[Note: The following essay by Watertown High School ninth-grader Saron Nebiye was a winner in the inaugural Penguin Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest, for which she will receive a $1,000 college scholarship, plus a Penguin Classics deluxe library for the school. Fellow Watertown High ninth-grader Sarah Kristine Vail, also writing on “Lord of the Flies,” was also a 2017 winner and a recipient of a a $1,000 college scholarship. read her essay HERE.]
William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies” centers around a group of young boys whose plane is shot out of the sky and crash lands on an island during a war. As a result, the boys are forced to survive without the oversight of adults. One of the main themes Golding develops in his novel is the evils of humankind due to the flaws of human nature. Although the adolescents start out as innocent civilized children, they soon devolve into aggressive barbarians. Golding shows this regression in many ways, including changes in their actions, their dialogue, and their appearance. As the boys become increasingly more savage in their behavior, their uncouth appearance mirrors this change. These changes are especially noticeable with Jack Merridew.
At the start of the book, the children have recently crash landed on the island and are still dressed as they would have been on a normal day in Britain, wearing their school uniforms. When Ralph blows the conch, Jack and his choir approach in parallel lines like soldiers, wearing capes and hats. Golding describes Jack and his schoolmates this way: “The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in step in two parallel lines and dressed in strangely eccentric clothing . . . each boy wore a square black cap with a silver badge on it. Their bodies, from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks” (19). The boys are dressed as British school children in their uniforms. This is when the boys are at their most civil and their formal clothes reflect those traits.
Their initial behaviors also reflect this civility. The boys decide to set up a democratic system while on the island. After an exploration to determine whether the land mass they are on is in fact an island, Ralph, Simon, and Jack return to the other boys to report their findings. Ralph and Jack set up rules the boys will follow. Ralph says, “‘We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school . . . I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak’” (33). Golding describes, “Jack was on his feet. ‘We’ll have rules!’ he cried excitedly. ‘Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks ‘em-’” (33). Both Jack and Ralph are on track to leading a society with rules and consequences similar to those that governed their lives at home. But this sense of peace, civility, and agreement will not be eternal. Ultimately, dissention will replace peace as the prominent force on the island.
As time passes, so do the remnants of their old lives. The boys begin doing things–such as hunting pigs with sharp spears–that they would never have considered a few weeks earlier. As Jack is out looking for their next meal, Golding describes, “His sandy hair, considerably longer than it had been when they dropped in, was lighter now; and his bare back was a mass of dark freckles and peeling sunburn. A sharpened stick about five feet long trailed from his right hand, and except for a pair of tattered shorts held up by his knife belt, he was naked. He closed his eyes, raised his head, and breathed in gently with flared nostrils assessing the current of warm air for information” (48). At this point, Jack is unkempt like a wild, untamed animal prowling the jungle. He becomes an expert in hunting, his new obsession.
The savage part within him has finally taken over, leaving nothing left of the old Jack Merridew, choir leader”
Another change that corresponds with Jack’s altered appearance is the increase in fighting between Jack and Ralph. The once unified front they held starts to crumble as their priorities change. Jack becomes more focused on hunting and less concerned with the well-being of the others while Ralph believes that getting rescued and creating shelters should be their first priorities. In one of their arguments after Jack returns from hunting, he says, “Rescue? Yes, of course! All the same, I’d like to catch a pig first-” (53). The teamwork the two leaders display in the beginning of the book is replaced by discord. As the plot progresses, Jack’s appearance changes even more dramatically, and his behavior becomes increasingly aggressive, eroding his relationship with Ralph.
One of the most important tools prompting Jack’s metamorphosis is the face paint.Jack creates face paint for himself and his hunters to use as camouflage, but eventually the paint transforms from camouflage to something more sinister. It becomes a mask that Jack can use to hide his old self. Following an unsuccessful hunt, Jack returns to the woods where he discovers the paint. After he lathers it on his face, Golding describes, “He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (64).
The paint frees him from the rules and expectations which have held him back. They have kept him polite and civilized, but with the departure of those boundaries, Jack becomes one of the most vicious boys on the island. An example of his transformation occurs in chapter eleven. Ralph and Jack have been fighting with each other both physically and verbally, but don’t intend to irrevocably harm each other. Immediately following the death of the smartest boy, Piggy, Jack and Ralph come to blows once more, but this time is different.
Jack says, “‘See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I meant that! There isn’t a tribe for you anymore! The conch is gone’. . . Viciously, with full intention, he hurled his spear at Ralph” (181). Jack, who was not able to hurt a pig in the beginning of the novel, is willingly throwing his spear at a person he once considered a friend. The savage part within him has finally taken over, leaving nothing left of the old Jack Merridew, choir leader.
In “Lord of the Flies,” each of the boys’ change of appearance coincides with a change of personality. This devolution is particularly noticeable in Jack, who begins as an assertive but innocent child and ends the novel as a savage, bloodthirsty boy. Through the example of Jack Merridew, Golding shows the reader that the human race is naturally evil. He implies that without rules and laws, the evil within would consume us entirely, leaving immoral animals in its destructive wake.
–June 15, 2017–
For the 1963 film, see Lord of the Flies (1963 film). For the 1990 film, see Lord of the Flies (1990 film). For other uses, see Lord of the Flies (disambiguation).
Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. The book focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves.
The novel has been generally well received. It was named in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 41 on the editor's list, and 25 on the reader's list. In 2003 it was listed at number 70 on the BBC's The Big Read poll, and in 2005 Time magazine named it as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was Golding's first novel. Although it was not a great success at the time—selling fewer than three thousand copies in the United States during 1955 before going out of print—it soon went on to become a best-seller. It has been adapted to film twice in English, in 1963 by Peter Brook and 1990 by Harry Hook, and once in Filipino (1975).
The book takes place in the midst of an unspecified war. Some of the marooned characters are ordinary students, while others arrive as a musical choir under an established leader. With the exception of Sam and Eric and the choirboys, they appear never to have encountered each other before. The book portrays their descent into savagery; left to themselves on a paradisiacal island, far from modern civilisation, the well-educated children regress to a primitive state.
Golding wrote his book as a counterpoint to R.M. Ballantyne's youth novel The Coral Island (1858), and included specific references to it, such as the rescuing naval officer's description of the children's pursuit of Ralph as "a jolly good show, like the Coral Island". Golding's three central characters—Ralph, Piggy and Jack—have been interpreted as caricatures of Ballantyne's Coral Island protagonists.
In the midst of a wartime evacuation, a British aeroplane crashes on or near an isolated island in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors are boys in their middle childhood or preadolescence. Two boys—the fair-haired Ralph and an overweight, bespectacled boy nicknamed "Piggy"—find a conch, which Ralph uses as a horn to convene all the survivors to one area. Ralph is optimistic, believing that grown-ups will come to rescue them but Piggy realises the need to organise: ("put first things first and act proper"). Because Ralph appears responsible for bringing all the survivors together, he immediately commands some authority over the other boys and is quickly elected their "chief". He does not receive the votes of the members of a boys' choir, led by the red-headed Jack Merridew, although he allows the choir boys to form a separate clique of hunters. Ralph establishes three primary policies: to have fun, to survive, and to constantly maintain a smoke signal that could alert passing ships to their presence on the island and thus rescue them. The boys establish a form of democracy by declaring that whoever holds the conch shall also be able to speak at their formal gatherings and receive the attentive silence of the larger group.
Jack organises his choir into a hunting party responsible for discovering a food source. Ralph, Jack, and a quiet, dreamy boy named Simon soon form a loose triumvirate of leaders with Ralph as the ultimate authority. Upon inspection of the island, the three determine that it has fruit and wild pigs for food. The boys also use Piggy's spectacles to create a fire. Though he is Ralph's only real confidant, Piggy is quickly made into an outcast by his fellow "biguns" (older boys) and becomes an unwilling source of laughs for the other children while being hated by Jack. Simon, in addition to supervising the project of constructing shelters, feels an instinctive need to protect the "littluns" (younger boys).
The semblance of order quickly deteriorates as the majority of the boys turn idle; they give little aid in building shelters, spend their time having fun and begin to develop paranoias about the island. The central paranoia refers to a supposed monster they call the "beast", which they all slowly begin to believe exists on the island. Ralph insists that no such beast exists, but Jack, who has started a power struggle with Ralph, gains a level of control over the group by boldly promising to kill the creature. At one point, Jack summons all of his hunters to hunt down a wild pig, drawing away those assigned to maintain the signal fire. A ship travels by the island, but without the boys' smoke signal to alert the ship's crew, the vessel continues without stopping. Ralph angrily confronts Jack about his failure to maintain the signal; in frustration Jack assaults Piggy, breaking his glasses. The boys subsequently enjoy their first feast. Angered by the failure of the boys to attract potential rescuers, Ralph considers relinquishing his position as leader, but is convinced not to do so by Piggy, who both understands Ralph's importance and deeply fears what will become of him should Jack take total control.
One night, an aerial battle occurs near the island while the boys sleep, during which a fighter pilot ejects from his plane and dies in the descent. His body drifts down to the island in his parachute; both get tangled in a tree near the top of the mountain. Later on, while Jack continues to scheme against Ralph, the twins Sam and Eric, now assigned to the maintenance of the signal fire, see the corpse of the fighter pilot and his parachute in the dark. Mistaking the corpse for the beast, they run to the cluster of shelters that Ralph and Simon have erected to warn the others. This unexpected meeting again raises tensions between Jack and Ralph. Shortly thereafter, Jack decides to lead a party to the other side of the island, where a mountain of stones, later called Castle Rock, forms a place where he claims the beast resides. Only Ralph and a quiet suspicious boy, Roger, Jack's closest supporter, agree to go; Ralph turns back shortly before the other two boys but eventually all three see the parachutist, whose head rises via the wind. They then flee, now believing the beast is truly real. When they arrive at the shelters, Jack calls an assembly and tries to turn the others against Ralph, asking them to remove Ralph from his position. Receiving no support, Jack storms off alone to form his own tribe. Roger immediately sneaks off to join Jack, and slowly an increasing number of older boys abandon Ralph to join Jack's tribe. Jack's tribe continues to lure recruits from the main group by promising feasts of cooked pig. The members begin to paint their faces and enact bizarre rites, including sacrifices to the beast. One night, Ralph and Piggy decide to go to one of Jack's feasts.
Simon, who faints frequently and is likely an epileptic, has a secret hideaway where he goes to be alone. One day while he is there, Jack and his followers erect an offering to the beast nearby: a pig's head, mounted on a sharpened stick and soon swarming with scavenging flies. Simon conducts an imaginary dialogue with the head, which he dubs the "Lord of the Flies". The head mocks Simon's notion that the beast is a real entity, "something you could hunt and kill", and reveals the truth: they, the boys, are the beast; it is inside them all. The Lord of the Flies also warns Simon that he is in danger, because he represents the soul of man, and predicts that the others will kill him. Simon climbs the mountain alone and discovers that the "beast" is the dead parachutist. He rushes down to tell the other boys, who are engaged in a ritual dance. The frenzied boys mistake Simon for the beast, attack him, and beat him to death. Both Ralph and Piggy participate in the melee, and they become deeply disturbed by their actions after returning from Castle Rock.
Jack and his rebel band decide that the real symbol of power on the island is not the conch, but Piggy's glasses—the only means the boys have of starting a fire. They raid Ralph's camp, confiscate the glasses, and return to their abode on Castle Rock. Ralph, now deserted by most of his supporters, journeys to Castle Rock to confront Jack and secure the glasses. Taking the conch and accompanied only by Piggy, Sam, and Eric, Ralph finds the tribe and demands that they return the valuable object. Confirming their total rejection of Ralph's authority, the tribe capture and bind the twins under Jack's command. Ralph and Jack engage in a fight which neither wins before Piggy tries once more to address the tribe. Any sense of order or safety is permanently eroded when Roger, now sadistic, deliberately drops a boulder from his vantage point above, killing Piggy and shattering the conch. Ralph manages to escape, but Sam and Eric are tortured by Roger until they agree to join Jack's tribe.
Ralph secretly confronts Sam and Eric, who warn him that Jack and Roger hate him and that Roger has sharpened a stick at both ends, implying the tribe intends to hunt him like a pig and behead him. The following morning, Jack orders his tribe to begin a hunt for Ralph. Jack's savages set fire to the forest while Ralph desperately weighs his options for survival. Following a long chase, most of the island is consumed in flames. With the hunters closely behind him, Ralph trips and falls. He looks up at a uniformed adult—a British naval officer whose party has landed from a passing cruiser to investigate the fire. Ralph bursts into tears over the death of Piggy and the "end of innocence". Jack and the other children, filthy and unkempt, also revert to their true ages and erupt into sobs. The officer expresses his disappointment at seeing British boys exhibiting such feral, warlike behaviour before turning to stare awkwardly at his own warship.
At an allegorical level, the central theme is the conflicting human impulses toward civilisation and social organisation—living by rules, peacefully and in harmony—and toward the will to power. Themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality. How these play out, and how different people feel the influences of these form a major subtext of Lord of the Flies. The name "Lord of the Flies" is a literal translation of Beelzebub, from 2 Kings 1:2–3, 6, 16.
In February 1960 Floyd C. Gale of Galaxy Science Fiction rated Lord of the Flies five stars out of five, stating that "Golding paints a truly terrifying picture of the decay of a minuscule society ... Well on its way to becoming a modern classic".
In other media
There have been three film adaptations based on the book:
A fourth adaptation, to feature an all-female cast, was announced by Warner Bros. in August 2017. Scott McGehee and David Siegel are slated to write and direct.
Nigel Williams adapted the text for the stage. It was debuted by the Royal Shakespeare Company in July 1996. The Pilot Theatre Company has toured it extensively in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
In October 2014 it was announced that the 2011 production of Lord of the Flies would return to conclude the 2015 season at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre ahead of a major UK tour. The production was to be directed by the Artistic Director Timothy Sheader who won the 2014 Whatsonstage.com Awards Best Play Revival for To Kill A Mockingbird.
In June 2013, BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast a dramatisation by Judith Adams in four 30-minute episodes directed by Sasha Yevtushenko. The cast included Ruth Wilson as "The Narrator", Finn Bennett as "Ralph", Richard Linnel as "Jack", Caspar Hilton-Hilley as "Piggy" and Jack Caine as "Simon".
- Fire on the Mountain
- Painted Faces
- Beast from the Air
- Gift for Darkness
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(April 2015)
Many writers have borrowed plot elements from Lord of the Flies. By the early 1960s, it was required reading in many schools and colleges.
Stephen King's fictional town of Castle Rock, inspired by the fictional mountain fort of the same name in Lord of the Flies, in turn inspired the name of Rob Reiner's production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, which produced the film Lord of the Flies (1990).
Stephen King got the name Castle Rock from the fictional mountain fort of the same name in Lord of the Flies and used the name to refer to a fictional town that has appeared in a number of his novels. The book itself appears prominently in his novels Hearts in Atlantis (1999), Misery (1987), and Cujo (1981).
Stephen King wrote an introduction for a new edition of Lord of the Flies (2011) to mark the centenary of William Golding's birth in 2011.
The novel Garden Lakes by Jaime Clarke is an homage to Lord of the Flies.
The final song on U2's debut album Boy (1980) takes its title, "Shadows and Tall Trees", from Chapter 7 in the book.
Iron Maiden wrote a song inspired by the book, included in their 1995 album The X Factor.
Blues Traveler wrote a song called "Justify the Thrill", in which a small part of the lyrics are in reference to the book:
"The pig's head on a stick does grin. As we teeter on the brink. He's singing you are all my children. My island's bigger than you think."
The Radiohead song "The Daily Mail" includes lyrics that make direct reference to the title of the novel.
- ^"Bound books – a set on Flickr". Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- ^Weiskel, Portia Williams, ed. (2010). "Peter Edgerly Firchow Examines the Implausible Beginning and Ending of Lord of the Flies". William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Bloom's Guides. Infobase. ISBN 9781438135397.
- ^Kundu, Rama (2006), New Perspectives on British Authors: From William Shakespeare to Graham Greene, Sarup & Sons, p. 219, ISBN 978-81-7625-690-2
- ^Reiff, Raychel Haugrud (2010), William Golding: Lord of the Flies, Marshall Cavendish, p. 93, ISBN 978-0-7614-4700-9
- ^Singh, Minnie (1997), "The Government of Boys: Golding's Lord of the Flies and Ballantyne's Coral Island", Children's Literature, 25: 205–213, doi:10.1353/chl.0.0478
- ^Baker, James Rupert; Ziegler, Arthur P., eds. (1983). William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Penguin. p. xxi.
- ^Rosenfield, Claire (1990). "Men of a Smaller Growth: A Psychological Analysis of William Golding's Lord of the Flies". Contemporary Literary Criticism. 58. Detroit, MI: Gale Research. pp. 93–101.
- ^Gale, Floyd C. (February 1960). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 164–168.
- ^"100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999". American Library Association. 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- ^"The Big Read – Top 100 Books". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- ^Grossman, Lev; Lacayo, Richard (6 October 2005). "ALL-TIME 100 Novels. Lord of the Flies (1955), by William Golding". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- ^Fleming, Mike. "Scott McGehee & David Siegel Plan Female-Centric 'Lord of the Flies' At Warner Bros". Deadline.com.
- ^"Lord of the Flies, Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2011. [not in citation given]
- ^"William Golding – Lord of the Flies". BBC Radio 4.
- ^ abKing, Stephen (2011). "Introduction by Stephen King". Faber and Faber. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
- ^Beahm, George (1992). The Stephen King story (Revised ed.). Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel. p. 120. ISBN 0-8362-8004-0.
- ^Liukkonen, Petri. "Stephen King". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 23 March 2007.
- ^Bailie, Stuart (13 June 1992). "Rock and Roll Should Be This Big!". NME. UK. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
- ^Cohen, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for 'Das Bus' (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Golding, William (1958) . Lord of the Flies (Print ed.). Boston: Faber & Faber.