Lord of the Flies at a Glance


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

Major Thematic Topics: 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.