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

Night falls, and a dead man in a parachute is slowly blown to the top of the mountain, where he comes to rest near the location of the signal fire. At daybreak, Sam and Eric, the twins, who are on duty for tending the fire, wake up, and see the shape of the man in the parachute, but do not know what it is and they imagine that it is the beast. They flee, frightened.

Ralph and Piggy listen to the twins' story, which is then told to all of the boys. Jack excitedly suggests a hunt, but Ralph is skeptical. Tension mounts between the two of them, but Ralph is able to diffuse the situation. He decides that they will look for the beast, at Castle Rock, which is the only place on the island that Jack has not explored, and so it only there that the beast can be.

There, a narrow ledge connects the island to a square piece of pink granite, which they call the castle. Ralph crosses the ledge alone. Jack soon joins him and they discover that the area is deserted. Jack suggests creating a fort, but Ralph points out the difficulties, unconvinced of its suitability. He suggests they climb the mountain in order to relight the signal. The boys join Ralph and Jack, and set to work planning a fort. Ralph reminds them of his position of authority and the boys leave, grudgingly after Jack decides to go with Ralph.

Detailed Summary

Night falls, and Piggy, Simon and Ralph head for the shelters and go to sleep. While all are sleeping, an something explodes in the sky, and a dead man in a parachute is slowly blown to the top of the mountain, where he comes to rest near the location of the signal fire.

At daybreak, Sam and Eric, the twins, who are on duty for tending the fire, wake up, and realize that the fire has almost gone out. They rebuild it, adding firewood, and get a blaze going. They busy themselves about the fire, and Eric notices something just beyond them, in the near darkness. They see the shape of the man in the parachute, but do not know what it is. It looks fearful and they think it is the beast. They flee, frightened.

They reach Ralph, who is sleeping in one of the shelters and tell him that they saw the beast. Ralph wakes Piggy, and they both listen to the twins' story. Ralph makes Sam and Eric call the boys for an assembly, and everyone gathers on the platform. The twins describe the beast that they saw on the top of the mountain. All the boys, especially the littluns are very scared, and Jack excitedly suggests a hunt. Ralph is skeptical, and is concerned about leaving the littluns behind. They suggest Piggy stay behind, but he is concerned about being by himself should the beast attack. Jack does not care about the littluns or Piggy, and encourages rapid action. He speaks out of turn and rejects the rules. Ralph chastises him and tension mounts. Ralph attempts to take control and reiterates the need to keep the fire lit in order to be rescued. With the mention of rescue, the boys come back to his side and he is able to calm the frenzy.

Ralph asks Jack about any unexplored places on the island, and Jack mentions one spot at the end of the land with a pile of rocks. Ralph decides that they will look there for the beast, and if it is not there, they will climb the mountain and tend to the fire. The bigger boys all eat and then set out, leaving Piggy and the littluns behind at the platform.

They reach the edge of the land and stop, inspecting the area. Only one part of the land is accessible, and that only by a rock ledge. The narrow ledge connects the island to a square piece of pink granite, much like the platform on the beach. This they call the castle, and it is the only other place the beast can be. Ralph crosses the ledge alone. Jack soon joins him and they discover that the area is deserted and Jack suggests creating a fort there. Ralph points out that there is no fresh water. Jack is unfazed and presses the point, pointing out the ways that the land could be defended by pushing boulders over the edge onto approaching enemies. Ralph is uninterested in relocating and suggests they climb the mountain in order to relight the signal. Jack is unconcerned about the fire, but Ralph is adamant. Seeing Ralph and Jack unhurt, the boys join them at the castle. Ralph tries to get them to join the mountain, but they begin to push one of the boulders off and ignore his request. Ralph gets their attention, asking them to climb the mountain, but they want to stay and create a fort there. Ralph reminds them that he is the chief and orders them to go. They hesitate, but Jack decides to go, and they follow after.

Chapter Six Analysis

The world outside the boys' microcosm is included in greater detail, as the boys receive a "visitor" from the outside world. The dead man in the parachute connects them to the life they left behind, of world wars and uncertainty. This is one of the few indications of what is going on in the land of the adults while the boys make their own way on the island, and it shows the way that the experience that influenced Golding parallels the boys' story. Golding was active in World War II, and it seems that what he learned then permeates much of his writing, especially Lord of the Flies. Golding saw the senseless suffering that war brings, experienced a loss of faith in humanity's ability to resist violence. This is demonstrated by the narrative's trajectory, but it also can be seen in this slight reference to the war. At the end of the previous chapter, Ralph asks for the adult world to tell them what to do, but the only messenger that the adults can send shows them that the adult world is just as muddied and confused as theirs. The adults, who are supposed to have all the answers, can offer nothing but more conflict on a larger scale.

When Sam and Eric see the man in the parachute, they believe it is the beast, and in a way, they are correct. The beast, as Simon discovers, is the violent impulse within every person. The dead man in the parachute, then is an incarnation of it, for though it is not a beast in an animal sense, but an effect of war, which is the beast acting through men and women around the world.

By this point, the relationship between Jack and Ralph is almost completely fractured, as they discuss what to do about what Sam and Eric saw. Jack continues to challenge the rules at every turn and use any opportunity possible to insult Piggy. As Ralph and Piggy grow closer as friends, Jack and Ralph pull apart. Piggy, even more than Ralph, represents clear-headedness and intelligence, which opposes Jack's tendency towards anarchy. Jack resents Piggy, and as Ralph depends on Piggy to keep his leadership in balance, he is established as an enemy of what Jack wants to achieve.

At Castle Rock, the way that the two boys react to the new environment demonstrates the opposing forces of savagery and civilization. Here Jack finds a space on the island that fits his view of the world; a fortress, it is made for violent encounters. It is laid out in a way that makes defense from attacks easy, and it has a collection of boulders that can be used to attack. Ralph immediately looks for the necessities for civilization and finds it lacking. It does not have a fresh water supply, nor a place for shelter. He dismisses the area as a viable place to set up camp, but Jack and the boys consider only it as a place for fun and a way to release the tension they feel.

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