the compulsory readings of the years of basic education.

The reason behind this decision, perhaps, lies in the fact that the Lord of the Flies can be understood as a not at all optimistic initiation novel, which shows how human evil, represented by the Christian deity Beelzebub, is in all members of this species, even in that which is believed to be most innocent: children and young people. In this way, the novel proposes how adverse circumstances, ambition and lack of orientation can divert human goodness.

Summary on Lord of the Flies

As for the specific content of William Golding’s work, it can be said that this novel basically narrates the events that took place in the life of a group of children who, having survived a plane crash in which all the adults who accompanied them have died, are left at the mercy of nature on a deserted island.

At first, fear unites them, so they decide to organize themselves and stay together, in order to come up with ideas as to how they can survive, and above all to leave this unknown territory at some point to return home.

In this order of ideas, two young people end up as guides or leaders of the group, who are also the eldest: Ralph and Piggy. The narrator tells how this ascension happens to leaders of the group, relating how both boys have found a shell, which they have made sound, to attract the attention of the group of boys, and to be able to speak to them, communicating to them their opinion on the next actions that the group should follow.

In fact, from now on, the conch will be positioned within the group as a symbol of authority and leadership, since its sound serves to summon, call and command. Also, the group itself decides that its leader should be Ralph, a situation that falls very badly from the beginning to one of the young survivors: Jack, who believes that because of his strength he is much more capable than Ralph to play the role of leader. Anticipating this situation, and already invested with his authority as a leader, Ralph delegates to Jack the position of leader of the group in charge of hunting food for all, arguing as a reason the strength of this.

For his part, this boy, Ralph, also convinces the other boys that the best thing is to light a big bonfire, which in addition to keeping them warm, can serve as a signal to the ships or planes that pass close to the island, so that they can be rescued at some point.

For this, the boys organize themselves, and using the lenses of Piggy’s glasses, they manage to light a fire with the sun’s rays. They also have shifts to take care of it, so that it doesn’t go out. In fact, this will be one of Ralph’s most rigid lines: that the fire never goes out, because it would mean losing the possibility of being rescued.

Thus begins the life of these surviving children on this unknown island. At first quite organized and united, situations that wear out over time, leading to chaos.

In this sense, the novel begins to narrate how tense and aggressive situations begin to happen, which have their birth precisely in the rivalry that Jack feels towards Ralph, in whom he sees an enemy, to the point of beginning to hate him. Even if he doesn’t express it directly, he does begin to be more and more insistent in his criticisms and contempt for his idea of the importance of keeping the bonfire burning.

Jack also always makes fun of the conch that Ralph wears and his leadership symbol. On the contrary, he boasts and encourages his group to hunt a wild boar, which ends up becoming almost a matter of honor and an obsession with power, and which hunters finally manage to achieve.

As the group begins to divide as a result of these rivalries and differences, fear also begins to appear in each of the boys in the group, since each time the rumor circulates among them with greater force that on the island, in addition to them there is a terrible and evil beast.

In this way, from the rumors one passes to the first sightings. This is how one night on guard, Sam and Eric, who are twin brothers, manage to see the dreaded beast, which for a moment has been illuminated by the flames of the bonfire they guard. Even terrified, they abandon their mission of guarding the fire. However, this event, far from paralyzing the whole group is what makes them decide to go and investigate more closely what or who also lives on the island.

An expedition is then organized, led by Ralph and his group, who also depart in the company of Jack and the hunters, to the mountain of the island, in order to find the dreaded beast. For his part, Piggy receives the mission of staying close to the fire, taking care of it and taking care of the younger children. However, this expedition will help the rivalry between Jack and Ralph grow at every step.

Towards the end of the trip, almost all of the boys have decided to return to base camp, leaving Ralph, Jack and a boy named Roger alone in the mission. Together they arrive almost at dusk at the mountain, where they can finally see the beast. However, it’s such a terrifying sight that everyone is terrified.

Already a little calmer, Ralph manifests the need to abandon the idea of hunting such a being, since the danger is real, and after all they are just children, who have as weapons lances that they have made themselves with their hands. Such a description unleashes the wrath of Jack, who sees in those words a total disregard for his achievements and authority.

Blinded by anger, Jack convenes an assembly, in which he intends to lead the group to disregard Ralph’s authority. However, by asking everyone to raise their hand to dethrone Ralph from his leadership, after showing them how he has insulted the hunters, when he himself is incapable of hunting, he remains alone in his intention, as no one supports him, a fact that drives him to withdraw humiliated, but not with the desire to stop at his hatred of Ralph.

However, Jack doesn’t spend much time alone, as his hunters go after him. After a conversation, they decide that it would be best to hunt another wild boar. With much more practice they manage to hunt another animal. But this time, driven by a tribal feeling, and at the same time mystical, the group decides to cut off the head of the wild boar, and nail it with a stake on a trunk, as an offering to the terrifying being that inhabits the island.

Later, the novel tells how Simon, a shy boy affected by continuous fainting, decides to take a walk on the island, to escape the public and not evidence one of his next attacks.

The walk takes him to the place where the wild boar’s head has been nailed, which is already in a state of decomposition and in the home of thousands of flies. Between the terror and the threshold that Simon lives, this boy experiences a hallucination, where he sees how the head of the wild boar speaks to him, identifying himself as the Lord of the flies, and showing him his mockery at the silly idea of wanting to hunt the beast, this being a creature that is actually everywhere.

Such a vision makes Simon lose consciousness. The next morning, a little quieter, he decides to walk towards the mountain where his companions have seen the beast. When he arrives, and during the day, the light allows him to see how what his friends believed the creature is actually the corpse of a parachutist, who is moved by the breeze, and who in the darkness can pass like a terrifying figure. Determined to share his findings and experience with others, he decides to return to the group.

However, the attack causes Ralph’s bonfire and his increasingly smaller group to be extinguished. Without any chance of resuming it, they think it’s best to approach the new tribe, led by Jack to try to make them see reason. A mission that of course is impossible. In the end, Sam and Eric are taken prisoner by the group, while Piggy is killed, being pushed off a cliff. For his part, Ralph begins to be persecuted by the group, to be equally executed.

This is how a violent chase begins against Ralph, which leaves a voracious fire in its wake, since the group totally determined to catch who he sees as his main enemy has agreed to burn every piece of jungle that can serve as a hiding place for this boy. Fleeing the terrible fire, Ralph flees to the beach. Exhausted he kneels on the ground, when a vision surprises him: a sailor of the guard.

Desperate, Ralph tells him how his friends have been murdered. Behind him appears the frenetic group, which is also surprised to find this man on the beach. In a second, the joy of the news that they will return home is broken by the immediate understanding of their crimes, and how outside that island they will have to pay for them.

Image: portrait of William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies / Source:

Summary of The Lord of the Flies
Source: Education  
October 31, 2019

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