The Lord of the Flies is a novel published in 1954 that has been authored by British Nobel laureate William Golding. The novel revolves around protagonists who happen to be a group of British boys who have been marooned on an uninhabited island. They aim to accomplish the self-assigned task of finding out the nature of inherent savagery that predominates mankind and tries to govern themselves. Thus, the story opens in an era of wartime evacuation when a British aeroplane crashes in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean and the only people who survive this incident are a group of boys in their preadolescence ages.
Critical events in Lord of the Flies
Initially, the boys liked their independent lives on the island which are devoid of any parental guidance. Hence, they group themselves in the form of a team and elect Ralph as a leader among themselves for the mission of finding an escape from the island. Ralph, as the leader of the group, assigns three tasks to the entire group. They were in the form of having fun, surviving and maintaining a smoke signal that would intimate the passing ships about their presence on the island and would rescue them. However, the group soon turns idle and the democracy in the group also starts deteriorating when another boy Jack attempts to play a power game against Ralph. Eventually, Jack forms a new group by gathering around his own set of followers from the group of boys and carries out a ritualistic slaughter of a pig to solemnize the occasion.
This incident is followed by a nightmare that an epileptic boy from the group named Simon gets where he sees the head of the pig introducing itself as the Lord of the Flies and declaring that a beast loves within all men and no one can escape it. Later on, Simon gets killed by Ralph and Piggy who have already joined Jack’s feast and let the beast within them become free. However, when Ralph and Piggy realize their misdoings and wish to positively motivate Jack and his hunters to kill Piggy while Ralph manages to escape. Later on, Ralph gets rescued by a naval officer and to whom he relates the entire incident of what has happened on the island and how they have become bloodthirsty. All the boys also lament realizing how they brought about the end of their innocence (Golding; Cooper and Kempner).
The main characters and their roles
The different characters that readers could find in the novel are Ralph, Jack, Simon, Piggy, Roger, Sam, Eric, the beast and the Naval officer.
- Ralph, who is a twelve years old boy, is the leader of the group who has been raised to the position by virtue of the unanimous decision of all the team members. The protagonist Ralph has been portrayed in the novel in such a manner that reader could find it making attempts to build up a miniature civilization in the island, establish coordination between the group members and make positive attempts to lay out rescue plans for all. Through the character of Ralph, the author attempts to represent the civilizing instinct of a human being.
- Jack is the antagonist in the novel who craves power and becomes wild and barbaric as the novel proceeds in order to establish his supreme power over the entire group. Jack represents the savagery and beastly instinct of human beings.
- Simon represents the innate, spiritual goodness of mankind in his deep affinity to remain close to nature. He is the only character in the novel whose sense of morality does not get tarnished in any situation.
- Piggy is the standby of Ralph who is pudgy, awkward and has resentment toward physical labour due to his asthma problems. Piggy represents human traits like intellect, creativity and the rational side of civilization. Roger is Jack’s standby who is aggressive and disobedient as he often neglects Jack’s orders.
- Roger is introduced in the novel to represent the evil side of humanity. Again, Sam and Eric are the twin boys who are introduced in the novel as Sameric because the author portrays them as being always close to each other. They represent the gullible and easily influenced characteristics that are typical of some human beings because they are found to fall victim to manipulation and force or Jack.
- The beast in this novel is a dead pilot who has been discovered by Sam by means of which the author represents the beastly instinct present inside every human being. Through the depiction of this ‘beast’, the author also presents the weak belief and superstitions that are prevalent in human society. The naval officer who comes as a rescuer for Ralph symbolizes the British belief in the civilized white population (Ghaddab; Li and Wu).
The presence of self and collective interest in the story Lord of the Flies
The two predominant themes are clearly noticeable in the story; self-interest and collective interest. Jack’s role has been used in the novel in order to portray self-interest because he is selfish and filled with self-centred greed to gain authority over others in the group. Driven by beastly instincts, Jack plots to gain supremacy over Ralph either by manipulating or forcing other group members to support him.
Thus, in a nutshell, Jack and his followers attempt to accomplish their self-interest than doing anything for the benefit of the entire group. On the other hand, the portrayal of Ralph represents the theme of collective interest. This is Ralph is presented as an individual who takes care of community interest and aspires to bring about the total benefit of the group by working up measures for rescuing them all (Ghaddab). Since Ralph is the representative of collective interest so Golding represents this character with lots of positive traits in the manner that he senses that self-interest leads to disintegrating of relationships and moral values and deterioration of sanity. Hence, he attempts to put up things together and integrate everybody even though his endeavours prove futile many times (Alnajm).
- Alnajm, A. “The Main Themes in Lord of the Flies.” International Journal of English and Literature, vol. 6, no. 6, 2015, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287971581_The_main_themes_in_Lord_of_the_Flies.
- Ghaddab, N. Analytical Study and Critical Reception of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies’’. Mohamad Khider University, http://dspace.univ-biskra.dz:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/4603/1/se113.pdf.
- Golding, W. Lord of the Flies. Penguin Publishing Group, 1987.
- Li, X., and W. Wu. On Symbolic Significance of Characters in Lord of the Flies. Yan’an University, 2009, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1082261.pdf.