2 Sentence Summary
Sir William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies after World War II. The novel reflects the political and social issues of the time, linking the characters and conflicts to the Cold War battle between liberal democracy and totalitarian communism.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 182
First Published in: 1954
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
During a time of war, a group of British schoolboys find themselves stranded on an uninhabited island after their plane crashes. The two main protagonists of the story are Ralph and Piggy. Ralph is confident and handsome, while Piggy is an asthmatic boy with glasses who possesses a keen intelligence. The boys gather together when Ralph finds a conch shell and blows it. Among them is Jack Merridew, an aggressive boy who is the leader of the choir. Ralph, who is chosen as the chief, leads Jack and another boy, Simon, on an expedition to explore the island. They determine that they are on a deserted island and decide that they need to find food.
Ralph calls a meeting and attempts to set rules of order for the island. Jack agrees with Ralph but Piggy reprimands Jack for not being concerned about long-term issues of survival. Ralph proposes that they build a fire on the mountain which could signal their presence to any passing ships. The boys start building the fire, but the younger boys lose interest when the task proves too difficult for them. Piggy proves essential to the process as the boys use his glasses to start the fire. After they start the fire, Piggy loses his temper and criticizes the other boys for not building shelters first. He worries that they still do not know how many boys there are, and one of them is already missing.
The boys on the island are settling into a daily routine. Jack is focused on hunting pigs, while Ralph is working on building shelters. The youngest boys, known as the “littluns,” spend their days searching for fruit to eat. Despite the lack of parental authority, the boys still obey some sense of decency towards one another during playtime. Piggy, who is an outsider among the boys, is considering building a sundial. A ship passes by the island but does not stop, perhaps because the fire has burned out. Piggy blames Jack for letting the fire die, and Jack punches Piggy, breaking one lens of his glasses.
Ralph is becoming increasingly concerned with the behavior of Jack and the hunters and is starting to appreciate Piggy’s maturity. He calls an assembly in which he criticizes the boys for not helping with the fire or the building of the shelters. He insists that the fire is the most important thing on the island, for it is their one chance for rescue. Jack then yells at the littluns for their fear and for not helping with hunting or building shelters. He proclaims that there is no beast on the island, but a littlun, Phil, tells that he had a nightmare and when he awoke saw something moving among the trees. Jack decides to lead an expedition to hunt the beast, leaving only Ralph, Piggy and Simon behind. Piggy warns Ralph that if Jack becomes chief, the boys will never be rescued.
During an aerial battle, a pilot parachutes down onto the island where the boys are stranded. The next morning, the twins, Sam and Eric, spot the pilot and mistake him for the beast. Jack calls for a hunt to find the beast, but Piggy insists that they should stay together for safety. Ralph joins the hunt despite his desire to rekindle the fire on the mountain. The hunters find a boar, which attacks Jack, but he stabs it and it runs away. The boys lapse into their “kill the pig” chant once again. Ralph realizes that Jack consumes him and confronts him about it. The boys see what they believe to be the beast and run away.
Ralph returns to the shelters and tells Piggy that they saw the beast, but Piggy remains skeptical. Jack attempts to assert control over the other boys and calls for Ralph’s removal as chief. However, when Ralph retains the support of the other boys, Jack runs away crying. Piggy suggests that they should build a fire on the beach if the beast prevents them from getting to the mountaintop. Simon leaves to sit in the open space that he found earlier. Jack claims that he will be the chief of the hunters and that they will go to the castle rock where they plan to build a fort and have a feast. The hunters kill a pig and Jack smears the blood over Maurice’s face. They then cut off the head and leave it on a stake as an offering for the beast. Jack invites the other boys to join his tribe and offers them meat and the opportunity to hunt and have fun. All of the boys, except for Ralph and Piggy, join Jack.
Simon discovers the pig’s head left by the hunters and dubs it “The Lord of the Flies,” believing it speaks to him and mocks the idea of the beast being hunted. He later sees the dead pilot and realizes what the true beast is, rushing to tell the other boys. Meanwhile, Ralph and Piggy, who were playing at the lagoon alone, decide to find the other boys to ensure nothing bad happens while they are pretending to be hunters. They find Jack and argue over who will be chief. A storm begins and Simon rushes from the forest, telling about the dead body on the mountain. Under the impression that he is the beast, the boys kill Simon.
Ralph and Piggy discuss Simon’s death and try to justify their behavior as motivated by fear and instinct. Jack rules over the boys with the trappings of an idol, keeping one boy tied up and instilling fear in the other boys. Ralph, Piggy, and the twins work on keeping the fire going but find it too difficult to do by themselves. During the night, the hunters attack the four boys, who fight them off but suffer considerable injuries. Piggy learns that the purpose of the attack was to steal his glasses.
After the attack, Ralph, Piggy and the twins decide to go to the castle rock to appeal to Jack for civilized behavior. They dress themselves in normal schoolboy clothes and when they reach Castle Rock, Ralph summons the other boys with the conch. Jack, who is there with his hunters, refuses to listen to Ralph’s appeals for justice and takes Sam and Eric as prisoners. Piggy tries to reason with Jack and his hunters, but Roger tips a rock over on Piggy, causing him to fall down the mountain to the beach. Piggy’s death shatters the conch shell and Jack declares himself chief and hurls his spear at Ralph, who runs away.
Ralph hides near Castle Rock and sees the other boys as savages, he evades the other boys who are hunting for him, then realizes that they are setting the forest on fire in order to smoke him out. Running for his life, Ralph finally collapses on the beach where a naval officer arrives. The officer scolds the boys for not behaving in a more organized and responsible manner as is the British custom. As the boys prepare to leave the island for home, Ralph weeps for the death of Piggy and for the end of the boys’ innocence.