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

On their way to the mountain, the boys stop to eat and Ralph again ponders his current state of uncleanliness. It makes him sad to think about the changes that the boys have all undergone. Simon addresses him, telling him simply that he believes Ralph will make it home. At first irritated, Simon's insistence makes Ralph smile.

Roger discovers fresh droppings and Ralph gives his consent for the boys to hunt on their way to the mountain. The boys are pursued by a boar, but Ralph takes aim and throws his spear at it, which lodges in the boar's snout. Excited by the hunt, all the boys join in to act out the hunt. They get a little out of control, and hurt Robert, the boy pretending to be the boar.

When they reach the track it is very late and Ralph makes the decision to head back to the platform and climb the mountain the next day. Jack pressures Ralph and he agrees to climb the mountain. Roger agrees to go with Jack and Ralph. The three move forward and Ralph sees an apelike creature with a ruined face. Frightened, the three boys run away.

Detailed Summary

The boys follow the pig run, keeping close to the coast. They stop to eat and Ralph has some time to think. He ponders his current state of uncleanliness and how he would like to have a bath and a haircut. He looks around to the other boys and realizes that they have all become very used to their situation. It makes him sad to think about the changes that they have all undergone.

He is lost in thought when Simon addresses him, telling him simply that he believes Ralph will make it home. Ralph is puzzled by it, and asks Simon about it, but Simon can do nothing more than reiterate his belief that Ralph will make it home. At first irritated, Simon's insistence makes Ralph smile.

Roger discovers fresh droppings and Ralph gives his consent for the boys to hunt on their way to the mountain. Jack takes charge and Ralph is allowed respite from his leadership role. He thinks about his past, and the house he lived in back in England, with ponies behind a fence and all his favorite books.

He is brought back to the present by the crashing of several boys through the bushes as they run from the pig track. They are running from a boar, which is close behind them. Ralph takes aim and throws his spear at it, which lodges in the boar's snout. The boar heads off into the jungle and the boys regroup. Jack has been hurt by it, and he shows off his wound. Ralph is proud of his contribution and looks for recognition. Robert pretends to be the pig and Ralph demonstrates how he threw his spear. All the boys join in and form a ring around Robert. The boys get out of control and Robert begins to yell in real pain. They hold him down and poke him with their spears. They chant and Ralph gets pulled into the frenzy. Jack stops and everyone cheers. They consider their game, and how to make it better. Jack suggests using a littlun, which makes everyone laugh.

They continue on, but the way becomes difficult and they have to go slowly. Realizing that they are still a long way off, they stop to consider what to do. Simon leaves them to give Piggy the message that the group will not return by nightfall. They head towards the interior to follow a different pig track that leads to the mountain. When they reach the track it is very late and Ralph makes the decision to head back to the platform and climb the mountain the next day. Jack asks if he is scared. Ralph knows that none of the other boys want to climb the mountain in the dark, but Jack pressures Ralph and he agrees to go. Roger agrees to go also and the three of them climb the mountain together, while the rest of the boys return to the platform.

Once they get to the top, Jack goes on alone, to investigate. He returns with the information that there is something at the top. The three move forward and Ralph sees an apelike creature with a ruined face. Frightened, the three boys run away.

Chapter Seven Analysis

Ralph gains a respite from leadership as they all follow Jack into the forest, and as he ponders the state of affairs, the changes that Ralph has undergone over the course of the narrative can been seen. The civilizing impulse has grown even stronger in him, and he again considers his physical dirtiness and longs for a bath. He reminisces of the comforts of society and with these memories, the connection that he feels to the outside world grows stronger, though the possibility of seeing it again seems to slip further away.

After Ralph is lured into a calm state by the steadiness of the waves, Simon interrupts him with his prophetic statement. Simon tells Ralph that he believes that Ralph will get off the island. By saying it in this way, he seems to understand that he will not make it on the island, thus foretelling his own death. Though Ralph is at first confused by Simon's declaration, he realizes the purity of Simon's intentions and feeling and they share a moment of understanding. It occurs for only a brief moment, for then Ralph returns to the belief that Simon is crazy, but it is an instant of clarity as the narrative grows darker.

The theme that no one is immune to the temptation of the beast is explored as Ralph finally participates in a hunt. Uninterested at the beginning, he is thrust into the thick of it, and in the heat of the moment, takes an active part in trying to kill the boar. He is proud of his accomplishment, and when he does not gain instant recognition for it from the other boys, he joins in their reenactment as a way of showing his solidarity. Once started, the impulses connected to hunting and killing are unleashed, and he finds himself controlled by them. In that moment, all the civilizing impulses that have dominated him are gone, and he occupies the frame of mind that leads Jack to violence. Ralph realizes this after the re-enactment is over, and though the boys dismiss it as a game, he knows that there is greater significance to the parts they were playing. He sees the danger of encouraging that kind of behavior and letting the feelings it inspires dictate the tribe.

Soon after, Ralph and Jack clash over the decision to climb the mountain. Ralph wants to play it safe and return to camp, but Jack sees it as an opportunity to challenge Ralph's authority and prove himself at the same time. This gives Ralph a clear insight into Jack's character, and he begins to understand the way that Jack will take power from him. He responds in kind, and his willingness to take Jack on leads him to make a decision that is not the best. He is blinded by his unwillingness to seem weak in front of the boys, so he and Jack climb the mountain together.

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