An Overview of Lord of the Flies


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The Lord of the Flies is a well-known novel that was written by William Golding. It was published in 1954, and it eventually became a bestseller in both the US and the UK. The novel relates the story of a group of schoolboys who were marooned on an island. Without the need to conform to any rule or expectation, many of them followed their savage instinct and started to indulge in immorality and violence. Although the story is fictional, it is based on Golding’s personal experience of violence during World War II.


The main characters in the Lord of the Flies are Ralph, Jack, Simon, Piggy, Roger, and Sam and Eric. Ralph is a 12-year-old English boy, and he is the protagonist of the novel. He leads the boys to establish a little civilization on the island to ensure their survival. He represents the instinctual need of human beings to civilize. Jack, on the other hand, is the leader of a group of hunters, and he desires to become the most powerful person on the island. He becomes more and more barbaric and brutal as the story progresses, and he represents the savage instinct of human beings. Piggy is an intellectual boy who serves as Ralph’s assistant, while Roger is Jack’s most trusted henchman. Simon is a kind and sensitive boy who is naturally good-hearted, and his sense of morality is not a result of societal influence. Sam and Eric are a pair of twins who belong to the “big guns” group, and they are Ralph’s allies.

The story takes place on a tropical island with dense jungle as well as a rocky mountain and a lagoon, but Golding did not specify its exact location. It is set in a time when a war is going on, and the boys end up on the island after their plane was shot down. Upon arriving at the island, Ralph meets Piggy at the lagoon, and he discovers a conch shell, which he uses to call the boys to gather. He becomes the ruler of the island, and Jack is given the responsibility to hunt for food. Later on, Ralph and Jack begin to show disagreement over certain issues, with the latter insisting that hunting should be the first priority. One day, a ship passes the island, but the signal fire has gone out because Jack failed to keep it alive. He tells the boys that it is not his responsibility to keep the fire ignited. A fight ensues, and Jack accidentally breaks Piggy’s glasses.

After some time, the leaders decide to climb the mountain to light the signal fire, but they encounter a “beast” on the way, and they return to the beach. Jack starts to call Ralph a coward, and he suggests that Ralph should be removed from his leadership position. The boys refuse to make Jack the new leader, and he feels so humiliated that he starts to cry. Later, Jack and his boys kill a sow during their hunting trip. The head of the sow is cut off and offered to the “beast” as a sacrifice. It is named the “Lord of the Flies”, and it symbolizes the primordial human instincts of cruelty and hunger for power. Soon, Jack decides to rebel against Ralph, and he and his boys start to kill all those who support Ralph. After Piggy is killed, Ralph is the only remaining person from his tribe, and he tries to save himself by running away from Jack and his boys. He manages to find his way to the beach, and he and the remaining boys are saved by a rescue ship.

The Lord of the Flies was rejected by quite a number of publishers before it was finally released in 1954. It was not very well received right after it was published. It sold more than two thousand copies in the US in 1955, and it went out of print shortly after that. Later on, it started to gain more attention, and it became a bestseller. In the early 1960s, it was used in many schools and colleges as required reading material, but it was also banned by a number of public schools because some people feel that the story contains biblical parallels. In 1963, Peter Brook made a film adaptation of the novel, and Harry Hook came up with another version in 1990. William Golding won the Noble Prize for Literature for the Lord of the Flies in 1983.

 
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