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The protagonist of the story, Ralph is one of the oldest boys on the island and becomes the boys' leader. Golding describes Ralph as tall for his age and handsome, and he seems to preside over the other boys by a natural sense of authority. Although he lacks Piggy's overt intellect, Ralph is calm and rational, with sound judgment and a strong moral sensibility. He is susceptible to the same instinctual influences that affect the other boys, as demonstrated as Ralph's role in Simon's death, but Ralph remains the one character who remains civilized through the entire novel. With his attention to justice and equality, Ralph represents the liberal democratic tradition as chief.
The antagonist of Lord of the Flies. He is tall, redheaded, and emerges as the leader of the choir boys. When Ralph becomes the initial leader, Jack becomes upset, for he wanted that position but instead becomes the leader of the "hunters." Jack leads the boys from civilized young men into savages through the novel. He is malicious and animalistic. As structure breaks down, Jack forms his own separate sect separating from Ralph and the rest of the group. Jack is a cruel bully, who is constantly violent and threatens those below him. Jack is always ready to fight. Jack constantly attempts to weaken others. He breaks Piggy's glasses and leads the others towards Piggy's murder. He brings the boys into mass hysteria and eventually hunts Ralph down like an animal.
Piggy is slightly younger than Ralph and in the weakling in the group being overweight and suffering from asthma. He wears glasses. He is weak, smart, and friendly. While is put down by the other boys, he is necessary on the island as a source of intelligence and insight. His insights are often ignored because of his weak appearance and he is killed by Roger.
A small, skinny boy with straight, coarse hair. He keeps to himself, thinks deeply about things, wanders alone in the jungle, and has trouble communicating. He discovers the dead airman whom the other children call the beast. He is mistaken for the beast and killed when he tries to explain. He is presented as a Christ-like figure.
A small boy with dirty and shaggy black hair, Roger represents pure evil and wrongness, moreso even than Jack. He has no mercy, and is the first one to intentionally kill another boy on the island when he smashed Piggy with a boulder. He gets sadistic pleasure from torturing a pig and other boys on the island. Roger is one of Jack's most loyal helpers, and gladly carries out his orders.
Sam and Eric are two young twins who do everything together. They represent reliance and unity, and because of this become like one person referred to as Samneric. While seemingly loyal to Ralph, they eventually give in to Jack's threats and join his tribe. While Ralph hoped otherwise, the twins in the end disclose Ralph's hiding spot to Jack. The loss of civilization led them to lose any real sense of loyalty to others.
A group of boys has been dropped on a tropical island. Their plane was shot down. They are excited because there are no grownups around.
Piggy and Ralph explore the island. They find a conch shell. Ralph blows on it and the other boys come and gather around. The group elects Ralph as the leader. Jack wanted to be chosen. Jack decides to hunt for food, but his first attempt to kill a pig fails. One of the boys thinks there's a beast in the woods. Ralph says they need fire as a signal for ships to rescue them. They use Piggy's glasses to start it. The boys would rather play than keep an eye on the fire. Jack and his group become obsessed with hunting and killing. They paint their faces and finally are able to kill a pig. The boys still think there's a beast on the island. Jacks breaks away from Ralph's leadership, and invites the rest to follow him. He kills another pig and puts its head on a stake. Alone, Simon has a hallucination while looking at the pig's head on the stake. The head is THE LORD OF THE FLIES and says "I'm part of you." While trying to get back, Simon discovers a dead man. His parachute is caught in the rocks. Jack and friends are having a feast with the roast pig. They go into a frenzy state, chanting "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" Simon appears, and the wild boys call him the beast and kill him. Only Ralph, Piggy and the twins remain together. All the other boys have joined wild Jack. The fight for leadership reaches a climax, when Jack turns violent. His hunters steal Piggy's glasses, smash the conch, drag the twins off and Roger hurls a boulder over a ledge, killing Piggy. The next day Jack prepares to hunt down Ralph and kill him. To smoke him out, they start a fire. It soon spreads over the whole island. When Ralph is running for his life, he stumbles on the beach and falls at the feet of a man in uniform. He's an officer from the navy who saw the fire and came to their rescue.
The novel begins with Ralph and Piggy meeting on the beach. They are part of a group of boys who were being evacuated from a nuclear war in England and whose plane has crashed on a deserted island. Soon the whole group meets, and Ralph is elected as their leader. They find a conch shell on the beach, and Ralph uses it as a symbol of his authority. Jack, the head of the choirboys who wants to be the leader, is made chief of the hunters, who arm themselves with wooden spears and utter war cries as they chase pigs.
Ralph, in his rationality, decides to light a fire on the mountaintop to serve as a signal to passing ships. Piggy's glasses are used to start the fire, and Jack's hunters are put in charge of keeping it burning. But the strong wind sets the whole forest on the mountaintop on fire. One of the small boys is lost in the blaze; it is the first foreshadowing that civilized life, like the fire, may grow out of control.
For the most part, life is aimless on the island. The smallest boys, called "littluns", stay together, play, eat too much, and give way to their fear in the nighttimes, often crying loudly. Most of the older boys spend their time bathing in the lagoon, sleeping in the shade, or eating the plentiful fruit available in the jungle. Ralph spends much of his time building shelters to protect the boys, while Jack and his tribe are constantly off on a hunt. They are so involved in their pursuit of savagery that they even let the fire go out and miss being rescued by a passing ship. As time passes, all the boys become dirty and unkempt, an outward symbol of their interior disintegration.
After Jack kills the first pig, they all have a feast. A mock hunt is enacted round the fire with wild dancing and chanting. They even offer the pig's head as an offering to the Beast, which the boys are certain exists on the island. The Pig's head is soon covered with flies, and it becomes the "Lord of the Flies", a symbol of the boys' evil savagery.
One night there is a plane fight over the island while the boys are asleep. A dead parachutist lands on the island and gets entangled in the trees. When the wind blows, the parachute laps and balloons, and the dead airman's head bobs up and down. Sam and Eric see this terrifying figure, and they tell everyone they have seen the beast. Fear grows in everyone. Ralph, Jack, and Roger climb the mountain to investigate the beast. Only Jack is brave enough to ascend to the top. When he spies the dead airman, he is convinced there is a beast and warns the others, causing fear to grow.
Ralph is now more concerned than ever about their rescue and about keeping the fire going. He grows angry at Jack and his hunters when they do not tend the fire as assigned. But Jack cares only about hunting; he does not seem to have a care about rules or being rescued. Because of him, things start degenerating, and he and Ralph constantly fight. Jack finally breaks away from the group and starts his own tribe at Castle Rock on the other side of the island. Most of the other boys follow him. Only Piggy, Sam, Eric, and some littluns remain with Ralph.
Once again Jack kills a pig and the others are invited to the feast. Now all the boys have painted themselves like savages. Simon, the visionary, is disturbed by the break-up of the group and wanders off alone into the jungle. There he sees the dead airman and realizes that there is no beast, only the poor man's dead body. He understands that the beast is only within a person's heart. He hurries to Castle Rock to inform the boys, who are dancing in frenzy after their feast. They mistake Simon for the beast and beat him with clubs and spears until he dies.
Piggy’s glasses are a symbol for practical rationality and intelligence. Without glasses, Piggy is helpless. At the important moment of his life, Piggy is blindly and can’t see the rock that rolls to him. In the hands of Jack the glasses are also power and leadership, because it’s also the originator of the fire. The person who has the glasses has the fire. The fire symbolises not only life, heat or rescue. Out of control it’ll end in death and destruction of human and nature.
For Piggy, the conch is an instrument of order and democracy. The conch symbolises the right to speak, the same rights for all and the right of life and intactness, but only if the powerful people on the island (Jack) believe in such values.
The pig hunt is first positive, because it brings food for everybody. But it turns into negative on the ritual level with the hunt dances. All ends in a mass hysteria, absolute brutality and ritual murder.
The smoke of the signal fire symbolizes the last best hope of the boys being rescued. To Piggy and Ralph, the fire represents the moral influence of their old life in England. When the fire goes out, Ralph loses his bearings, unsure of his next move.
The fire is diatonically opposed to hunting, the activity of anarchy on the island.
The dead body flying in the parachute symbolizes the end of adult supervision of the boys on the island. While the parachute man is flapping back and forth on the island, conjuring up a powerful image of its prolonged death, the Beast, or Lord of the Flies, is prospering under its new control over Jack and most of the other boys on the island. So while the law and order of the adult world is waning, childish chaos is growing exponentially. Simon has a special connection with the parachute man. He climbs the mountain, subconsciously, to determine whether the parachute man is still alive. When he finds out that the man is dead and that the Beast is alive, Simon has a nervous breakdown. The moral confrontation which occurs when Simon has the interview with the Lord of the Flies symbolizes man’s inability to conquer the evil anarchy of the devil.
The butterflies symbolise the immortal soul, the have nothing in common with the “Lord of the Flies” and avoid the ill.
This paradisiacal island equates a psychological, political and social laboratory. Through the release of the primary instincts of the boys, rational and democratic standards of a society are without effect.
The island is a microcosm representing the world.
The beast represents the capacity for evil within everyone.
The Devil, great danger or evil. In the story the panic and decay that takes place is symbolized by this pig’s head. In its ‘talk’ with Simon it explains what the Beast really is.
Different types of power, some used and abused. Democratic power is shown when choices and decisions are shared among many people on the island. Jack shows authoritarian power by threatening and terrifying others. Some of the boys utilize brute force, when hunting for pigs, and later hunting for Ralph.
The boy's fear of the unknown on the island leads to their fear of the beast. The boys cannot accept the notion of a beast existing on the island, nor can they let go of it. The recognition that no real beast exists, and that the only beast on the island is fear itself is one of the deepest meanings of the story.
Society holds everyone together, and without these conditions, our ideals, values, and the basics of right and wrong are lost. Without society's rigid rules, anarchy and savagery can come to light. Golding is also showing that morals come directly from our surroundings, and if there is no civilization around us, we will lose these values.
Jack can be seen as a representative of Communism or Fascism. Golding was influenced by events during World War II.
William Golding says that "the theme (of the book) is an attempt to trace back the defects of society to the defects of human nature...The moral is that the shape of society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system."
Ralph represents order and composure in society. Eventually Jack grew tired of Ralph being in charge. He let the barbarism inside of him transform him into a savage-like creature and he went on a rampage, destroying the makeshift civilization the boys worked so hard to create.
The Beastie symbolizes the Devil, and is a manifestation of all the evil inside the boys. As the boys grew further and further away from civilization, their desire to kill the Beastie grew. They went from being scared at first, to wanting to hang his head on a pole.
The boys went hunting many times to try to keep themselves alive. At first, Ralph was afraid to kill the sow. Towards the end, Jack's warrior identity brutally murdered the sow and hung his head on a stick.
Piggy represents the weak who are often victimized. The boys tortured him because he was fat and needed such thick glasses. His torture can also be considered a lack of understanding, because the boys had likely never met anyone with problems like his. This can be seen in the boy’s lack of understanding of asthma, or "ass-mar".
The barbaric quality that arises in Jack throughout the book is really a rebellion against society. He grew tired of taking orders from Ralph and participating in the democratic system that they had. This sense of anarchy must have existed inside of him before the encounter on the island began, but his experiences served to bring it out of him.
William Gerald Golding was born on September 19, 1911 in Cornwall England. His father was a schoolmaster and his mother was a suffragette. His parents had wanted him to study science, so he did from grammar school until the second year of college. After his second year of college, he abandoned the study of science in favour of English literature. He wrote poetry and worked in amateur theatre for a while before becoming a teacher where he was at the beginning of World War II. At the start of World War II, he entered the Royal navy and served with distinction on mine sweepers, destroyers, and rocket launchers. He believed that the horrors of World War II can be based on some innate evil which he explores in Lord of the Flies. After the war, he returned to teaching and writing, although had little success getting published. He was able to get Lord of the Flies published and it experienced great success.
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