In Lord of the Flies, British schoolboys are stranded on a tropical island. In an attempt to recreate the culture they left behind, they elect Ralph to lead, with the intellectual Piggy as counselor. But Jack wants to lead, too, and one-by-one, he lures the boys from civility and reason to the savage survivalism of primeval hunters. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding gives us a glimpse of the savagery that underlies even the most civilized human beings.
Written by: William Golding
Type of Work: novel
Genres: social commentary, allegory
First Published: 1954
Setting: Deserted tropical island
Main Characters: Ralph; Jack; Piggy; Simon; Samneric; Roger
evil; outlets for violence; human nature; speech; silence
Motifs: savagery versus civilization
Major Symbols: main characters; Piggy's glasses; the beast; fire; conch shell; Lord of the Flies
Movie Versions: Lord of the Flies (1963); Lord of the Flies (1990)
The three most important aspects of Lord of the Flies:
- The major theme of Lord of the Flies is that humans are essentially barbaric if not downright evil. The stranded boys begin by establishing a society similar to the one they left behind in England, but soon their society has degenerated into rival clans ruled by fear and violence; before the book is over, three boys have been killed.
- The novel is an allegory, which is a story in which characters, settings, and events stand for things larger than themselves. For example, the island represents the world; Ralph and Jack symbolize different approaches to leadership.
- William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies following World War II, during which the Nazis exterminated six million Jews and the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. In this context, the novel's profound pessimism is understandable.