A review of the book “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, discussing the characters of the story
“The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding Summary One fact about this book should be established from the start – this is not a children’s book. The “littluns” and “bigguns” represent members of the human race. The conflict between law and barbarism would have, I believe to be the same had the island been inhabited with adult survivors instead of children. The novel is about a transition from an immensely exciting adventure of some children, to what eventually becomes full-scale war, ending with the arrival of the naval officer who rescued them. Tough I still wonder if they were really saved, considering the atomic war which, at that time was still raging around the globe. The book begins by introducing the two of the characters – Ralph and Piggy. Ralph finds a conch (a shell shaped in such a way that when blown it will sound) and blows it, summoning the rest of the boys, who were on the aeroplane and survived the crash. Last to arrive are the choir, who are described as a “black catterpillar moving along the beach.” On closer examination is is found that there is a wide variance in the age of the boys, from about 6 to 12 years of age. From here on in the book the younger boys are simply referred to as the “littluns” and the older boys as “bigguns” although the younger children are referred to more collectively in the story. Ralph is elected chief of the group and his first action is for Jack, Simon and himself to go on a scout to check if the island is really and island or is attached to anything else, they find that it is an island and return to the rest of the boys.
It is decided at the meeting held by Ralph that people should only be allowed to speak at meetings if they have possession of the conch, thus giving the conch a special power to the boys. It is also decided that the choir should become hunters for food, with Jack (the choir leader) in charge of them. Above all this though is the importance of a fire being lit and staying alight night and day for a ship to see and hopefully rescue them. At this point a small boy comes forward and tells the boys that he saw a monster which he calls a “beastie” in the woods. This is met with mockery and a little uncertainty from the other boys, and they go to the top of the mountain to light their fire for ships. In the ensuing chaos as people gather wood and light the fire, one of the “littluns” is lost and never seen again. As the fire crackles and burns, the “littluns” think they see snakes, which characterises their growing fear. The children begin to built huts, but quickly lose interest, deciding to play, bathe, or eat, leaving Ralph and Simon to build them alone. Ralph is annoyed at this situation and talks to Jack about is, who seems to enjoy his hunting and has a real desire to kill a pig.
At this point Jack first gets his idea to paint himself to sneak up on the pigs. Jack paints himself using clay, making a mask for himself and, with the help of the others captures a pig without Ralph’s knowledge. While this is happening a ship passes by, and because the boys who were meant to be watching the fire are out hunting, the fire goes out and the ship passes. Ralph is infuriated by this and Jack breaks Piggy’s one of the lenses of Piggy’s glasses. An emergency meeting is called by Ralph, who believes that they must confront the growing fears of the boys of a monster and dispel them forever. Another one of the “littluns” comes forward and talks about how he saw a monster in the forest, and Simon to help erase their fears tells them that it was him in the forest that the boy saw. Simon also puts forward the thought that “Maybe it’s really only us” but because of his shyness cannot really formulate the idea. Jack says that if there is a beast his hunters will hunt it down, but the boys have little faith in this proposition. Sam and Eric go to the mountain and believe they saw the beast, describing him in rather incongruent terms though they convey the general fear. Increasingly the boys believe in the beast although Simon still refuses to believe that such a thing could exist. Ralph goes hunting with the others and decides that it is a bit of fun after all. But unfortunately it gets dark before they arrive at the mountain.
Jack, Ralph, and Roger decide to climb the mountain, and ascend the cliff. When they reach the top of the mountain, they think that they see the beast, and run away. This symbolizes the engulfing fear which is overriding most of the boys. An arguement breaks out between Ralph and Jack over the importance of the hunting compared to the fire, and Jack attempts to be elected as cheif, but fails. He displays rather childish behaviour and says “I don’t want to play with you anymore” and leaves, attempting to form his own “tribe.” Simon goes to his place in the forest and has a strange encounter with the devil, who tells him all about how nobody can kill him because he lives within them. Jack’s tribe grows in numbers and Jack proclaims that there is to be a sacrifice to the beast, thus appeasing it. Simon goes to the top of the mountain and finds toat the the beast that Sam and Eric saw was really the dead parachutist’s parachute flapping in the wind. He runs down and tells the others, who are involved in the sacrifice at the time, carrying out a bizzare tribal dance in a wild frenzy. When the crowd see him, with mass hysteria they think he is the beast and club him to death. Piggy especially is ashamed because he was lured by the meat offered by Jack to join the ceremony and was involved in the clubbing. Now vastly reduced in numbers, Ralph’s tribe is made up of Ralph, Piggy, Sam, and Eric. Jack’s tribe’s fire goes out when it rains and he steals Piggy’s glasses in the night. Ralph thought that he had come for the conch, but this symbolizes the movement of power from the conch, to the glasses (fire).
Ralph holds yet another meeting in which he decides to confront Jack and ask for Piggy’s glasses back. When they arrive at Jack’s camp, Piggy accuses Jack of being a thief and disorder ensues in which Sam and Eric are kidnapped. Ralph and Jack begin to fight bitterly and while they are argueing a boulder knocks Piggy from his spot, off a 40 foot cliff. The book says as Roger came down “The hangman’s horror clung around him”. After this Sam and Eric are forced to join Jack’s tribe. Ralph is hunted down like a dog by the tribe, and hides under a bush. But rather than go out and find him Jack decides to flush him out with fire, and sets the entire island on fire. Ralph is about to be killed when a naval officer suddenly appears. I think that this is a poor ending for the book as it doesn’t seem to quite fit into the rest of it. Ironically they were saved by the smoke from the fire of the island burning. Ralph and the others return to the ship and Ralph tells the officer that two people were killed, though I don’t think he quite believes him.
Character Descriptions Ralph A fair headed boy of about 12 years of age, Ralph is interested in doing thing the “proper” way. He wants to keep the fire going and for people to work hard. Piggy Although we never find out Piggy’s real name, Piggy is a rather fat boy with asthma and very bad vision. He sees life scientifically and can’t understand why people fight as they do.
Simon A small, shy boy of about 8 years of age, Simon is almost like a Christ figure in the book. He has a conversation with the devil, and seems to see things with greater perception than any of them. He recognises early on that there is no beast, and they are simply afraid of the unknown, that the beast is really inside them. Jack Jack is about 12 years old and probably reasonably strong. He seemed to be very dominating over the boys towards the end of the book, which I believe was his true personality. Setting The novel was set on a Pacific island, during what appeared to be a nuclear war of some sort. Review I thought the book was an absolutely brilliant story. Although deceptively simple it can be read at many different levels and is full of beautiful language, including some highly descriptive passages, like the one of the lagoon. It is rather hard to pinpoint the style, but I would probably classify it as an action/adventure book, with exquisite language throughout. Definitely a book that all people should read. A real classic.