Lord of the Flies Study Guide

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is the story of a group of boys whose plane crashes during the wartime evacuation of English schoolchildren. All adults are killed in the crash, and despite early attempts at organization, spearheaded by a boy named Ralph, the boys quickly descend into inhuman behavior that begins with the taunting of an overweight boy known as Piggy and ends with the formation of a savage, bloody society. When the boys are rescued they are confronted with the horrors of their own actions.

Brief Summary

A fair-haired boy named Ralph leaves the wreckage of a plane and begins to explore the island his plane crashed into. He meets a boy who goes by the name of Piggy, and they discover a conch shell in the lagoon. Ralph blows on it and all the other boys who have survived the plane crash gather on a platform with Ralph and Piggy.

Most come in ones and twos, but a large group appears all at once, wearing identical robes and marching in formation. The join the group on the platform and their leader, Jack Merridrew, explains that they are a choir. All the boys, except for Jack's choir, vote for Ralph as their chief. They decide that Jack is still in charge of the choir, who are immediately named "Hunters." Ralph suggests that he, Jack and a choir boy named Simon go on an expedition to explore the island further.

They decided to climb the nearby mountain. In the jungle, they find tracks made by animals, and they slowly make their way up the mountain. At the top, they see the coral reef, which covers more than one side, and the location of the crash in the jungle. They scramble back down the mountain again and on the return see a piglet caught in a tangle of vines. Jack raises his knife in order to kill it, but does not. Jack promises to kill a pig in the future, and they make their way back to the platform.

Detailed Summary

The chapter begins with the description of a fair-haired boy making his way through a jungle towards a lagoon. He is hot and sweaty and has already taken off his school sweater. He's walking away from a 'scar' in the jungle, when he is joined by another boy, who is overweight and wears glasses. The two boys talk as they pick their way through the jungle. It becomes clear that they were on an airplane that crashed into the jungle. The passengers on the plane were all school boys who, for the most part, are strangers to each other. The two boys believe that they are on an island, with no grown-ups and the rest of the boys who survived the crash scattered around.

The fair-haired boy's name is Ralph, and he is uninterested in the talkative boy, who has asthma and mentions his aunt's rules too often. They reach the end of the jungle and find themselves on the palm tree-lined beach that fringes the lagoon. They can see the coral reef that forms the lagoon and the surf hitting against it. Ralph runs onto the beach, takes off his clothes and does a headstand. The overweight boy mentions fruit that he found, and then suggests that they have a meeting and take the names of the other boys that they meet. He mentions that his nickname at school was Piggy, a piece of information that Ralph enjoys immensely. Piggy asks Ralph not to tell anyone, and then returns into the forest. Ralph spots a four-foot high platform of pink granite rising up out of the lagoon, making a jetty, with grass and palm trees on the top of it. He finds a deep pool formed by sand banked up against the lagoon, dives in, and discovers that the water is warmer than body temperature. Piggy sits on the end and watches, unable to swim. Ralph tells Piggy that his dad his in the Navy, who will rescue them; Piggy tells him that his dad is dead and he used to live with his aunt, who owns a sweets shop.

Piggy asks Ralph about his dad and how he would know where they were. Ralph suggests that they could tell him at the airport and Piggy reminds him that the pilot mentioned the atom bomb. When Piggy suggests that since they landed on the island, it might be impossible to find them so Ralph and Piggy return to the platform. Piggy insists that they need to find the others who survived the crash, and while considering their problem, they find a large conch shell in the lagoon. Piggy had seen a similar shell in the past and instructs Ralph how to blow it. After several tries, Ralph produces a deep booming noise. Repeating the sound, Ralph and Piggy watch as boys begin to emerge from the jungle and congregate on the platform. As Ralph blows on the shell, the boys come and sit down and tell Piggy their names. Most come in ones and twos, but a large group appears all at once, wearing identical robes and marching in formation. The join the group on the platform and their leader, Jack Merridrew, explains that they are a choir, and responded to the sound because they thought it was a ship. The choir, standing in the heat with heavy robes on, begin to complain and one boy, named Simon, faints. They come into the shade of the platform and Piggy introduces some of the other boys who have arrived. Jack is impatient, calling him "Fatty." Ralph explains that his name is "Piggy," which the boys find very humorous, and Piggy feels betrayed, since he asked Ralph not to tell.

Jack immediately suggests that they discuss being rescued, but Ralph holds up the conch and suggests that they elect a chief. Jack feels he should have the job since he is already in a position of authority over his choir, but the entire group of boys not in the choir vote for Ralph. They decide that Jack is still in charge of the choir, who are immediately named "Hunters." Ralph suggests that he, Jack and Simon go on an expedition to ascertain if they are indeed on an island. The rest are to stay behind and wait for further instructions. Piggy attempts to join them, and confronts Ralph about calling him Piggy in front of everyone. Ralph contends that being called "Piggy" is better than "Fatty" and gives him the instruction to return to the platform and get everyone's name.

Ralph rejoins Simon and Jack and they continue along the coast to find the end of the island. They get to the end and still cannot figure out if the land continues or not, so they decided to climb the nearby mountain. In the jungle, they find tracks made by animals, and they slowly make their way up the mountain. They enjoy their explorations, talk about drawing maps, and roll a giant boulder. At the top of the mountain they find that they are on an island, which seems uninhabited and they stake their claim to the entire thing. They see the coral reef, which covers more than one side, and the location of the crash in the jungle. They scramble back down the mountain again and on the return see a piglet caught in a tangle of vines. Jack raises his knife in order to kill it, but does not, in the end, because the idea of killing a live animal is too taboo to consider. Jack swears that he will kill a pig, and they make their way back to the platform.

Chapter One Analysis

In this chapter, the each of the main characters is introduced, and the relationship among them is established. Initially, Ralph is completely uninterested in Piggy. Piggy is too talkative, and has too many physical imperfections to appeal to a boy like Ralph, whose body is ideal for his age, and who has very definite ideas about what a boy should and should not be. Piggy does not satisfy any of those qualities, and even worse, he almost delights in his asthma and glasses. He is an orphan, and his aunt, who acts as his caretaker does not seem to be interested in his development. Everything is wrong about Piggy, but although Piggy is not an ideal companion for Ralph, he is harmless enough to endure. Piggy's persistence pays off by creating for him a one-sided relationship with Ralph that he does not mind maintaining. This is fortunate for Ralph, since from the outset, Piggy is already generating ideas, and is a source of useful information, such as how to blow the shell.

At the beginning, Ralph responds to his situation on the island with unconcern. He thinks about rescue only in abstract terms, referring obliquely to his father as the one who will save them. Piggy immediately responds with concrete questions about the feasibility of this type of rescue, and puts Ralph's innocent trust in his father into sharp relief against the cold facts of their situation. This is how their relationship works throughout the novel, as Ralph's appeal makes him a leader, while Piggy supplies him with ideas and keeps him grounded. Though sometimes comical in his suggestions and his pure devotion to the conch shell, as the story progresses, Piggy remains as he is established in this first chapter, based in reality. He is unlike the other boys with their naive belief in things that do not matter, such as Jack's insistence on being chief because of his ability to sing C sharp.

The first stage of the relationship that will develop between Jack and the others is also set up. Jack and Piggy immediately dislike each other; Jack only sees Piggy's physical flaws and instantly judges him as insignificant. Ralph, on the other hand, shares qualities that Jack sees within himself, such as inborn leadership and physical acuity. Though Ralph takes the position of chief from Jack, he is still appealing enough to be considered an equal, and therefore to be liked. Their relationship will change the most over the course of the novel, as Jack's inability to see beyond the surface of things, living more and more in the moment, seeking control over it, consumes him. The groundwork for the theme that no one is what they seem is laid, as the first impressions experienced in the initial meeting are challenged as the boys work for their survival.

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