As the novel opens, Ralph, referred to as “the fair boy,” makes his way out of the jungle, toward the lagoon.
Ralph and Piggy discuss their situation – that their plane has gone down and that there are no adults to take care of them.
Ralph races down to the water and decides it would be fun to take a swim.
Ralph believes that his father, who is in the Navy, is going to rescue them.
Ralph and Piggy find a big, white conch shell.
Ralph makes several efforts before an amazing sound comes out of the shell, “a deep, harsh boom.”
Ralph continues to blow into the shell as other boys come out of the jungle.
Ralph is elected to be their chief.
The boys explore the island and Ralph says, “This belongs to us.”
Ralph, using his authority as the newly elected chief, addresses the group of boys and tells them that they need to get organized, somehow, and that they need some rules, like at school.
Ralph insists that a signal fire must be made so that when a ship comes, the men on board will see the smoke and know where to find them.
Ralph says they need to choose certain people for looking after the fire, to keep it going all the time in case a ship comes.
Time has passed. Ralph and Simon are trying to build two shelters out of palm trunks and leaves.
Ralph and Jack have an argument over which is more important – building shelters or finding meat.
Ralph wants Jack to help him and Simon build the shelters because they’re having a hard time doing it alone.
Ralph also says they’re not doing a good enough job as far as keeping the signal fire going. He is as obsessed with the fire as Jack is with killing a pig.
More time has passed. Ralph, Simon and Piggy are swimming along with a boy named Maurice.
Ralph sees a tiny streamer of smoke coming up far out on the ocean. He stands up shouting, and the boys all jump out of the water to see the ship that is within sight.
Ralph begins to run up the mountain to see if the signal fire is still lit.
He sees that no one is attending it and by this time, the ship that they had spotted has disappeared.
Ralph tells Jack and the choir boys that they have let the fire go out and they have now lost their chance at rescue.
Ralph decides to call another meeting and walks off down the mountain.
Ralph sounds the conch shell and the boys gather for a meeting.
Ralph feels bothered by his long shaggy hair which keeps falling into his eyes, but he goes on with the speech he has prepared.
Ralph reminds the boys that they must keep the signal fire going, they must use only the signal fire for cooking and build no other fires, and that they must do their toilet business by the rocks near the bathing pool instead of all over the place like they have been.
The meeting begins to disintegrate.
Ralph shouts that the rules are the only thing they’ve got holding them together.
Piggy and Ralph and Simon are left in despair over the situation. Ralph won’t blow the conch again on the grounds that if the boys ignore it now, the whole order that they’ve established will be ruined.
Ralph says he feels like giving up, and Piggy asks desperately what would happen to him then.
Ralph is dreaming when Sam and Eric wake him up, screaming that they have seen the beast.
Ralph and Jack decide to go looking for the beast with some of the biguns.
When they get to the rocks at the tail end of the island, Ralph declares he will go in and look for the beast because he’s the chief – it’s his duty.
Not surprisingly, there is no beast inside.
The other boys start swarming into the rocks. Some start rolling huge rocks off into the water. Everyone’s having a grand old time until Ralph realizes the signal fire has gone out again.
He insists that they go to the top of the mountain to tend to the fire.
Ralph wishes that he could take a bath, wash his clothes and cut his hair.
Then he looks around at the other boys and realizes that he’s become used to the conditions of filthiness; he doesn’t mind it because it has become the normal thing.
The boys start on up the mountain again as Ralph thinks fondly of home, his nice bedroom with his books, his mother and father, and how everything back then had felt “good-humored and friendly.” Right about then the bushes crash ahead of them and a large boar (a male pig with tusks) comes rushing out.
Ralph flings his spear and it sticks in the boar’s snout for a second before falling out.
Ralph is impressed with his own hunting skills and shouts that he hit the boar. He decides that maybe hunting is a good thing after all.
When the boar gets away, the boys pretend they are hunting Robert instead.
Still excited over his new hunting skills, Ralph can’t help joining in.
When it’s all over, Robert isn’t really hurt and Ralph says it was “just a game,” but he feels uneasy.
The boys head up the mountain to look for the beast, but as it grows darker, they grow more fearful.
Finally Ralph, Jack, and Roger go the last distance by themselves.
They finally get a look at what they think is a giant ape sitting there, asleep, with his head between his knees.
The next morning, the boys tell Piggy about the beast.
Ralph feels that they are beaten; because everyone is too afraid to go up to the mountain now, they won’t be able to keep the signal fire going.
Everyone plunges in to build a new fire on the beach.
After they get it going, Piggy and Ralph look around and realize that many of the biguns – Maurice, Bill, and Roger and Robert – have disappeared, and the two of them have done all the work of building the fire by themselves.
Piggy and Ralph lie on the sand, gazing at the fire.
Since Jack has taken off, Ralph suggests that they could hunt their own pig.
Ralph and Piggy give in and go to Jack’s feast along with all the other boys.
Everyone eats, including Ralph.
Jack demands to know who is going to join his tribe. In response, Ralph says he’s the chief, but his voice trembles as he speaks and no one really believes him.
Ralph says he will blow the conch and call an assembly, but Jack counters that no one will hear it.
As the boys dance wildly, something crawls toward them from the forest and stumbles into the circle.
It is Simon.
Ralph and the other boys are in some kind of a frenzy of wild chanting and bloodlust when Simon comes out of the forest. Naturally, or perhaps completely unnaturally, they think it is the beast.
Pouncing on him, they all beat/spear Simon to death.
Piggy and Ralph try to keep the fire going and discuss what happened to Simon.
Ralph shouts that it was murder and Piggy shrieks that it was not, that they didn’t mean to kill Simon, that it was all an accident.
They continue on with this kind of talk, trying to convince each other that they didn’t really participate like the others had, that they were on the outside of the circle and that it wasn’t their fault. They eventually convince themselves, along with Sam and Eric, that they weren’t even there.
Piggy tells Ralph that they have to get out of here.
Ralph suggests sarcastically to Piggy that he could write a letter to his auntie to come rescue them.
After a while, Ralph and Piggy try to go to sleep, but there are strange noises outside and they are both fearful.
Someone or something crashes into their shelter and pounces on them, beating them viciously and taking Piggy’s glasses.
Ralph agrees to go with Piggy to try to convince Jack and his hunters to give Piggy’s glasses back,
Ralph thinks they should clean up ahead of time, too; take a bath and comb their hair in order to compete a little better with the painted savages.
Ralph sets off along the beach with Sam and Eric, leading Piggy along because he can’t see anything without his glasses.
When they get there, the savages are “painted out of recognition.”
Ralph announces that he’s calling an assembly,
Jack shows up and argues with Ralph about Piggy’s glasses.
Ralph and Jack, fiercely angry, begin to fight, swinging at each other with their spears.
After Piggy falls to his death, Ralph turns and runs; the savages run after him. They throw their spears, but none hit him and he manages to escape into the forest.
Ralph is completely alone now – no Piggy, no Sam and Eric.
He hides in the thick underbrush, wondering what to do about the serious wound on his ribs.
He realizes he cannot wash himself without risking capture, so he just lies there, trying to think.
Finally, as the sunlight starts to fade, Ralph sneaks over to the edge of the thicket so he can see what Jack and his group are doing.
The smoke is rising and he can smell the pig they are roasting.
He tries to convince himself that they will leave him alone, but then he remembers that Jack hates him and, really, there’s no happy ending for him.
Ralph makes his way back to the beach and on the way there comes to a clearing in the forest.
He stumbles into the clearing where the Lord of the Flies is still impaled on a stick; Ralph sees the skull grinning at him.
He doesn’t like the way the pig head is looking at him, so he uses his fist to smash the skull. He then grabs the spear on which it was impaled to protect himself from the savages and backs away.
As night falls, Ralph goes back to Castle Rock to stare at Jack and the savages.
Ralph feels completely isolated and lonely.
Ralph sees that Sam and Eric are moving freely among the savages. His heart sinks in despair, knowing that they are a part of Jack’s tribe now.
He watches for a while, then sneaks down and calls out softly to the twins.
Ralph learns that Jack is planning to hunt him (Ralph) tomorrow, starting early in the morning.
Ralph tells Sam and Eric that he is going to hide in the thicket near their camp.
They hear footsteps marching in their direction, and the twins quickly hand Ralph a hunk of meat before running off.
After eating the meat, Ralph falls asleep in the thicket.
Ralph awakens to the sound of the savages, a cry that echoes through the forest.
Ralph realizes that Jack and the twins are right there outside the thicket where he is hiding. Sam and Eric cry out in pain as Jack forces them to tell him where Ralph is hiding.
Someone pokes into the thicket with a sharp spear, and smoke begins to seep in. Ralph begins to worm his way back through the thicket (away from the smoke) and toward the forest.
A small savage is waiting for him as he emerges, but Ralph stabs him and runs away.
Ralph has no idea what to do. He feels absolutely desperate as he turns the various options over in his mind. Climb a tree? Just keep running?
Finally Ralph decides to hide again. He finds the deepest tangle of creeper he can and lunges underneath it.
As he lies there, Ralph realizes the fire that the savages set to smoke him out has spread, and there is a rumbling noise as it spreads through the trees.
Ralph lies under the vines, waiting, telling himself to be ready, and suddenly sees the legs of a savage moving toward him.
Ralph tells himself not to scream and tries to hold still.
The cries of the savages echo through the forest.
Ralph sees the savage’s face as he peers out from underneath the vines.
Ralph screams and plunges out, snarling and bloody. He swings at the savage and the savage falls, but there are others coming.
Ralph runs as a spear flies past him.
Ralph hears them crashing through the underbrush and stumbles over a root as he runs.
As he falls, he sees one of the shelters they built burst into flame.
Then he’s down and rolls over and over on the ground, holding up his arms to protect himself and crying out for mercy.
When Ralph finally uncovers his head and staggers to his feet, he finds that he is staring up at the white-topped cap of a naval officer.
Behind him, Ralph can see a ship in the water.
The officer says hello and Ralph is suddenly aware of his filthy appearance.
Looking around, Ralph sees that behind him on the beach there is a semicircle of boys, their bodies “streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands.”
The officer asks half-jokingly if anyone was killed in the war game they have supposedly been playing. Ralph answers, “Only two.”
When the officer asks who’s boss, Ralph answers loudly that he is. He stares at the officer dumbly, hardly able to comprehend that the rescuers have finally arrived.
Ralph begins to cry, sobbing for the first time about Simon, about Piggy, about “the end of innocence, [and about] the darkness of man’s heart.”