Lord of the Flies
by William Golding
Lord of the Flies Chapter 1 Summary
The Sound of the Shell
- When our story begins, "the fair boy" makes his way out of a jungle and toward a lagoon.
- A red and yellow bird flashes upward with a witch-like cry (eerie, isn't it?) just as another youngster, "the fat boy" who is wearing "thick spectacles" follows behind.
- The two boys meet and discuss the fact that, holy smokes, their plane has crashed.
- The fat boy wonders where the man with the megaphone is, which we should all keep in mind for the next few paragraphs.
- Also, there are no grown-ups.
- Also, they can't find the plane or the pilot. The fair boy concludes that both must have been dragged out to sea by a storm. He makes the dire statement that "There must have been some kids still in it," "it" being the plane that went out to sea.
- The fat boy (seriously, that's what he's called) asks the fair boy (again, that's what he's called) what his name is.
- It's Ralph. Ralph has no interest in learning the fat boy's name.
- But, the pair assumes others have survived and are around here somewhere, maybe hiding in the copious foliage or something.
- The fat boy lags behind Ralph because of his "ass-mar," which is probably "asthma." Also, the fat boy has to poo. (English major-y people called this kind of thing "realism.")
- Ralph races ahead to the water, and we get a detailed description of the shore, the palm trees, the coarse grass, and the decaying coconuts. This is all in contrast to "the darkness of the forest."
- Ralph decides the thing to do is have a swim. So he gets naked. Many more naked boys to come, by the way, so be prepared.
- While we're busy getting a description of Ralph, the fat boy shows up and joins in the nude swimming fun. The water is "warmer than [their] blood [. . .] like swimming in a huge bath." (So, a delightful hot tub, if you ignore the blood imagery.)
- We get a nice description of Ralph; he is twelve and has the build of maybe being a boxer someday when he's older, but you can also plainly see that there is "no devil" in him. Lastly, he has "bright, excited eyes."
- The fat boy admits to Ralph that most people call him "Piggy," and asks Ralph not to tell anyone.
- Ralph is not the nicest guy to Piggy ("They call you PIGGY!?" sort of thing), but we're holding out judgment on him since he is, after all, a twelve-year-old boy.
- Ralph claims that his father, who is in the Navy, is going to come rescue them.
- Piggy, however, says the pilot told them (before the crash) that an atomic bomb had gone off and everyone was dead.
- This, combined with the earlier megaphone comment, suggests that perhaps the boys were being evacuated, maybe even from some kind of war zone, when the plane crashed.
- Anyway, Piggy asserts that they're probably going to have to "stay here till [they] die."
- On this cheerful note, they decide to put their clothes back on. In doing so, they find a large white conch shell, which Piggy remembers is a faux, MacGyver-style megaphone.
- Ralph makes several efforts before an amazing sound comes out of the shell, "a deep, harsh boom."
- As you might expect, man has ruined the peaceful stillness of the virgin island.
- Amidst the squawking birds and scurrying furry things, the other boys come out of the woodwork. Some are small. Many are naked.
- While Ralph continues to revel in the "violent pleasure" of blowing the conch, Piggy goes to great lengths to ask and learn everyone's name, among them a young child named Johnny and a pair of twins named Sam and Eric.
- Ralph sees a dark, fumbling creature, but concludes that it is only a group of boys wearing black choir robes. There is a redheaded boy at the head of the pack "controlling them."
- The boy commands them all to stand in a line. We're thinking it must be rather uncomfortable in the sun to be wearing heavy, black cloaks, and our suspicions are confirmed when one of the boys faints, face-first, in the sand.
- The boys ask the redheaded leader (Merridew) "But can't we, Merridew…" which we think means "Please let us take off these absurd cloaks."
- Merridew ignores the boy who's fainted.
- Piggy doesn't ask names of this group, since they're kind of scary. But he does remind everyone that names are oh-so-important.
- About this time, Ralph tells everyone that Piggy's name is Piggy. Nice.
- And now we meet the rest of the cast. We've got Maurice, who smiles a lot; Jack Merridew, the tyrant you already met and the largest of the choir boys; Roger, who is "slight" and "furtive" and has an "inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy"; Simon, who has recovered from his fainting spell; and then Bill, Robert, Harold, and Henry.
- Guess which one is evil incarnate.
- Jack says they should work out the getting rescued part.
- Ralph's response is "Shut up." He decides they need a chief.
- Jack declares that, most sensibly, he should be chief because he's the head boy of the choir and can sing a C sharp, which everyone knows will come in handy later when negotiating with foreign peoples.
- Because they are good British boys who know how to follow parliamentary procedure, they decide to vote. Amazingly, they pull this off without the aid of an electoral college, and Ralph becomes chief (although the choir boys did vote for Jack out of obligation).
- Interestingly, Piggy hesitated to vote for Ralph, probably because Ralph screwed him over with the whole name thing.
- "But why was Ralph elected?" you ask. Actually, Golding tells us. He says Ralph has a stillness, is attractive, and most importantly has the conch.
- Ralph feels bad and gives Jack a consolation prize. No, not a useless vice presidency, but rather control over the choirboys.
- Jack decides his group (the choir-boys) will act as the hunters. Apparently, he's power-hungry AND bloodthirsty.
- Ralph, Jack and Simon go off to explore the uninhabited island for the purpose of discovering if it is, in fact, uninhabited.
- Piggy offers to go, but Jack tells him he's not suited for a job like this (with all the walking and such). Piggy protests, but Ralph sends him back to take names.
- They do find tracks and wonder aloud what made them. Ralph asks "Men?" and Jack answers "Animals." Hmm!
- Like all good exploring banter, their dialogue is filled with such British wonders as "wacco," "wizard" and "sucks to you!"
- The boys find a large rock poised near the edge of the cliff and do the only thing that pre-teen boys could be expected to do in such a circumstance: push it over the edge. It falls "like a bomb."
- They finally climb to the top of this big mountain they've found and look all around at the island. Ralph says "This belongs to us."
- They make some cartographic observations of the land, noting the large coral reef and the gash in the trees where their plane hit.
- On their way back to the lagoon, they find a small pig, tangled in the creepers. Jack raises his knife to kill it, but can't quite bring himself to, and the pig escapes.
- Jack makes lots of excuses, but he thinks, "Next time there [will] be no mercy."
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