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William Golding – Lord of the Flies

15 December 2011 No Comment
William Golding - Lord of the Flies

William Golding - Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, with disastrous results. Its stances on the already-controversial subjects of human nature and individual welfare versus the common good earned it position 68 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990–1999. In 2005 the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching #41 on the editor’s list, and #25 on the reader’s list.

Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was Golding’s first novel. Although it was not a great success at the time—selling fewer than 3,000 copies in the United States during 1955 before going out of print—it soon went on to become a best-seller, and by the early 1960s was required reading in many schools and colleges; the novel is currently renowned for being a popular choice of study for GCSE English Literature courses in the United Kingdom. It was adapted to film in 1963 by Peter Brook, and again in 1990 by Harry Hook.

Plot summary

In the midst of a wartime evacuation, a British plane crashes onto an isolated island. The only survivors are male children below the age of 13. Two boys, the fair-haired Ralph and an overweight, bespectacled boy reluctantly nicknamed “Piggy” find a conch, which Ralph uses as a horn to bring all the survivors to one area. Two dominant boys emerge during the meeting: Ralph and Jack Merridew, a redhead who is the leader of a choir group that was among the survivors. Ralph is voted chief, losing only the votes of Jack’s fellow choirboys. Ralph asserts two goals: have fun, and work towards a rescue by maintaining a constant fire signal. They create the fire with Piggy’s glasses, nearly catching the whole island on fire. For a time, the boys work together.

Jack organises his choir group into the group’s hunters, who are responsible for hunting for meat. Ralph, Jack, and a black-haired boy named Simon soon become the supreme trio among the children. Piggy is quickly made an outcast by his fellow “biguns” (older boys) and becomes an unwilling source of laughs for the other children. Simon, in addition to supervising the project of constructing shelters, feels an instinctive need to protect the younger boys.

The original semblance of order imposed by Ralph quickly deteriorates as the majority of the boys turn idle. Around the same time, many of the younger boys begin to believe that the island is inhabited by a monster, referred to as “the beast”. Jack gains control of the discussion by boldly promising to kill the beast. At one point, Jack summons all of his hunters to hunt down a wild pig, including those who were supposed to be maintaining the fire. A ship approaches, but passes by because the signal fire has gone out. Although the hunting of the pig turns out to be the hunters’ first successful catch, Ralph is infuriated that they have missed a potential rescue. Later, Ralph envisages relinquishing his position, though Piggy discourages him from doing so. Ralph, Simon, and Piggy yearn hopefully for some guidance from the adult world.

After twins Sam and Eric, who are in charge of keeping the smoke signal going, report possibly seeing the beast atop a mountain, Ralph and Jack investigate; they encounter the corpse and the open parachute of afighter pilot who has landed on the island but mistake it as “the beast”, asleep. Jack assembles the children with the conch and confirms the beast’s existence to them. The meeting results in a schism, splitting the children into two groups. Ralph’s group focuses on preserving the signal fire. Jack becomes the chief of his own tribe, which focuses on hunting, while exploiting the iron-clad belief in the beast. As Jack and the hunters have already slain their first pig, they offer promises of meat, fun, and protection from the beast. Jack’s tribe gradually becomes more animalistic, applying face paint while they hunt. The face paint becomes a motif which recurs throughout the story, with more and more intensity toward the end.

Simon, who had “cracked” and gone off by himself to think, finds the head of the hunters’ dead pig on a stick, left as an offering to the beast. Simon envisions the pig head, now swarming with scavenging flies, as the “Lord of the Flies” and believes that it is talking to him. Simon hears the pig identifying itself as the real “Beast” and disclosing the truth about itself—that the boys themselves “created” the beast, and that the real beast was inside them all. Simon also locates the dead parachutist who had been mistaken for the beast, and is the sole member of the group to recognise that it is a cadaver instead of a sleeping monster. Simon attempts to alert Jack’s tribe that the “beast” is nothing more than a cadaver. While trying to tell Jack’s tribe of this fact, Simon is caught in a ring during a primal dance. He is mistaken for the “beast” in the darkness, and Jack’s tribe kills him, with Ralph, Piggy, Sam, and Eric in the ring also. Ralph, Piggy, Sam, and Eric later try to convince themselves that they did not take part in the murder.

Jack’s tribe then raids Ralph’s camp to steal Piggy’s glasses – the glass lenses being the only source of starting a fire. Ralph’s tribe journeys to Jack’s tribe at Castle Rock to try to retrieve the glasses. In the ensuing confrontation, Roger drops a boulder, aiming at Piggy. Piggy is struck by the boulder, and the conch is smashed into pieces. Piggy flies through the air and falls forty feet onto the rocks below by the sea, and is killed. Sam and Eric are captured and tortured into joining Jack’s tribe. Ralph is forced to flee.

The following morning, Jack leads his tribe on a manhunt for Ralph, and in the ensuing search sets the forest alight. However, the fire and smoke attract the attention of a nearby warship. Then 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, initially believing them only to be playing a game. In the final scene, although now certain he will be rescued after all, Ralph starts crying. [Read more]

Download ebook: William Golding – Lord of the Flies

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