Study Guide

Lord of the Flies Quotes

  • Rules and Order

    Chapter 1
    Jack

    "Shut up," said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. "Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things."

    "A chief! A chief!"

    "I ought to be chief," said Jack with simple arrogance, "because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp." (1.228-30)

    It's dumb of Jack to think he should be leader because he can sing C sharp, but is it any dumber that Ralph gets elected because he's cute and has the conch? Maybe Golding is saying that all rules and order are kind of made up—but that doesn't mean they're not important.

    He [Ralph] jumped down from the terrace. The sand was thick over his black shoes and the heat hit him. He became conscious of the weight of clothes, kicked his shoes off fiercely and ripped off each stocking with its elastic garter in a single movement. Then he leapt back on the terrace, pulled of his shirt, and stood there among the skull-like coconuts with green shadows from the palms and forest sliding over his skin. He undid the snake-clasp of his belt, lugged off his shorts and pants, and stood there naked, looking at the dazzling beach and the water. (1.53)

    You know those signs that say "No shirt, no shoes, no service"? Not on this island. Clothes-wearing is one of society's most basic rules, so naturally the first thing Ralph does is take them off.

    Piggy moved among the crowd, asking names and frowning to remember them. The children gave him the same simple obedience that they had given to the man with the megaphones. (1.179)

    Question: is it "natural" for children to want to obey rules, any rule, or is this obedience just something that their upbringing has beaten into them?

    “Where’s the man with the megaphone?”

    The fair boy shook his head.

    “This is an island. At least I think it’s an island. That’s a reef out in the sea. Perhaps there aren’t any grownups anywhere.” (1.9-11)

    The boys understand that the ruling order of society that they are used to has disappeared.

    Ralph

    Ralph had stopped smiling and was pointing into the lagoon. Something creamy lay among the ferny weeds.

    “A stone.”

    “No. A shell.” (1.141-143)

    It is Ralph, not Piggy, who both finds and identifies the shell. Piggy goes on to explain the conch’s sound to Ralph, but Ralph is the one who makes the initial discovery and takes possession. This is important, as the conch later enables Ralph (and not Piggy) to become chief.

    Chapter 2
    Jack

    "We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything." (2.192)

    Weird. On the one hand, Golding does seem to believe that rules and order are necessary. On the other hand, we can't help being a little suspicious of, well, everything Jack says. Is this ironic? (We're pretty sure the "English are the best at everything" bit is, at least.)

    Ralph sat on a fallen trunk, his left side to the sun. On his right were most of the choir; on his left the larger boys who had not known each other before the evacuation; before him small children squatted in the grass. (2.2)

    Even after a plane crash, the kids sort themselves out in groups. It's just like a high school cafeteria.

    Chapter 4

    There was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which [Roger] dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. (4.14)

    The boys still feel the pull of their previous, ordered, civilized life in England. At least for now.

    Chapter 5

    The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away. (5.227)

    "Lawful" sounds good, but check out how it seems to just mean "understandable." It's not that the civilized world has all the answers (it obviously doesn't), but at least there's a system of actions and consequences. A lot of driving rules might be arbitrary, but that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want.

    Ralph

    "All this I meant to say. Now I've said it. You voted me for chief. Now you do what I say."

    They quieted, slowly, and at last were seated again. Ralph dropped down and spoke in his ordinary voice. (5.58-59)

    All Ralph has to do is remind the boys that they decided to obey a certain set of rules, and they chill out. For now. It's scary to think about, but that's pretty much the only thing keeping our government in place, too: a (vast) majority of people think it should be there.

    Chapter 6
    Ralph

    "I'm chief. We've got to make certain [that there is no beast]. Can't you see the mountain? There's no signal showing. There may be a ship out there. Are you all off your rockers?" (6.238)

    Poor Ralph. He's learning that just saying "I'm chief" isn't enough; you have to have people to enforce your system of laws and order—like a police force, or Roger.

    Chapter 8
    Ralph

    "…I mean…what makes things break up like they do?

    Piggy rubbed his glasses slowly and thought […].

    "I dunno, Ralph. I expect it's him."

    "Jack?"

    "Jack." A taboo was evolving round that word too.

    Ralph nodded solemnly.

    "Yes," he said, "I suppose it must be." (8.259-2.65)

    Ralph and Piggy see Jack as the reason that all their rules and order collapse. In other words, it's the dark, bestial side of us that just can't resist trying to rebel. (They don't seem to realize that there's a teeny bit of Jack in them, too.)

    [Ralph] was vexed to find how little he thought like a grownup and sighed again. The island was getting worse and worse. (8.243)

    When Ralph notes order breaking down, he is quick to blame the island as getting worse and worse, not the boys.

    Piggy

    Piggy was […] so full of pride in his contribution to the good of society […] that he helped to fetch wood. (8.118)

    Many of Piggy’s actions are motivated by his desire to be accepted by the rest of the boys.

    Jack

    “[Ralph is] like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief.” (8. 50)

    To Jack, intelligence is incompatible with strength, and the latter is necessary for chiefdom. Because Ralph uses logic and reasoning like Piggy does, according to Jack, he can’t be fit to be the boys’ leader.

    Chapter 9

    [The boys] found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it governable. (9.86)

    The boys see the fence as some sort of tangible proof that they are still good, British boys. They find security in this, until you consider Simon’s claim that the beast is “only us.” If this is true, the boys just fenced in themselves (and therefore the beast) for the night.

    Chapter 11
    Piggy

    “I just take the conch to say this. I can’t see no more and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island. I voted for you for chief. He’s the only one who ever got anything done. So now you speak, Ralph, and tell us what. Or else –”

    Piggy broke off, sniveling. Ralph took back the conch as he sat down.

    “Just an ordinary fire. You’d think we could do that, wouldn’t you? Just a smoke signal so we can be rescued. Are we savages or what?” (11.19-21)

    Ralph considers the boys savages for their inabilities – inabilities to keep order, to build a fire, to have meetings. He focuses on what they are not able to do because it is easier than looking at what they have proven themselves capable of.

    The booing rose and died again as Piggy lifted the white, magic shell.

    “Which is better –to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?”

    A great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again.

    “Which is better –to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”

    Again the clamor and again – “Zup!”

    Ralph shouted against the noise.

    “Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”

    Now Jack was yelling too and Ralph could no longer make himself heard. Jack had backed right against the tribe and they were a solid mass of menace that bristled with spears. (11.200-207)

    The description of the shell as “white, magic” seems to be the way Piggy sees it. The passage that follows proves that the shell is in fact no such thing; it can’t even get the boys to quiet down and listen.

    Ralph

    “You're a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief!” (11.187)

    Interesting! Ralph calls Jack both “a beast” and “a swine.” Lord of the Flies seems to argue that the boys are indeed both.

    Sam and Eric

    Samneric protested out of the heart of civilization, “Oh, I say! –honestly!” (11.175)

    Sam and Eric remind us of the absurdity of the boys’ situation. It’s possible that they still see the island as a silly game gone a little overboard.

    The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went […]. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed. (11.209)

    The conch explodes, marking the end of law and order on the island. As the law ceases to exist, so does Piggy.

    Chapter 12

    Her bows [were] hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. (12. 211)

    With the arrival of the British Navy, the boys begin their return to the civilized world. Ironically, this “civilized” world is no less violent than the one the boys have been living in on the island.

  • Fear

    Chapter 1

    “We may stay here till we die.”

    With that word the heat began to increase till it became a threatening weight and the lagoon attacked them with a blinding effulgence. (1.125)

    When Piggy says the word "die," he seems to bring fear into the island. He and Ralph don't even know that anyone else is on the island yet—but it probably would have been better for them if they'd been alone.

    The ground beneath them was a bank covered with sparse grass, torn everywhere by the upheavals of fallen trees, scattered with decaying coconuts and palm saplings. Behind this was the darkness of the forest proper and the open space of the scar. (1.52)

    The boys may not be afraid yet, but we're getting a bad feeling. This passage, with its "decaying coconuts" and forest "darkness" hints that nasty things are on the way. No wonder the littluns start freaking out.

    Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling along. Ralph saw it first, and watched until the intentness of his gaze drew all eyes that way. Then the creature stepped from mirage onto clear sand, and they saw that the darkness was not all shadow but mostly clothing. The creature was a party of boys […]. (1.184)

    Ralph doesn't exactly seem afraid here, but maybe he should be: the boys choir appears out of the "mirage" as a man-beast. (Don't worry; he'll be afraid later.)

    Chapter 2

    Ralph laughed, and the other boys laughed with him. The small boy twisted further into himself.

    "Tell us about the snake-thing."

    "Now he says it was a beastie."

    "Beastie?"

    "A snake-thing. Ever so big. He saw it."

    "Where?'

    "In the woods."

    […]

    "He says the beastie came in the dark." (2.73-80)

    The biguns are laughing at the littluns' fear, but they won't be laughing for long. Pretty soon, they'll be just as afraid—and they can do ugly things out of fear.

    Chapter 3
    Simon

    "You've noticed, haven't you?"

    Jack put down his spear and squatted.

    "Noticed what?"

    "Well. They're frightened."

    He rolled over and peered into Jack's fierce, dirty face.

    "I mean the way things are. They dream. You can hear 'em. Have you been awake at night?" Jack shook his head.

    "They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if—"

    "As if it wasn't a good island."

    Astonished at the interruption, they looked up at Simon's serious face.

    "As if," said Simon, "the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing, was real. Remember?" (3.58-67)

    Ralph wants to build shelters, because he knows that the kids are afraid—but all Jack wants to do is hunt. Would that have helped? We know that the boys themselves are the beast, but the boys don't. Maybe building huts would have helped them feel safe enough to keep Simon alive.

    Chapter 5

    “Maybe […] there is a beast

    […]

    What I mean is… maybe it's only us.” (5.183-195)

    Simon and Piggy come to equal-but-opposite conclusions. Piggy has a kind of rational, external, empirical attitude—we're afraid of each other. Simon has a more spiritual insight: it's not each other we need to be afraid of, but ourselves. Subtle? Sure. But it's an important difference.

    Piggy

    "Life […] is scientific, that's what it is. In a year or two when the war is over they'll be traveling to Mars and back. I know there isn't no beast—not with claws and all that I mean—but I know there isn't no fear either."

    […]

    "Unless we get frightened of people." (5.99, 104)

    There's nothing to be afraid of, says Piggy—unless we start to fear other people. Trust rational, scientific Piggy to understand.

    Jack

    "…fear can't hurt you any more than a dream. There aren't any beasts to be afraid of on this island . . . Serve you right if something did get you, you useless lot of cry-babies!" (5.79)

    Jack isn't winning any Mr. Sensitive awards here. He's also wrong: fear can hurt you; and there are beasts on the island.

    Chapter 6

    Simon, walking in front of Ralph, felt a flicker of incredulity—a beast with claws that scratched, that sat on a mountain-top, that left no tracks and yet was not fast enough to catch Samneric. However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human, at once heroic and sick. (6.140)

    Simon may not be a brain like Piggy, but he's a smart guy; he knows that the beast is unbelievable. But that doesn't mean he's not afraid. Like we said, he's a smart guy; he knows that this whole situation is heading downhill fast.

    "It was furry. There was something moving behind its head—wings. The beast moved too—"

    "That was awful. It kind of sat up—"

    […]

    "There were eyes—"

    "Teeth—"

    "Claws—"

    "We ran as fast as we could—" (6.67-75)

    Samneric do see something; they see the dead parachuter. But their fear makes them see something totally different from what actually exists—like turning a pile of clothes in your closet into a monster.

    Chapter 7

    In front of them, only three or four yards away, was a rock-like hump where no rock should be. Ralph could hear a tiny chattering noise coming from somewhere—perhaps his own mouth. He bound himself together with his will, fused his fear and loathing into a hatred, and stood up. He took two leaden steps forward. (7.246)

    On the one hand, this is real courage: when you're afraid of something but do it anyway. On the other hand, notice how Ralph changing his "fear and loathing" into "hatred." Talk about dangerous emotions—hatred makes people do horrible things.

    Simon

    "Someone's got to go across the island and tell Piggy we'll be back after dark."

    Bill spoke, unbelieving.

    "Through the forest by himself? Now?"

    "We can't spare more than one."

    Simon pushed his way to Ralph's elbow."

    "I'll go if you like. I don't mind, honestly." (7.124-129)

    Simon is the only boy who doesn't seem to be afraid of the forest—probably because he knows he's safer alone than with the other boys. Smart choice.

    Chapter 8

    "This head is for the beast. It's a gift." (8.224)

    The head is meant to be a gift for the beast, but later it becomes a manifestation of the beast itself—which means that violence and savagery end up making the beast real. (Hey, no one ever said Lord of the Flies was subtle.)

    Chapter 10
    Jack

    "I expect the beast disguised himself."

    "Perhaps […]. We'd better keep on the right side of him, anyhow. You can't tell what he might do."

    The tribe considered this; and then were shaken, as if by a flow of wind. The chief saw the effect of his words and stood abruptly. (10.142-143)

    Fear, says Golding, is one of a leader's most powerful tools for controlling a society. (And this is before anyone had to stand barefoot in an airport security line.)

  • Identity

    Chapter 1
    Piggy

    "I don't care what they call me," he said confidentially, "so long as they don't call me what they used to call me in school."

    Ralph was faintly interested.

    "What was that?"

    The fat boy glanced over his shoulder, then leaned toward Ralph.

    He whispered.

    "They used to call me Piggy!" (1.65-70)

    Before the boys reveal their names, they are identified by their appearances. Ralph is "the fair boy" and Piggy the "fat" one. But Piggy's name itself refers to his weight, which means even back in the civilized world appearance determined identity. We might feel better knowing everyone's real name, but is there really a difference between being called "the fat boy" and "Piggy"? Aren't they really the same thing?

    Chapter 4
    Jack

    Jack planned his new face. He made one cheek and one eye-socket white, then he rubbed red over the other half of his face and slashed a black bar of charcoal across from right ear to left jaw […]. "Samneric. Get me a coconut. An empty one."

    He knelt, holding the shell of water […]. He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. (4.31-33)

    Jack is as excited about his new identity as we are about getting a great new haircut. Sure, maybe he's just excited because it's a cultural taboo. Then again, maybe he's excited because he knows it's going to give him power over the others.

    Chapter 8

    He giggled and flecked them while the boys laughed at his reeking palms. Then Jack grabbed Maurice and rubbed the stuff [blood] over his cheeks. (8.195)

    After the boys kill the mother pig, they smear their faces with her blood. First things first: ew, gross. But it's also smart. The blood becomes a mask that distances the boys from the event. If they don't feel like themselves, their actions don't seem as horrifying to them.

    Chapter 10

    The chief was sitting there, naked to the waist, his face blocked out in white and red. The tribe lay in a semicircle before him. (10.119)

    Now that they're naked and painted, they're not Jack and the choir; they're "the chief" and "the tribe." The paint has literally changed who they are.

    Chapter 11
    Ralph

    "Then we must go as we are," said Ralph, "and they won't be any better." Eric made a detaining gesture.

    "But they'll be painted! You know how it is."

    The others nodded. They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought. (11.63-66)

    Check out Golding's almost paradoxical use of "liberation" and "concealing." The paint does both: it liberates the boys by concealing their identities. If you know you won't be recognized, you're a lot more likely to be a total jerk. (Just ask anonymous Internet trolls.)

    You can see who I am!" [Ralph] shouted. "Stop being silly!"

    He put the conch to his lips and began to blow. Savages appeared, painted out of recognition, edging round the ledge toward the neck. They carried spears and disposed themselves to defend the entrance. (11.106-107)

    This "You can see who I am!" is Ralph's major weapon. He asserts his identity hoping that it'll let him reason with the boys—but it doesn't mean anything, since the boys are beyond things like "identity" now.

    Someone was throwing stones: Roger was dropping them, his one hand still on the lever. Below him, Ralph was a shock of hair and Piggy a bag of fat. (11.198)

    From Roger's vantage point (literally and figuratively), Ralph and Piggy have no humanity. He reduces them to "hair" and "fat," because if they have no identities then he's not really a cold-blooded murderer.

    Chapter 12

    The boys, their bodies streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands, were standing on the beach making no noise at all. (12.219)

    When the naval officer shows up, the "painted savages" turn back into "little boys" covered with clay and holding sharp sticks. Ralph is no longer afraid of them in the presence of this representative of civilization and the adult world—even though the boys could conceivably overpower the adult and send him the way of Simon and Piggy.

    Quote Ralph listened […]. He had even glimpsed one of them, striped brown, black, and red, and had judged that it was Bill. But really, thought Ralph, this was not Bill. This was a savage whose image refused to blend with that ancient picture of a boy in shorts and shirt. (12.2)

    Ralph is doing what we aren't allowed to do: he's convinced himself that these little terrors aren't the same boys he knew before. If they were, he'd have to face the fact that they all—including himself—are evil and savage. It's a lot easier for him to say "this [is] not Bill." Is he right? Or are the "savage" and "Bill" one and the same?

    "Percival Wemys Madison, The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-" (5)

    As if this information was rooted far down in the springs of sorrow, the littlun wept. His face puckered, the tears leapt from his eyes, his mouth opened till they could see a square black hole. At first he was a silent effigy of sorrow; but then the lamentation rose out of him, loud and sustained as the conch.

    Poor Percy. His identity is wrapped up in his address and name—but both of those are meaningless on the island. He's already forgotten his telephone number; by the end, he can't even remember his full name.

  • Youth

    Chapter 1

    The fair boy began to pick his way as casually as possible toward the water. He tried to be offhand and not too obviously uninterested, but the fat boy hurried after him.

    "Aren't there any grownups at all?"

    "I don't think so." (1.16-18)

    Piggy still can't believe it. Notice that he's the one who obsesses about grownups at first—and he's also the closest thing we have to one. Why is that? What makes Piggy seem particularly grown up, and does it have anything to do with the fact that his parents are both dead?

    The children gave him the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones. Some were naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked, or more or less dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed or jerseyed. There were badges, mottoes even, stripes of color in stockings and pullovers. (2)

    These aren't just kids; they're schoolboys, used to having every part of their life, including their clothes, decided for them. No wonder they go a little (a lot) crazy when they're left on their own.

    Ralph paddled backwards down the slope, immersed his mouth and blew a jet of water into the air. Then he lifted his chin and spoke.

    "I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. He's a commander in the Navy. When he gets leave he'll come and rescue us. What's your father?" (1)

    Ralph identifies himself by his father. Without adults, the kids jockey for positions all by themselves—and that's when it gets ugly. The adult world provides structure; it lets kids know where they stand. Without that, how do they know who to follow?

    "Where's the man with the megaphone?"

    The fair boy shook his head.

    "This is an island. At least I think it's an island. That's a reef out in the sea. Perhaps there aren't any grownups anywhere." (1.9-11)

    Woohoo! No grownups! At this point, Ralph and Piggy are more Macaulay Culkin than, well, Lord of the Flies. This is the kind of no-grownups you fantasize about it. (Too bad the reality is a little more murderous.)

    Chapter 2

    Then, with the martyred expression of a parent who has to keep up with the senseless ebullience of the children, he picked up the conch, turned toward the forest, and began to pick his way over the tumbled scar. (2)

    See? We told you Piggy was the most adult-like of all of them. Here, his grownupness seems to be mostly about getting the other kids to obey the conch.

    Chapter 5

    Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment. He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one's waking life was spent watching one's feet. He stopped, facing the strip; and remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood, he smiled jeeringly. (5.1)

    Ralph is growing up fast—the first days on the island seem like a literal lifetime ago. And notice that adulthood is associated with "weariness"? Yeah, growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be. Take it from Shmoop.

    "We're all drifting and things are going rotten. At home there was always a grownup. Please, sir; please, miss; and then you got an answer. How I wish!"

    […]

    "Grownups know things," said Piggy. "They ain't afraid of the dark. They'd meet and have tea and discuss. Then things 'ud be all right-" (5)

    Ha. Just wait until you grow up, Piggy; then you're the grownup who has to pretend not to be afraid of the dark and who knows all the answers. (Thanks, Google.)

    "What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What's grownups going to think? Going off-hunting pigs-letting fires out-and now!" (5)

    Piggy just will not let it go. The island is degenerating into anarchy, and all he can think about is what the grownups are going to think. Hint: they're probably going to be more relieved about getting their kids back than about whether a few 12-year-olds let a fire go out.

    Chapter 8

    [Ralph] was vexed to find how little he thought like a grownup and sighed again. The island was getting worse and worse. (8.243)

    This has got to be frustrating. Ralph knows that there's a "grownup" way to think, and he knows that he's not doing it. Again—Ralph might be surprised to find out that grownups feel this way a lot of the time, too.

    "I dunno, Ralph. We just got to go on, that's all. That's what grownups would do." (8.260)

    It's too bad that Piggy realizes this not too long before he gets murdered. There's no secret to acting like a grownup; it's just doing one thing after another, trying to stay ahead of the bills and the plumbing problems. (Seriously.)

    Chapter 12

    The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (12)

    At the end, Ralph weeps. Does this make him more of a kid? You might think so, since the naval officer looks away to give him time to collect himself. But maybe it actually shows his maturity: he understands just how hopeless the whole situation is.

    A little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist, started forward, then changed his mind and stood still. (12)

    From Ralph's perspective, Jack is a terrifying, painted chief; from the adult's perspective, he's a strangely dressed little boy. But which perspective is true?

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    Chapter 1
    Piggy

    [Piggy] wiped his glasses and adjusted them on his button nose. The frame had made a deep, pink V on the bridge. (1.58)

    Piggy’s glasses are an essential part of him and his identity.

    Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling along. Ralph saw it first, and watched till the intentness of his gaze drew all eyes that way. (1.184)

    The boys start to learn about each other based on first impressions. This is actually a good way for us (as the readers) to get a sense of the characters as well. Check out these early passages where we meet the boys for the first time.

    [Ralph] […] looked at the water with bright, excited eyes. (1.54)

    At first, the island has the exciting prospect of a land undiscovered.

    Chapter 2
    Jack

    Jack pointed suddenly.

    “His specs – use them as burning glasses!”

    Piggy was surrounded before he could back away. (2.159-161)

    Piggy’s glasses become the boys’ one technological advancement. We wonder why Jack is the boy that thinks of using them.

    Chapter 7
    Simon

    “You'll get back to where you came from.” (7.15)

    Simon is like a prophet here. He knows what he’s talking about, in the horrible-foreshadowing-of-his-own-death kind of way.

    Chapter 8

    […] in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the blood – and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition. (8.230)

    Simon is able to see things and have insights that the other boys are not capable of. In this case, he sees fear, violence, death – in other words, himself, and all other human beings – captured in the grinning face of the pig.

    Chapter 10
    Piggy

    Piggy drew up his legs.

    “You all right, Piggy?”

    “I thought they wanted the conch.”

    […]

    “They didn’t take the conch.”

    “I know. They didn’t come for the conch. They came for something else. Ralph – what am I going to do?”

    Far off along the bowstave of the beach, three figures trotted toward the castle rock […]. The chief led them, trotting steadily, exulting in his achievement. He was a chief now in truth; and he made stabbing motions with his spear. From his left hand dangled Piggy’s broken glasses. (10.296-302)

    Piggy’s glasses have become the most powerful item on the island. It is interesting that Piggy initially thinks of the conch; to him, order and law are more valuable than anything else.

    Chapter 11
    Piggy

    “Ralph – remember what we came for. The fire. My specs.” (11.159)

    While Ralph gets caught up in the heat of the moment, Piggy is able to ground him in reason.

    He tried to remember.

    “Smoke,” he said, “we want smoke.”

    He turned on the twins fiercely.

    “I said ‘smoke’! We’ve got to have smoke.”

    There was silence, except for the multitudinous murmur of the bees. At last Piggy spoke, kindly.

    “’Course we have. ’Cos the smoke’s a signal and we can’t be rescued if we don’t have smoke.”

    “I knew that!” Shouted Ralph. He pulled his arm away from Piggy. “Are you suggesting–?” (11.73-78)

    Ralph’s ability to think falls victim to the chaos of the island. Only Piggy remains a pillar of reason. So you can imagine what it means when Piggy later gets smashed on the rocks.

  • Power

    Chapter 1
    Jack

    The suffusion drained away from Jack's face. Ralph waved again for silence.

    "Jack's in charge of the choir. They can be—what do you want them be?"

    "Hunters."

    Jack and Ralph smiled at each other with shy liking. The rest began to talk eagerly. (1.254-257)

    Check out how Ralph gets Jack on his side by sharing power. He's set up to be a good leader, taking into account the needs and desires of his group. Too bad it's not going to last.

    “You're no good on a job like this.”

    “All the same –”

    “We don’t want you,” said Jack, flatly. “Three’s enough.” (1.274-276)

    While Ralph and Jack both assert authority over Piggy, Ralph at least tries to explain his reasoning (the mark of a good leader), whereas Jack brings personal insult to the matter (the mark of a bad leader).

    Ralph

    "Shut up," said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. "Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things."

    "A chief! A chief!"

    "I ought to be chief," said Jack with simple arrogance, "because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp." (1.229-231)

    Sure, bet that C sharp really comes in handy when you're trying to keep a group in order. Jack thinks he should have the power because he's always had it. There's nothing special about him; he doesn't have any particular talent for leading. He's just arrogant. And sometimes that's enough.

    Chapter 2
    Jack

    "A fire! Make a fire!"

    At once half the boys were on their feet. Jack clamored among them, the conch forgotten.

    "Come on! Follow me!"

    The space under the palm trees was full of noise and movement. Ralph was on his feet too, shouting for quiet, but no one heard him. All at once the crowd swayed toward the island and was gone—following Jack. (2.120-123)

    Oops. Ralph's moment at the top of the food chain was pretty brief. It's only chapter two, and Jack's populist tactics are already more undermining the rule of law.

    Chapter 4
    Jack

    "I painted my face—I stole up. Now you eat—all of you—and I—" (4.191)

    Jack yells this right after he throws a hunk of meat at Simon. (Gross.) And, you know? We love Ralph and all, but Jack isn't exactly wrong. He did get the meat, and it's a powerful sign of leadership. If this were a real island tribe, maybe Jack should be the leader. But it's not. It's a group of little boys whose priority really should be getting off the island—and that means the right man for the job is Ralph.

    Henry was a bit of a leader this afternoon, because the other two were Percival and Johnny, the smallest boys on the island […].

    Roger and Maurice came out of the forest […]. Roger led the way straight through the [sand] castles, kicking them over, burying the flowers, scattering the chosen stones. Maurice followed, laughing, and added to the destruction. (4.7-8)

    Roger is a schoolyard bully whose power comes from brute force. In the movies, the smart scrappy kids always end up beating the bully in the end. But does that happen in real life? Without rules to keep him in check, he's going to rise to the top. Although, note that he never makes it all the way to the top—he seems to be second in command. If the naval officer hadn't shown up, would he have eventually overthrown Jack?

    Ralph

    Ralph pushed Piggy to one side.

    "I was chief, and you were going to do what I said." (4.132-133)

    Uh oh. This is basically the equivalent of Ralph saying, "But it's not fair." If you have a sibling, you know how well that works. (Not at all.)

    Chapter 5
    Jack

    Jack's face swam near him.

    "And you shut up! Who are you, anyway? Sitting there telling people what to do. You can't hunt, you can't sing—"

    "I'm chief. I was chosen."

    "Why should choosing make any difference? Just giving orders that don't make any sense—" (5.238-241)

    In case you haven't gotten it by now, Golding spells it out for us: Jack represents an autocratic government, where power is taken; and Ralph represents democratic governments, where power is given.

    Chapter 6
    Ralph

    Something deep in Ralph spoke for him.

    "I'm chief. I'll go. Don't argue." (6.155)

    Notice that Ralph isn't the one agreeing to go look for the beast; it's the chief inside of him. He's a good example of how power can actually make you better. If you know you have people depending on you, and if you take that responsibility seriously, then power can be a positive force.

    Chapter 8

    “I’m warning you. I’m going to get angry. D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island! So don’t try it on, my poor misguided boy, or else–”

    Simon found he was looking into a vast mouth. There was blackness within, a blackness that spread.

    “–Or else,” said the Lord of the Flies, “we shall do you, see? Roger and Maurice and Robert and Bill and Piggy and Ralph. Do you. See?” (8.345-349)

    The Lord of the Flies derives power through intimidation.

    Jack

    “Who thinks Ralph oughtn’t to be chief?”

    He looked expectantly at the boys ranged around, who had frozen. Under the palms there was deadly silence.

    “Hands up?” said Jack strongly, “whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?”

    The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame. Slowly the red drained from Jack’s cheeks, then came back with a painful rush. He licked his lips and turned his head at an angle, so that his gaze avoided the embarrassment of linking with another’s eye.

    “How many think –”

    His voice trailed off. The hands that held the conch shook. He cleared his throat, and spoke loudly.

    “All right then.”

    He laid the conch with great care in the grass at his feet. The humiliating tears were running from the corner of each eye.

    “I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you.” (8.67-75)

    This quote actually causes us (the reader) to feel sorry for Jack. Passages like this are important to remind us that the boys really are young children: they get embarrassed, they cry, and they throw temper tantrums. When we are hit in the face with the boys’ humanity, we are that much more disturbed by the horrors that follow.

    Chapter 9
    Jack

    Jack spoke.

    "Give me a drink."

    Henry brought him a shell and he drank, watching Piggy and Ralph over the jagged rim. Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms: authority sat on his shoulder and chattered in his ear like an ape. (9.52-54)

    Ralph uses his power to build signal fires and try to get the littluns looked after; Jack uses it to have people fetch him drinks. Enough said.

    Chapter 11
    Roger

    Roger edged past the chief, only just avoiding pushing him with his shoulder. The yelling ceased, and Samneric lay looking up in quiet terror. Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority. (11.231)

    Elected officials can get voted out of office; autocratic rulers get forced out of office—and they're lucky if they survive. When Roger just barely avoids pushing Jack, we get the feeling that there's another power showdown on the way, and it's not going to be pretty.

    Chapter 12

    Her bows [were] hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. (12.211)

    The desire for power and the taking of power by violent means is not limited to the island.

  • Civilization

    Chapter 2

    Ralph and Jack looked at each other while society paused about them. The shameful knowledge grew in them and they did not know how to begin confession.

    Ralph spoke first, crimson in the face.

    "Will you?"

    He cleared his throat and went on.

    "Will you light the fire?" (2)

    When the story begins, Jack and Ralph are such civilized lads that they don't even know how to start a fire without a match. Someone's not getting the wilderness survival badge.

    Chapter 4

    There was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which [Roger] dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. (4.14)

    "The old life" is civilization. Roger is losing it, but he isn't quite gone. Civilization and all its rules are still holding him back—for now. In a few more chapters, it'll be all savage, all the time.

    Chapter 8

    Piggy was […] so full of pride in his contribution to the good of society […] that he helped to fetch wood. (8.118)

    Ugh, Piggy, you're breaking our hearts. He's basically the only person who seems to care about the "good of society," so naturally he ends up dead. Without people who care about the common good, you don't have much of a civilization.

    Chapter 9

    [The boys] found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it governable. (9.86)

    The boys see themselves as a fence—but this isn't the white picket fence of civilization; it's a fence of their naked bodies, getting ready to reenact their savage pig hunt—before they rip Simon to bits with their bare hands.

    Chapter 11

    "I just take the conch to say this. I can't see no more and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island. I voted for you for chief. He's the only one who ever got anything done. So now you speak, Ralph, and tell us what. Or else—"

    Piggy broke off, sniveling. Ralph took back the conch as he sat down.

    "Just an ordinary fire. You'd think we could do that, wouldn't you? Just a smoke signal so we can be rescued. Are we savages or what?" (11.19-21)

    Piggy sees losing his glasses as the end of civilization; Ralph sees it as not being able to keep a signal fire going. Either way, they're really hanging on by a thread here.

    Samneric protested out of the heart of civilization, "Oh, I say!—honestly!" (11.175)

    Sam and Eric maybe be surrounded by painted boys, but there's still a little piece of civilization left—the part that protests when rules of a silly game get broken, or when someone flips over the Monopoly board.

    The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went […]. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig's after it has been killed. (11.209)

    There goes Piggy—and there goes the conch—and there goes civilization. It's a good thing the naval officer shows up when he does, or this story might have had a very different ending.

    "Which is better—to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?"

    A great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again. (11.202-3)

    Well, when you put it like that, civilization actually sounds kind of boring—like staying in and doing your homework when everyone else is going to an awesome party at the beach.

    Chapter 12

    Squirming a little, conscious of his filthy appearance, Ralph answered shyly.

    "Hullo."

    The officer nodded, as if a question had been answered. (12.215-17)

    Confused? We're pretty sure that the officer is wondering whether Ralph is a real "savage" or someone from civilization—and the answer comes when he opens his mouth to speak British English. (We're still not convinced.)

    On the beach behind him was a cutter, her bows hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. (12.211)

    Hooray! Rescue! Oh, wait. Maybe the boys will have to give up their sharpened sticks—but now they're going get to play with much scarier weapons.

  • Innocence

    Chapter 2

    "You got your small fire all right." […] the boys were falling still and silent, feeling the beginnings of awe at the power set free below them. (2.210)

    Piggy points out that the boys have set half the island on fire, and, like little arsonists, everyone goes nuts until they realize that this is Not Good. Oops. But it seems like they also realize that they have power for the first time in their lives. No one's going to take away their TV privileges for burning up the firewood. Is this a loss of innocence? Acting without fear of punishment sounds like it to us.

    Chapter 3

    Then, amid the roar of bees in the afternoon sunlight, Simon found for [the littluns] the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands. (3.138)

    Talk about innocent: Simon is the only one who bothers helping the littluns out, totally disregarding all the savage power struggles going on behind his back. (Also, notice the difference between Simon innocently picking fruit—how Edenic—and Jack killing a boar?)

    Chapter 6
    Simon

    [Simon saw] the picture of a human at once heroic and sick. (6.140)

    Simon doesn't go out and put a spear up the butt of a dying pig, but he does lose his innocence in another way: he realizes that we're the beasts. Heroic, sure—but sick. You know, fallen.

    Even the sounds of nightmare from the other shelters no longer reached him, for he was back to where came from, feeding the ponies with sugar over the garden wall. (6.42)

    When Ralph dreams, he dreams about feeding sugar to ponies. When he wakes up, the twins are babbling about the beast. Yep, sounds like a loss of innocence to us.

    Chapter 12
    Ralph

    The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy. (12.248)

    Ralph may be weeping like a kid, but he's not a child any longer. It's not that he's lost his innocence, exactly; it's more like he's lost the idea that anyone is innocent. Pretty rough stuff. Also, check out the way this passage pushes together totally different language. We go from the specific and ugly "filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose" to "the darkness of man's heart," and from the uplifting, noble language of "true, wise friend" to … Piggy. What's that juxtaposition all about?

    On the beach behind him was a cutter, her bows hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. (12.211)

    Don't think you're getting off blame-free, dear reader. The boys may have lost their innocence on the island, but we've all lost our innocence in the real world.

    Three small children, no older than Johnny, appeared from startlingly close at hand where they had been gorging fruit in the forest. A dark little boy, not much younger than Piggy, parted a tangle of undergrowth, walked on to the platform, and smiled cheerfully at everybody. More and more of them came. Taking their cue from the innocent Johnny, they sat down on the fallen palm trunks and waited. Ralph continued to blow short, penetrating blasts. (1)

    At this point, everyone is innocent like little Johnny with his "cheerful" smile. Everyone's ready to pull together like good little British boys… which is going to last approximately two days.

    "You can take spears if you want but I shan't. What's the good? I'll have to be led like a dog, anyhow. Yes, laugh. Go on, laugh. There's them on this island as would laugh at anything. And what happened? What's grown-ups goin' to think? Young Simon was murdered. (11)

    With the word "murdered," Piggy lays it out: there's no going back. They've killed another human being, a boy like themselves. Oh, and that boy was basically the personification of innocence and a Christ-figure, so, yeah. They're in trouble. (Check out Simon's "Character Analysis" for more about Simon and Jesus.)

  • Primitivity

    Chapter 3

    …The ground was hardened by an accustomed tread and as Jack rose to his full height he heard something moving on it. He swung back his right arm and hurled the spear with all his strength. (3.5)

    We don't know anything about Jack's training, but we're guessing he didn't have much chance to practice hurling spears when he was busy singing C-sharps. It sounds here like he's just a natural: you can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle-beast-killing-prowess out of the boy.

    Jack

    [Jack] tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up.

    "I went on. I thought, by myself—"

    The madness came into his eyes again.

    "I thought I might kill." (3.37-40)

    You say pot-ay-to; we say po-tah-toe. You say this is Jack's real nature, subdued by culture; we say that the island is eroding his true self. (Or the other way around; we haven't actually made up our minds.) What does Golding seem to think?

    Chapter 4

    "We spread round. I crept, on hands and knees. The spears fell out because they hadn't barbs on. The pig ran away and made an awful noise—"

    "It turned back and ran into the circle, bleeding—"

    All the boys were talking at once, relieved and excited.

    […]

    Then Maurice pretended to be the pig and ran squealing into the center, and the hunters, circling still, pretended to beat him. As they danced, they sang.

    "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in."

    Ralph watched them, envious and resentful. (4.197-206)

    We start off with boys killing pigs, then boys pretending to kill boys who are pretending to be pigs, and finally Jack hunting down Ralph in pretend—maybe—hopes of impaling his head on a stick. The boys get eased into murder, just like we get eased into reading about it. And, just maybe, that's how we get ourselves involved in bloody wars.

    The hunters' thoughts were crowded with memories […] of the knowledge […] that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink. (4.121)

    There's more here than a simple survivalist instinct to kill for food. The boys aren't hunting just because they're hungry; they're hunting because they need the power. Hm. "Imposed their will upon it," "taken away its life"—that sounds a lot like war to us.

    He [Jack] capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness. (4.33)

    Well, that's one way to answer the question. If Jack is hiding behind the mask, then the thing/person/creature committing these heinous acts isn't Jack; it's the mask. Is Golding giving Jack a way out?

    Jack

    [Jack] began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. (4.33)

    Jack is taking the whole "becoming one with your prey" thing a bit too literally. Here's he's practically morphing into an animal, with the kind of "bloodthirsty snarling" you'd associate with a man-eating tiger rather than a 12-year-old choir boy.

    Chapter 7
    Ralph

    All at once, Robert was screaming and struggling with the strength of frenzy. Jack had him by the hair and was brandishing his knife. Behind him was Roger, fighting to get close. The chant rose ritually, as at the last moment of a dance or a hunt.

    "Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!"

    Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering. (7.74-76)

    Blame it on mob mentality or the lure of primitivity or being called four-eyes one too many times, but our sweet Ralphie just went out of his skull.

    Chapter 8
    Jack

    They surrounded the covert but the sow got away with the sting of another spear in her flank. The trailing butts hindered her and the sharp, cross-cut points were a torment. She blundered into a tree, forcing a spear still deeper; and after that any of the hunters could follow her easily by the drops of vivid blood […].

    Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror […]. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them […].

    At last the immediacy of the kill subsided. The boys drew back, and Jack stood up, holding out his hands.

    “Look.”

    He giggled and flecked them while the boys laughed at his reeking palms. Then Jack grabbed Maurice and rubbed the stuff over his cheeks . . .

    “Right up her ass!” (8.191-196)

    Get all the kids out of the room, because this has just gone from understandable food-related slaughter to... something else. The hunt is no longer about just having meat to eat—it's about literally bathing in their power over a helpless animal. We're not surprised that people tend to read this as a rape scene.

    Chapter 9
    Simon

    The dark sky was shattered by a blue-white scar. […] The chant rose a tone in agony.

    Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

    Now out of the terror rose another desire, thick, urgent, blind.

    “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

    Again the blue-white scar jagged above them and the sulphurous explosion beat down. The littluns screamed and blundered about, fleeing from the edge of the forest, and one of them broke the ring of biguns in his terror.

    “Him! Him!”

    The circle became a horseshoe. A thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe.

    “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

    The blue-white scar was constant, the noise unendurable. Simon was crying out something about a dead man on a hill.

    “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!”

    The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws. (9.89-99)

    This passage really conveys the frenzied state the boys are in when they kill Simon. But does it justify the action? Does it function as an excuse for the murder?

    Chapter 11

    Behind them on the grass the headless and paunched body of a sow lay where they had dropped it. (11.129)

    At this point, we get the feeling that the boys aren't even bothering to eat the meat they're killing. They're killing for the fun of it—something that Golding unequivocally identifies as "savage."

    Chapter 12

    Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up. (12.165)

    Who's savage now? When his life's at stake, Ralph can be as primitive as anyone else—like all of us. Some people just take longer to get there than others.

    The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws. (9.89-99)

    This isn't a cluster of boys ganging up on another one; it's a battle between a beast and a "circle," a "crowd," and a "ring," with "a mouth" and "teeth and claws." Pretty brutal.

  • Religion

    Chapter 4

    He [Jack] began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. (4.33)

    The boys’ dancing is reminiscent of religious rites.

    Chapter 8

    Up there, for once, were clouds, great bulging towers that spouted away over the island, grey and cream and copper-colored. The clouds were sitting on the land; they squeezed, produced moment by moment this tormenting heat […]. There were no shadows under the trees but everywhere a pearly stillness, so that what was real seemed illusive and without definition. […] At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the blood – and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition. (8.230)

    WHOA. There is some heavy religious stuff here. Check out images like the “great bulging towers” in the sky and the “pearly stillness” everywhere. That sounds like Heaven, sort of. And then there’s the “tormenting heat,” and the fact that “Lord of the Flies” is another name for Beelzebub, and that sounds like Hell.

    “This head is for the beast. It’s a gift.” (8.224)

    The beast becomes almost a religious figure in the eyes of the boys.

    Chapter 9

    Before the party had started a great log had been dragged into the center of the lawn and Jack, painted and garlanded, sat there like an idol. There were piles of meat on green leaves near him, and fruit, and coconut shells full of drink. (9.40)

    Jack derives power by evoking religious authority.