Lord of the Flies - Summary

William Golding

Lord of the Flies Book Cover


In the classic novel “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, a group of young boys find themselves stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes. With no adults to guide them, the boys must establish their own society and attempt to survive. As the story unfolds, Golding explores the dark depths of human nature and the inherent evil that lies within us all. Through vivid descriptions, compelling characters, and thought-provoking symbolism, Golding paints a chilling picture of the fragile balance between civilization and savagery.

The Fragility of Civilization

Golding’s novel emphasizes the fragility of civilization and the ease with which it can crumble in the face of chaos. The boys initially attempt to establish order by electing a leader, Ralph, and creating rules. However, as time goes on, the boys become increasingly disorganized and savage. This is evident in the gradual deterioration of their makeshift society. For example, the once orderly meetings descend into chaos and violence, symbolizing the breakdown of civilized behavior.

The Dark Side of Human Nature

One of the central themes in “Lord of the Flies” is the exploration of the dark side of human nature. Golding suggests that beneath the veneer of civilization, there exists a primal instinct for power and dominance. This is exemplified through the character of Jack, who represents the embodiment of savagery. As the novel progresses, Jack becomes obsessed with hunting and the desire for control, leading to the formation of his own tribe and the abandonment of moral principles.

The Symbolism of the Beast

Throughout the novel, the boys are haunted by the fear of a mysterious beast lurking on the island. The concept of the beast symbolizes the inherent evil within each individual. Initially, the boys believe the beast to be a physical entity, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the true beast resides within themselves. The fear of the beast drives the boys to commit increasingly violent acts, highlighting the destructive power of human nature when left unchecked.

The Loss of Innocence

Another significant theme in “Lord of the Flies” is the loss of innocence. The boys start their journey on the island as innocent children, but their experiences and the absence of adult authority gradually strip away their innocence. This loss is most evident in the character of Roger, who begins as a timid and obedient boy but transforms into a sadistic and violent individual. The novel serves as a stark reminder of the corrupting influence of power and the loss of innocence that often accompanies it.

The Importance of Leadership

Golding explores the importance of effective leadership in maintaining order and civilization. Ralph, the elected leader, initially embodies the qualities of a good leader, such as fairness, reason, and a desire for the greater good. However, as the boys descend into savagery, Ralph struggles to maintain control and is eventually overthrown by Jack. This power struggle highlights the dire consequences of weak leadership and the potential for chaos when those in power prioritize their own desires over the well-being of the group.

The Role of Fear

Fear plays a significant role in “Lord of the Flies” as it drives the boys to irrational behavior and violence. The fear of the unknown, represented by the beast, consumes their thoughts and leads to the breakdown of their society. This fear is also exploited by Jack, who uses it to manipulate the other boys and gain power. Golding suggests that fear has the power to corrupt and destroy, highlighting the destructive nature of irrational fear in society.

The Conflict between Civilization and Savagery

The conflict between civilization and savagery is a recurring theme in the novel. Golding presents civilization as a fragile construct that can easily be dismantled by the innate savagery within human beings. This conflict is embodied in the contrasting characters of Ralph and Jack. Ralph represents the forces of civilization, while Jack represents the forces of savagery. The tension between these two forces drives the narrative and ultimately leads to the tragic conclusion of the novel.

The Power of Symbolism

Golding masterfully employs symbolism throughout the novel to convey deeper meanings and themes. The conch shell, for example, symbolizes order and democracy, as it is used to call the boys together and establish rules. The signal fire represents the boys’ desire for rescue and their connection to civilization. The pig’s head, or the “Lord of the Flies,” serves as a symbol of the evil that resides within each individual. These symbols add depth and complexity to the narrative, inviting readers to explore the deeper layers of the story.


In “Lord of the Flies,” William Golding presents a chilling exploration of the dark side of human nature and the fragility of civilization. Through vivid storytelling and powerful symbolism, Golding forces readers to confront the inherent evil that lies within us all. The novel serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the importance of moral principles, effective leadership, and the constant struggle to maintain order in the face of chaos. “Lord of the Flies” is a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers, urging us to examine our own capacity for both good and evil.

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