The Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of schoolboys who end up stuck on an unknown island after a plane crash during the beginning of a war. At first, they enjoy their newfound freedom without any adults telling them what to do.
However, things start to go awry when their organized system breaks down and they are faced with eerie sounds and fear. As time passes, their chances of being rescued or having any sort of adventure seem less and less likely.
You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book review provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.
Let’s get started without further ado.
In this The Lord of the Flies book review, I’m going to cover the following topics:
Table of Contents
A group of schoolboys, trapped on an island, gradually become savages.
A plane carrying a group of boys evacuated from England during an atomic war has crashlanded on a tropical island. Only two survivors appear at first—a tall boy, Ralph, and a fat, asthmatic boy, Piggy.
The boys look in vain for the pilot and the man with the megaphone from the aeroplane. Ralph finds a conch shell (the kind you hold up to your ear), and when he blows into it, a number of boys arrive on the scene.
They hold a meeting and elect Ralph chief. Jack, the leader of a group of choirboys, had wanted to be chosen, so Ralph gives his choir the special status of hunters. Ralph then selects Jack and Simon, a skinny, intelligent boy, to help him explore the island.
After climbing a mountain, they are thrilled to find the island quite habitable and free of other humans. The explorers return and Ralph calls a meeting, joyfully announcing that they will have fun, as in the Victorian novel Coral Island (1858), by R. M. Ballantyne.
Everyone agrees that rules are needed, so they decide that no one may speak without raising his hand and obtaining the conch. A small boy with a birthmark speaks fearfully of a “snake-thing” that comes from the forest. Ralph reassures the boys that there is nothing to fear, and he promises they will be rescued from the island.
He urges them to build a fire on the mountain that will signal their presence to possible rescuers. Before Ralph can think, Jack rushes off to make the fire, calling everyone to follow him. Jack lights the fire by using Piggy’s glasses to reflect the sun, and before long the fire rages out of control. Piggy, ignoring the boys’ mockery, criticizes them for being irresponsible. He points out that the boy with the birthmark is missing and must have died in the fire.
Several weeks pass. Jack and Ralph grow frustrated—Jack because his pig-hunting efforts have failed, and Ralph because everyone but Simon has forgotten his promise to help build shelters. Ralph upsets Jack by suggesting that he should be helping him rather than enjoy himself hunting, but Jack insists they need meat.
Unwilling to dwell on the issue, Ralph warns Jack not to forget his pledge to tend the signal fire. Meanwhile, Simon slips off toward the forest, and the others think him “batty” for going off alone.
On his way, he pauses to help the littluns (youngest boys) pick fruit. Making sure he is alone, Simon crawls into a small jungle clearing, screened by vegetation. Once there, he “communes” (talks intimately, mystically) with nature. Roger, who will become Jack’s main henchman, and Maurice trample the littluns’ sandcastles.
Little Johnny throws sand at Perceval. When Roger sees Henry, like a little dictator, trying to control the motions of the sea creatures, he throws stones at him. Jack calls Roger and some others to hunt pigs.
This time, Jack has painted his face and feels free of inhibitions. Meanwhile, Ralph spots a ship on the horizon and is enraged to discover that Jack has let the signal fire die. When Jack returns triumphant from the hunt, Ralph and Piggy criticize his foolishness, angering Jack to the point of hitting Piggy and breaking a lens of his glasses. Despite the conflict, a feast is held.
Ralph calls an assembly and berates the boys for neglecting their responsibilities. He tries to calm the littluns’ growing fears of beasts, but one littlun insists he saw something horrid in the trees at night, and another mentions a sea beast.
Although most biguns seem to accept Piggy’s view that science can explain everything, the boys remain uncertain. Simon is ridiculed for suggesting that they may actually be the beast.
When Jack challenges Ralph’s authority, the meeting ends in chaos, and many boys run off with Jack to hold a ritual dance. Piggy and Ralph long for a sign from the grownup world. That night, a sign appears while the boys sleep. A parachutist (“Beast from Air”) has been shot dead in combat and lands on the mountain.
The twins, Sam and Eric, awaken and see the corpse. They flee, telling everyone the beast has pursued them. Jack proposes that they hunt the beast. After searching the unexplored peninsula of Castle Rock, they find nothing, but the boys have such fun there that they grumble mutinously when Ralph orders them to continue the search.
On their way to the mountain, they stop to hunt a boar and Ralph discovers the pleasures of hunting. After the boar escapes, Robert plays pig and they reenact the hunt, chanting “Kill the pig” and dancing savagely. Even Ralph feels the urge to kill. When darkness falls, Ralph suggests returning, but Jack taunts him into continuing the hunt.
With Roger accompanying them on the mountain, they spot an apelike form lifting its hideous head (it is the dead parachutist). They flee, terrified. When Ralph questions Jack’s ability to fight the beast, Jack angrily deserts Ralph’s group, inviting the others to join him.
Jack’s absence delights Piggy, who fears him and blames him for their troubles. Piggy suggests the boys build a signal fire on the beach. Afterward, Simon steals off to his jungle refuge. While there, he spies Jack’s followers sadistically killing a sow.
The hunters leave the pig’s head on a stick “sharpened at both ends” and offer it to the beast. Simon gazes upon the fly-covered pig’s head, the Lord of the Flies, which seems to say that there is no escape, since the beast is in everyone. Finally, Simon faints.
A great storm approaches. Simon awakens that evening and, though nervous, climbs the mountain and discovers the parachutist’s corpse, dangling in the wind. He sets out to inform the others that there is no “beast.” In the meantime, Piggy and Ralph decide to partake of Jack’s feast.
After eating, they notice that many have joined Jack’s tribe. When the storm begins, the frightened boys dance themselves into a frenzy, chanting “Kill the beast!” When Simon suddenly crawls out of the jungle, everyone—even Piggy and Ralph— attack him viciously as “the beast.”
The wind blows the parachutist out to sea, and later, when the storm passes, the tide carries away Simon’s moonlit body. Simon’s death fills Piggy and Ralph with guilt.
While Piggy tries to dismiss it as an accident, Ralph calls it murder. Ralph’s group must struggle to keep a signal fire, for every bigun except Piggy, Sam, and Eric has followed Jack to Castle Rock. Jack, after beating Wilfred without explanation, warns his tribe to keep out intruders and to beware of the beast, who uses many disguises and can never really be killed. That night, Jack, Maurice, and Roger fiercely attack Ralph’s group and run away with Piggy’s glasses.
Awakening to a dead fire, Ralph holds an assembly with Piggy and the twins. Piggy, nearly blind, insists that they confront Jack. Arriving at Castle Rock, Ralph criticizes Jack, who tries to stab him and orders his painted savages to seize the twins.
Ralph and Jack fight until Piggy, who clutches the conch, begs to speak. Jack’s tribe listens, eager to mock him. Up above, however, Roger releases a boulder that shatters the conch and kills Piggy, hurling his body into the sea.
Soon, spears fly at Ralph and he flees. Meanwhile, the twins are tortured into joining Jack’s tribe. While hiding in the forest, Ralph discovers the mounted pig’s skull and lashes out at it. Jack’s savages pursue Ralph relentlessly, much like a pig, and carry a “stick sharpened at both ends.”
Exhausted, Ralph sneaks into a thicket, but Jack, informed by the twins, pushes boulders down onto that area and sets it on fire. Soon the island is aflame and the savages drive the panic-stricken Ralph to the beach.
Looking up, Ralph sees a naval officer. The adult thinks they are playing games, as in Coral Island, but when he examines their appearances and learns of the deaths, he is shocked that British boys cannot handle themselves better. Ralph weeps for all the lost innocence, the “darkness of man’s heart,” and Piggy’s death.
Elected leader after finding the conch; age 12. He has common sense, courage, is strong, attractive, and intelligent. He insists that boys be responsible to the group. As the novel progresses, he grows in self-awareness and discovers the human capacity for evil.
He wants to preserve the civilized order and bring about their rescue through a signal fire, but fails to convince others of the fire’s importance. He sees the weakness of democracy (“talk, talk, talk”) and comes to realize the need for political flexibility (i.e., doing what is necessary, even if it is unpleasant).
He is less intellectual than Piggy, lacks Simon’s moral understanding, and participates in Simon’s murder. The novel is structured around his psychological growth from innocence to maturity.
Fat (as a pig), nearly blind without glasses, asthmatic. He is an outsider and the butt of comedy. He becomes Ralph’s adviser, thinks clearly, and has faith in scientific progress. He is murdered by Roger. He denies or rationalizes human evil, seeing it as an external problem.
Skinny; age 9 or 10. He is intelligent, a saintlike mystic who communes with nature. He is lonely, an independent truth-seeker, logical, very mature for his age, and discovers that evil is in everyone. He has moral understanding (i.e., the difference between right and wrong), tries to free others from their fear of the beast, but is murdered. He is a Christ figure and a mild epileptic who appears “batty.”
Villain; age 12. He is tall, thin, the leader of the choirboys, and Ralph’s enemy. He has red hair, is easily angered, and cruel. He has strong political instincts and gradually undermines Ralph’s authority, convincing the boys to be savage hunters.
At first, he is too timid to kill the pig, but becomes a fearless tyrant, causing violence and destruction. He achieves control through fear, threats, and rituals. He represents the primitive state of nature and of the animal instincts in humans freed from reason and civilization. He desires power, has a short-term outlook, and wants to kill others. He is in league with the Devil, the Lord of Flies.
He is Jack’s main henchman, a quiet, sneaky bully. He rapidly sheds his social conditioning and becomes a barbaric sadist, torturer, and cold-blooded murderer.
Main Themes and Ideas
The main idea of the novel is that everyone has the potential for evil within them, which is not caused by external factors like monsters or attackers. This evil is a part of human nature and cannot be controlled simply by laws or regulations. The protagonist, Ralph, learns that society’s well-being depends on each person’s moral compass, not just on the political system or other outside forces.
Adults vs. Children
The book highlights the similarities between the violent behavior of adults and children. The only difference is that adults try to maintain order and civilization while the children give in to their primitive impulses.
The author critiques the idea of the “noble savage,” which suggests that people are naturally good and that society corrupts them. Instead, civilization is necessary to prevent people from giving in to their destructive instincts. The “beast” symbolizes the savagery that humans revert to when they are forced to survive in nature. Golding mocks the book Coral Island, which promotes the idea of the noble savage, by showing that even the youngest boys on the island are driven by aggression and power.
The book challenges the positivist belief that science can explain everything. Although one character, Piggy, believes that science can explain away the existence of the beast, he is unable to convince others and ultimately participates in Simon’s murder.
Loss of Innocence
By the end of the book, Ralph realizes that leadership is difficult and that people can be uncooperative. He also learns the value of friendship and acknowledges Simon’s death as murder. Although he doesn’t fully understand the nature of the beast, he recognizes the presence of human evil and is better prepared to return to civilization.
The book references the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the idea of salvation. The island initially seems like paradise, but the boys’ fear of the beast leads them to commit crimes. Simon, who represents Christ, tries to confront the beast and save the others from their fear, but he is killed. However, his body is carried away by the sea, suggesting a sense of peace or redemption.
Conch – a large seashell that is used to call the boys to an assembly and symbolizes order, democratic process, unity, and Ralph’s authority. As Ralph’s power fades, the boys stop respecting the conch. After it is destroyed, only fear and force remain.
Lord of the Flies – the translation of the Greek name Beelzebub (Devil). It represents evil or the human capacity for evil that exists in everyone. The flies moving to Simon’s head foreshadows his death.
Beast – on the surface, it represents fear of the unknown, but on a deeper level, it symbolizes the capacity for evil in everyone. The symbol takes on many forms, including a snake-like thing, an apelike form, something human and internal, and the dead man on the mountain. Ralph fails to understand evil’s internal nature and can only strike out at it externally.
Piggy’s glasses – symbolize intellect, reason, and the concept of being rescued. They represent Piggy’s rational, intellectual influence on the boys’ society and depict him as a “thinker.” He possesses power when he has his glasses, but when he loses them, the boys no longer respect him.
Hunting mask – represents the boys’ savagery and loss of identity and civilized inhibitions, especially toward killing. The mask erases individuality and makes the boys similar to animals.
Boat – the island is shaped like a boat and appears to drift backward with the tide, which corresponds to the boys’ regression to savages.
1. The Novel Explores Profound Themes and Ideas
One of the most significant reasons why I loved Lord of the Flies is because of the profound themes and ideas it explores. From the battle between civilization and savagery to the loss of innocence and the negative outcomes of war, the book delves into many critical topics.
These ideas are essential for young readers to learn, as they provide insight into the human psyche and our dependence on society. While the book does contain some graphic scenes, they are educational and serve to highlight Golding’s messages.
2. The Book Teaches About Human Nature
Lord of the Flies is an excellent book for teaching students about human nature. By examining the actions and behaviors of the characters, readers can gain insight into the human psyche and how it is affected by societal norms. The book shows how quickly people can turn on one another when there is no order or authority to keep them in check. By reading about the characters’ struggles, students can learn about their own tendencies and the importance of society and structure.
3. Censoring the Book Defeats the Purpose of Censorship
Finally, censoring Lord of the Flies would defeat the purpose of censorship. The book is a work of literary genius and contains valuable lessons that young readers should be exposed to.
While some may argue that the graphic scenes are inappropriate for younger readers, it is important to remember that the book is not gratuitous in its violence. Instead, the scenes are essential for conveying the book’s message and themes. Moreover, teachers can always choose to skip over these parts, as many have done in the past.
1. Graphic Scenes May Be Disturbing for Some Readers
One of the main concerns with Lord of the Flies is the graphic scenes of violence and brutality. While these scenes are integral to the story’s message, they can be disturbing for some readers, particularly younger ones.
The book contains vivid descriptions of murder and torture, which may not be appropriate for all audiences. Parents and educators should be aware of these scenes and determine whether the book is suitable for their children.
2. The Story May Be Too Dark for Some Readers
Another con of Lord of the Flies is that the story is quite dark and bleak. The characters are trapped on an uninhabited island with no hope of rescue, and their behavior quickly devolves into violence and chaos.
While the book offers valuable lessons about human nature and society, some readers may find it too depressing or nihilistic. It is important to consider the emotional impact the story may have on readers and whether it is suitable for their mental health.
3. The Book May Be Misinterpreted or Misunderstood
A final concern with Lord of the Flies is that it may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by some readers. The novel offers a complex portrayal of human nature and society, and some readers may oversimplify its message or miss its subtleties.
In addition, some readers may focus solely on the violence and overlook the book’s broader themes and ideas. Educators and parents should be aware of these potential misunderstandings and provide guidance to readers to ensure they understand the book’s message in its entirety.
In conclusion, Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a timeless classic that delves into the nature of humanity and the effects of isolation and conflict on human behavior. Through the gradual unraveling of the boys’ social order, Golding illustrates how the basic instincts of survival and power can corrupt even the most innocent and well-intentioned individuals.
The author’s masterful storytelling keeps the reader engaged, while also forcing them to confront uncomfortable truths about the darker aspects of human nature. The novel’s themes and messages are as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1954, and it remains an important work of literature that everyone should read.
Overall, Lord of the Flies is a thought-provoking and insightful novel that provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power and the fragility of human morality.
Sir William Gerald Golding (1911-1993) was an English novelist born in Cornwall. He was renowned for using symbols and fables to explore the complexities of human nature. In 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Golding studied science and English literature at Oxford before delving into Greek classics. During World War II, he served as a naval officer and later taught in boys’ schools.
Some of Golding’s notable works include “The Inheritors” and “Pincher Martin.”
Buy The Book: The Lord of the Flies
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