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

In the morning, Ralph tries to bring their fire back to life, but it has gone out completely. Piggy makes a speech about confronting Jack and he pledges to go to him with the conch and demand his glasses back. Ralph, Sam and Eric agree to accompany him.

They set off for Castle Rock, each carrying a spear, with Ralph leading the way. Roger is guarding the entry and he stops them as they approach. Ralph begins to blow on the conch shell, ignoring Roger. He declares that he is calling an assembly. The boys around snicker, but Ralph persists.

Jack emerges from the forest, belligerent. Ralph becomes angry and calls Jack a thief for taking the glasses when Ralph would have gladly given him fire if asked. Jack lashes out at Ralph, and they parry with their wooden spears.

Jack sees Sam and Eric and orders the members of his tribe to grab them and tie them up. Piggy interrupts the action, asking the tribe to consider the advantage of acting sensibly, but Roger unleashes the great boulder that sits with the guard. It smashes the conch and knocks Piggy off the cliff. Jack excitedly asserts his position as chief and throws his spear at Ralph, which hits him in the side. Ralph flees into the forest, while Sam and Eric are violently forced to join the tribe.

Detailed Summary

In the morning, Ralph tries to bring their fire back to life, but it has gone out completely. Piggy convinces Ralph that he needs to call an assembly, so he blows on the conch. They sit on the platform, though it is only the four of them. Piggy expresses his anger at the theft of his glasses and the inability to start a fire. Ralph continues the diatribe, but Piggy encourages action. Piggy makes a speech about confronting Jack and he pledges to go to him with the conch and demand his glasses back. Ralph, Sam and Eric agree to accompany him. The twins suggest painting their faces, but Ralph refuses to concede to this form of savagery. He wishes to bathe before they go, but knows it is impossible.

They set off for Castle Rock, each carrying a spear, with Ralph leading the way. Piggy, unable to see anything but the dimmest of shapes, walks in the middle. They reach the point of the feast, but continue on to Castle Rock, where they know the tribe is gathered. They get close and see smoke in the distance. They head out into the open and approach the entry. Roger is guarding the entry and he stops them as they approach. Ralph begins to blow on the conch shell, ignoring Roger. He declares that he is calling an assembly. The boys around snicker, but Ralph persists. He asks for Jack, who is out hunting. Ralph informs Roger that his purpose is to recover Piggy's glasses. Piggy, all alone and blind, begins to feel anxious standing by himself.

Jack emerges from the forest, belligerent. He orders Ralph back to his own end of the island. Ralph mentions the glasses, but Jack challenges him to try to retrieve them. In response, Ralph becomes angry and calls Jack a thief for taking the glasses when Ralph would have gladly given him fire when asked. Jack lashes out at Ralph, and they parry with their wooden spears. Ralph stops and repeats the purpose of their visit. He tells Jack that they are not playing the game fairly. The members of Jack's tribe laugh and Ralph becomes upset and reminds them of the need to be rescued.

Jack sees Sam and Eric and orders the members of his tribe to grab them and tie them up. Jack confronts Ralph, who charges at him and they fight. Piggy interrupts the action with a desire to speak. He holds up the conch and describes their actions as that of a bunch of kids. Roger throws stones at him. He asks them to consider the advantage of acting sensibly, but he is answered with shouts of derision and a shower of stones. Ralph backs away and Roger unleashes the great boulder that sits with the guard. It smashes the conch and knocks Piggy off the cliff. He lands on a rock with his head dashed against it and the sea rushes in and carries his body away. Jack excitedly asserts his position as chief and throws his spear at Ralph, which hits him in the side. The tribe follows his example and screaming, runs after Ralph throwing their spears. Ralph flees into the forest, and the tribe follows him to the clearing with the Lord of the Flies, where Jack stops and calls the tribe back to the fort. Jack addresses Sam and Eric, informing them that they are required to join the tribe. They resist and are met with violence.

Chapter Eleven Analysis

In this chapter, the final blows to Ralph's attempts at civilization are made. The two main symbols of society and order, Piggy's glasses and the conch shell, are gone by the end of the chapter. Jack and his boys have stolen Piggy's glasses during the night, and the clear-sighted Piggy is blinded, literally and figuratively. Their fire is out, and consequently the power of the island has shifted from Ralph to Jack. Piggy, clinging to his faith in the power of reason, decides to confront Jack and his tribe. Piggy wants to take the conch and show him what he does not have. This seems silly, as all that Piggy has that Jack does not is a shell, but the shell represents all the order and science and reason that Jack has rejected in favor of barbarianism. For Piggy, the authority of logic is undeniable, and the fact that Jack would just reject the need to follow reason does not occur to him.

The four boys reach Castle Rock, where the imagination of a fort and tribe have taken over all of the boys there. They have abandoned all sense of reality and fiction, and as a result, the significance of the consequences of their actions are minimized. Roger plays the game, but Ralph refuses to, questioning the need for such ceremony as asking "who goes there?" when it is obvious who it is. Jack soon arrives, and the final face to face confrontation between Jack and Ralph commences. It is the last time that the two boys representing opposite impulses will meet each other. Ralph explains his purpose, but is met with the wild excitement of the other boys. Since Jack is not willing to approach Ralph on Ralph's terms, the conclusion is that Jack's terms are used, which none of the four boys has the power to fight. Ralph defends himself, but Piggy is unmatched, as he dwells purely within the realm of thought and reason and lacks all authority in the physical world that Roger and Jack inhabit. The boundary that kept Roger from hitting Henry with stones has been crossed with Simon's death, and Roger's malice can be given free reign. He begins to throw stones as he did before, but knowing that the line of protection exists no more, releases the boulder from the watchman's perch. Piggy is killed, in a death that was foreshadowed at the beginning of the story with the boys rolling a boulder from the mountain.

In the process, the conch shell is shattered, and the final vestige of civilization is destroyed. The glasses, the conch shell and Piggy are all gone; there is nothing left of the civilizing forces that supported Ralph's efforts. Sam and Eric, who are the only boys left that remain grounded in reality, are absorbed into the tribe, and Ralph is utterly alone in a sea of brutality.

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