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

Jack suggests that they try and kill the beast, but Ralph is doubtful and calls Jack's hunters "boys with sticks." Jack walks away, angry, and then blows the conch to call an assembly.

Jack tells everyone about the beast they saw and he disparages his ability as a chief. He calls for a vote, but no one votes against Ralph. Jack leaves, telling the group that anyone who wants to hunt with him is welcome to join his tribe.

The boys decide to build a fire by the platform, even though Simon suggests they climb the mountain. Once the fire is going, Ralph realizes that most of the biguns left to join Jack on the other part of the island.

Jack explains to his tribe his plan to invite all the other boys to a feast, in order to tempt them away from Ralph. They kill a large sow and in the clearing next to Simon's secret spot, Jack cuts off her head and places it on a stake in the ground, as an offering to the beast.

They depart and Simon is left, in his secret place, looking at the sow's head on the stake. Flies cover the pile of guts, the head and Simon. This Lord of the Flies confronts Simon, informing him that the beast is not an animal, but something inside everyone, and that escape is impossible.

Meanwhile, back at the platform, Ralph and Piggy consider what to do about the fire. Several boys with their faces painted, led by Jack, burst out of the forest. Jack extends his invitation to the feast to everyone and two of the boys steal branches from the fire.

Detailed Summary

The three boys tell Piggy about the beast on the top of the mountain. Ralph is convinced that they will never be able to have another fire and therefore will never be rescued. Jack suggests that they try and kill it. Ralph, unconvinced of their ability to kill it, calls Jack's hunters "boys with sticks." Jack walks away, angry, and then blows the conch to call an assembly.

Jack takes control of the meeting and tells everyone about the beast they saw. He also tells the hunters that Ralph insulted them. Jack complains about Ralph's connection with Piggy, and disparages his ability as a chief. He points out that Ralph is not a hunter. He calls for a vote to see who does not want Ralph as a chief. No one votes against Ralph, and Jack leaves, telling the group that anyone who wants to hunt with him is welcome to join. He runs away from the platform and into the jungle.

Piggy is glad to see him go and refocuses attention on the beast. Simon suggests that they climb the mountain. Piggy recommends that they make a fire down by the platform so they do not have to climb the mountain. The boys begin to work, glad to have an achievable objective. Piggy lights the fire himself, with his glasses.

Once the fire is going, Ralph realizes that the number of bigger boys has decreased. Most left to join Jack on the other part of the island. Ralph considers the change in situation, depressed. Piggy and Sam and Eric gather fruit for a feast, and they all forget their troubles for a while. They realize that Simon is missing, and assume that he left to climb the mountain, but he is actually sitting in his secret spot in the middle of the forest.

Jack is surveying his own group of boys, gathered at the other end of the island, all former members of the choir that he had arrived with. Jack establishes himself as chief and then develops a plan to kill a pig and have a feast. He wants to invite all the other boys to it, in order to tempt them away from Ralph. They make their way into the forest and soon find a group of pigs. They circle around a large sow and kill her. In the clearing next to Simon's secret spot, Jack guts her. He cuts off her head and places it on a stake in the ground, as an offering to the beast.

They depart and Simon is left, in his secret place, looking at the sow's head on the stake. Simon thinks about the beast, but does not run away. Flies cover the pile of guts, the head and Simon. He looks back and considers the Lord of the Flies, hung on the stick. He confronts Simon, letting him know that everyone thinks he is crazy, and reminds him of the beast. The Lord of the Flies informs him that the beast is not an animal, but something inside everyone, and that escape is impossible.

Meanwhile, back at the platform, Ralph and Piggy consider what to do about the fire, since they have very few people to maintain it. Ralph wants to know what makes things break apart like they have on the island, and Piggy blames Jack. The quiet is broken as several boys with their faces painted, led by Jack, burst out of the forest. Jack extends his invitation to the feast to everyone and two of the boys steal branches from the fire. Ralph calls an assembly and calms everyone's fears. He reminds everyone of the fire, but they want to go to the feast.

Chapter Eight Analysis

This chapter acts as another minor climax in the narrative, as it moves to the major climax of Simon's death. The boys discuss what to do about the beast, and Jack suggests forming a hunt. This leads Ralph to describe Jack's hunters as "boys with sticks," a statement that implies that the hunting prowess and leadership that Jack prides himself on is nothing of value. This is taken as a major insult to Jack, and he responds by offering his final challenge to Ralph within the bounds of the system. He asks for a vote of no-confidence from the boys, but when they stay silent, Jack is forced to remove himself from under Ralph's care. These are the last moments that Jack is functioning according to the rules set forward by Ralph on the first day. Though he had challenged them in the past, Jack always ultimately did what Ralph wanted, and treated him as the chief. Once Ralph admits a lack of confidence in Jack's abilities, Jack must respond in kind, and question Ralph's authority. He attempts to do this legally, but when that does not work, his last connection to civilization is severed as he runs off into the forest. Ralph believes that he will return, but that is because he does not initially understand the power Jack already holds over the other boys.

Piggy is happy to see Jack go, but he does not understand the effects that can come from someone with power who refuses to play by the rules. He is going to establish his rules, and Piggy's faith in the authority of order and civilization will ultimately be disproved. Piggy believes in the conch until the end, but the trappings of civilization are not enough to quiet Jack into submission.

Jack is finally in control and able to use his powers of domination and violence to the fullest. This is reflected in his next hunt, in which he and his newly formed tribe kill a large sow. Jack cuts off the pig's head and places it on a stick in the clearing near Simon's secret spot. He effectively rids the area of its innocence and purity and sets up in its place the representation of evil and violence. He makes this offering to the beast, marking the spot as sacred for his tribe, and the head becomes a symbol of authority, like the conch is for Ralph and Piggy. The head is placed near Simon, who then is able to communicate with it. It becomes the Lord of the Flies, the symbol of cruelty and malice. The Lord of the Flies informs Simon of the darkness in the world, and the inescapable nature of evil. The theme that savagery is an inborn trait in humanity, controlled only by the creation of society and civilization is fully expressed. There is no innocence in the world, just the appearance of it, as people convince themselves that there are places and people where darkness they see in the world cannot inhabit. The narrative responds to this belief with world-weary contempt, as the Lord of the Flies predicts Simon's death.

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