The venturesome novel, Lord of the Flies, is an enchanting, audacious account
that depicts the defects of society as the incorrigible nature of individuals when they are
immature and without an overlooking authority.
The author of the novel, William
Golding, was born in Britain, which accounts for the English, cultured characters in the
novel. After studying science at Oxford University for two years, he changed his emphasis
as a major to English literature. When World War II broke out in 1939, Golding served in
the Royal Navy for five years. The atrocities he witnessed changed his view about
mankind's essential nature. He came to believe that there was a very dark and evil side to
man, which accounts for the savage nature of the children in the novel. He said, "The war
was unlike any other fought in Europe.
It taught us not fighting, politics, or the follies of
nationalism, but about the given nature of man." After the war he returned to teaching
and wrote his first novel, Lord of the Flies, which was finally accepted for publication in
1954. In 1983, the novel received the Noble Prize and the statement, "His books are
very entertaining and exciting. .
. . They have aroused an unusually great interest in
professional literary critics (who find) deep strata of ambiguity and complication in
Golding's work. . . .
" (Noble Prize committee) Some conceived the novel as bombastic
and didactic. Kenneth Rexroth stated in the Atlantic, "Golding's novels are rigged.. . . The
boys never come alive as real boys.
. . ." Other critics see him as the greatest English
writer of our time. In the Critical Quarterly in 1960, C.
B. Cox deemed Lord of the Flies
as "probably the most important novel to be published. . .in the 1950's."
The setting of the novel takes place on an island in the Pacific Ocean.
never actually locates the island in the real world or states the exact time period. The
author does state that the plane carrying the children had been shot down in a nuclear war,
so the time period must be after the making and the use of nuclear weapons.Even
though the location of the island is not definite, the author vividly describes the setting.Golding 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. The
beach, called the scar, is near the warm water lagoon. On the scar, where the boys hold
their meetings, is a "natural platform of fallen trees." Far away is the fruit orchards which
supply the boys with food.
Inland from the lagoon is the jungle with pig trails and hanging
vines. The island has a mountain that Ralph, Simon, and Jack climb, and from which they
are able to see the terrain. Finally, there is the castle at the other end of the island, which
rises a hundred feet above the sea and becomes Jack's headquarters. Golding gives us a
very strong sense of place, and the setting shapes the story's direction. At the outset the
boys view the island as a paradise because it is lush and abundant with food. As the fear of
the beast grows, however, it becomes a hell in which fire and fear prevail.
Golding does not clearly state the setting, a mental picture of the island is depicted
throughout the novel.
The plot of the story begins when a group of British students' plane is shot down,
and they crash on a tropical island. Ralph and Piggy are the first characters introduced,
and they find a white conch shell. Ralph blows on the conch, and the other boys appear.Among them are Jack, Sam, Eric, Simon, and many other boys who are never given
The group elects Ralph as their leader. When the conch calls again, they talk
about a small boy's fear of a snakelike beast in the woods. Is there really such a beast? The
boys can not agree. Ralph convinces everyone that they need a fire for a signal in case a
ship passes the island, but the boys find it hard work keeping the fire going.Jack decides
he no longer wants to be part of Ralph's group because he would rather hunt than worry
about keeping the fire burning.
He leaves with everyone except Ralph, Piggy, Sam, Eric,
and Simon. In spite of their growing terror of the imagined beast, Jack leads his hunters
into the jungle for the slaying of pigs. They place a pig's head on a stake, much like a
primitive offering to the unknown beast. Then Simon wanders into the woods alone, has a
seizure, and talks to the pig's head.
In Simon's hallucination the head becomes the "Lord
of the Flies". Then Simon, terrified and sickened, starts back to where the other boys are
to tell them that the beast is a dead man who parachuted onto the island. When Simon
appears, the boys kill him, mistaking him for the beast. The next night Jack and two
hunters attack Ralph and Piggy and steal Piggy's glasses.
Piggy and Ralph go to Jack to
get back Piggy's glasses. Then the hunters hurl a giant boulder over a ledge, which
demolishes the conch and kills Piggy. The next day Jack's tribe hunts Ralph. While running
from the hunters, Ralph stumbles onto the beach and falls at the feet of an army officer.
They are finally rescued, but 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." (p.184)
The protagonist in the story is Ralph, a tall, blond twelve year old. He is the first
character Golding introduces in the novel. He blows on the conch shell to call the first
assembly, and the boys elect him the leader.
Ralph states, " I'm the chief then." (p.21)
Ralph is respected by all the boys until Jack becomes a separate leader of the hunters.
Ralph is physically strong and brave, and he depicts this when he leads explorations, looks
for the beast, and tries to escape from Jack's tribe. Ralph becomes friendly with Piggy,
and the two of them refuse to adopt the new, less structured way of life that most the boys
on the island experience. Both of them are very firm in their belief of organization and
civilization, and they are the only ones not to succumb to Jack's savage ways.
to play his leadership role the same way an adult would, but he struggles to maintain
order. He constantly urges the boys to keep the fire burning, and he always hopes to be
rescued. When Jack lets the fire go out, Ralph becomes irate and says to jack, "You let the
fire out." (p.63) Ralph makes sure that shelters are built and maintained, people deposit
their wastes correctly, and that the coconuts are always full with water.
appointed leader, enforces civilization but struggles to maintain it.The antagonist in the novel is Jack, a tall, thin, red-headed boy. He appears in the
novel as the leader of the boys' choir. During the first blowing of the conch and the first
assembly, Jack loses the election for chief. He and Ralph, the protagonist, initially are
amiable, and their relationship and attitudes remain almost the same.
They both agree on
the need of fire, shelters, and meat. Jack voluntarily takes charge of the hunting. Initially,
he is not very successful, but with the help of his hunters, they are able to kill pigs. At first
Jack and his hunters do what they are asked, but as time goes on, they start to participate
in different activities and neglect those needed for the sake of the boys' salvation.
start painting their faces when hunting and become obsessed with killing. At this point the
conflict between Ralph and Jack climaxes, and the structure of life on the island breaks
down. Jack and his hunters form a tribe of savage boys on the far side of the island.
Most of the boys follow Jack because they relish the idea of meat and fun but despise the
idea of doing work with Ralph. Over a period of time, all the boys become a member of
Jack's tribe expect Piggy and Ralph. Jack becomes chief of his hunters, and they respect
him like a god.
He and his tribe kill Simon because they mistake him for the beast, and
they kill Piggy by hitting him with a boulder. With no respect for human lives, Jack and
his tribe hunt Ralph. While running after Ralph, an army officer confronts them, and they
are rescued. Jack, the leader of the savage hunters, is the antagonist to Ralph and
One of the many themes in the novel is that man is savage at heart, and he always
ultimately reverts back to an evil and primitive nature. Contrary to the belief that man is
innocent and society evil, the novels shows that laws, rules, policemen, and schools are
necessary to keep the darker side of human nature in line. Golding depicts the reality of
this theme when the confusion in the novel finally leads to a manhunt for Ralph. The
reader realizes that despite the strong sense of British character and civility that has been
instilled in the youth throughout their lives, the boys backpedal and show the underlying
savage side existent in all humans.
If a group of well-conditioned school boys can
ultimately wind up committing various extreme travesties, one can imagine what adults,
leaders of society, are capable of doing under the pressures of trying to maintain world
relations. When Golding wrote the novel, he said he was "striving to move behind the
conventional matter of the contemporary novel to a view of what man, or pre-man, is like
when the facade of civilized behavior falls away." In a questionnaire Golding stated, "The
theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.
The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual
and not on any political system however apparently logical of respectable.
The main conflict in the novel is an internal struggle between man and his basic or
inner nature. Realizing there are no adults, laws, rules, or authorities, the boys in the novel
reside to their inner nature. This struggle that occurs within each boy creates a plethora of
distinct conflicts. One contention derived from this conflict is an internal conflict between
man and his imagination. The barbarous nature of the hunters put a pig's head on a stake
as an offering to the beast. In Simon's internal, imaginary conflict, this head talks to him.
This hallucination leads to his death. Man verses man, an external conflict, is another
conflict derived from the contention between man and his basic nature. Because Jack and
his tribe convert to their basic nature, it creates a conflict between the savage, Jack and his
hunters, and the ones trying to keep order, Ralph and Piggy. This conflict becomes very
intense and even results in death.
This struggle brings about the stealing of the Piggy's
glasses, the death of Piggy, and the manhunt for R