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Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

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Lord of the Flies

​​In a nutshell

Lord of the Flies is a novel written by William Golding in 1954. It tells the story of a group of young British boys on a deserted island with no adult supervision. The boys go from civilisation and freedom, to chaos and savagery in a very short time. In this summary, you will learn the plot, characters and themes of Lord of the Flies.

Plot summary

During the course of a nuclear war, a group of British schoolboys are shot down over a deserted island, they find themselves without any kind of adult supervision. At the beginning, they try to simulate the civilised culture they are familiar with. They choose a leader, Ralph, who establishes rules for sanitation and housing with the help of Piggy, the smartest boy in the group. Ralph orders the lighting of a fire signal to get the attention of passing ships. On the other hand, Jack is in charge of a group of boys who hunt food for all of them, so they cannot participate the duty of maintaining the fire.

Even if they had established a plan to be rescued and rules to maintain order on the island, the boys are too distracted with playing and enjoying life without adults. The fire signal burns out before a ship passed the horizon because nobody was paying attention to it. A conflict starts between Ralph and Jack and the boys start to grow fear and panic due to a sort of beast or monster hunting on the island. Jack organises a group to hunt the monster, the boys who join, paint their faces, hunt and feel protected by Jack's savagery and ferocity. 

Eventually, Jack and his tribe hunt a sow and put its head on a stick as an offer to the beast. Simon goes to the mountain to find the beast, but after witnessing the slaughter of the sow and its head on a stick, he hallucinates and the head of the sow becomes the Lord of the Flies and reveals a truth: The beast is not an animal or monster that exist externally, the beast is hidden within every boys' psyche. Horrified by this vision, Simon faints.

After pulling himself together, he goes to the top of the mountain to discover that the beast was the corpse of a dead pilot or soldier with a parachute. He returns to the beach to tell the boys what he has seen, but the boys, even Ralph and Piggy, are corrupted into a tribal dance of savagery: they perceive Simon as the beast emerging from the jungle and they beat him to death. The following morning, Jack's boys steal Piggy's glasses, leaving Ralph without a source to maintain the fire signal. When Ralph and his group try to get the glasses back, one boy, Roger, rolls a boulder on Piggy, killing him. The tribe also captures Ralph's boys, leaving Ralph on his own.

Jack's tribe tries to track down Ralph in order to kill him, so they start a fire to make him escape from his hiding place. A ship passing by notices the fire and a British naval officer arrives just in time to save Ralph from his horrible fate of being murdered by the schoolboys who have turned into savages. The naval officer asks Ralph to explain the whole situation and despite knowing he is safe now, he starts weeping after thinking of everything that has happened on the island. The other boys start to cry as well and the naval officer turns his back on them to let them regain their composure.



Ralph represents civility and leadership. At the beginning of the novel, he is more focused on increasing the chances of being rescued, rather than playing like the other boys. Ralph is left alone after all the boys succumb to Jack's barbarism which shows Ralph's commitment to civilisation and moral superiority. At the end of the novel, Ralph starts weeping out of the knowledge of the human's capacity for evil and violence.


Piggy represents the knowledge-based and rational side of human beings. Even if Piggy is not easily manipulated, his participation in Simon's murder represents that the desire to be accepted by the dominant group can lead to the betrayal of one's morals and judgements. Furthermore, Piggy's death gives the idea that intellectualism is weak to brutality. Piggy's murder, also represents the boys' last string of civility and humanity.


Jack symbolises violence, savagery and thirst for power. He becomes obsessed with hunting which eventually turns him into a savage. The more violent and savage he becomes, the more he gets the power to control others. His character also represents not a leadership but a primitive dictatorship that is portrayed in his attempt to control his tribe and the information among them.


Simon's character embodies goodness and spirituality. He sees beyond civilisation and savagery. For example, he has the revelation that the beast is not a real monster living on the island, but rather the evil and savagery inside every human being. He dies before sharing his vision, which suggests the rest of the boys were not ready to accept or recognise the truth.


Ralph \leftrightarrow​ Jack

Ralph and Jack are each other's counterparts. On the one hand, Ralph represents civilisation and order. On the other hand, Jack embodies savagery and evil. The relationship between these two characters shows the two extremes of mankind: civility and savagery. 

Piggy \leftrightarrow​ Simon

Piggy and Simon do not have a very close relationship as friends. However, they both symbolise sanity and innocence within society. They are both killed by the schoolboys turned into savages, which suggests the idea that sanity and civility can be defeated by evil and violence. 


Loss of innocence

The novel depicts the loss of innocence of the schoolboys as something that occurs naturally as a result of the evil and savagery that already lives within them. For example, they go from having rules, playing and having a plan to be rescued, to hunting, torturing animals and fighting for power. The head of the sow in a stick symbolises the loss of innocence and a corrupted childhood.

Savagery vs. Civilisation

The central topic in Lord of the Flies is savagery vs civilisation. This is portrayed in many different ways in the novel. For example, the conflict between Jack and Ralph, the murder of Simon and the sow's head on a stick. Golding depicts the different degrees of savagery through the characters' personalities and actions to demonstrate that savagery is linked to the human psyche and instinct.

Effects of fear

Fear is portrayed in the novel on several occasions. However, the strongest feeling of fear was caused by the corpse of the parachutist. The boys perceive it as a beast, and instead of supporting and banding each other to overcome this fear, they act on their worst impulses of fear, savagery and evil which leads them to even kill one of the boys. 

Key quotations




Chapter XII

"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."

Loss of innocence

This quote portrays the realisation of the loss of innocence of the schoolboys as a result of their experiences living on the island. Ralph wept as a way of catharsis after all the evil he saw, including one of his friend's death.

Chapter V

"What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?"

Savagery vs. civilisation

Piggy says that to Ralph in one of their meetings. He notices the potential of the boys to become violent before it actually happens. This shows the fine line between civility and savagery that humans can cross easily when being under pressure.

Chapter V

"Maybe there is a beast... Maybe it's only us."

Effects of fear

Simon's words give a glimpse into the darkness inside of the hearts of the boys on the island. While they fear some sort of beast or monster wandering on the island, Simon ponders on the idea that they should fear themselves and their on nature.

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