A plane evacuating a party of English boys from a nuclear war in Britain is
shot down over a deserted tropical island.
Stranded, the boys decide to elect a leader and to find a way to be rescued. They choose Ralph because he has a certain charisma and with the aid of Piggy impressed them by using a conch shell to call the first assembly.
Jack was the main opposition to Ralph, being the leader of the choirboys,
and Ralph shows his diplomatic skills by making Jack responsible for hunting and maintaining the signal fire at the top of the island.
The group is roughly divided into boys of around the age of six who are
called littluns, and biguns who are aged between ten and twelve.
Ralph’s aim is to form a society similar to the one they have left behind
and at an early date he establishes rules regarding the conduct of meetings, shelters, fresh water and latrines.
Ralph, Jack and Simon set off on an expedition to explore the island.
When they return, they decide on the best position for a signal fire, and they use Piggy’s glasses as a means of lighting the fire. However, many of the boys only wish to play and they use the excuse of
hunting in order to avoid the building of shelters and the gathering of fresh water.
On one occasion the signal fire is not watched and it burns out of control igniting the forest, which results in one of the littluns being burned to death.
So far the hunters have failed to catch a pig, and many of them are being
absorbed by the bloodlust of the hunt.
After a few days a ship is seen passing on the horizon and Ralph and Piggy realize that the signal fire has burned out. Furious, Ralph confronts Jack, but the hunter has just returned with his first pig and all the boys are gripped with a strange frenzy, dancing and re-enacting the pursuit of the pig. Piggy criticizes them for being immature and Jack slaps him across the face, breaking one of his lenses.
Ralph becomes increasingly concerned at the lack of discipline and using the
conch shell, he calls another meeting.
He vents his anger on the boys in an attempt to restore discipline. One of the littluns, who are all troubled by recurring nightmares, says he has seen a beast lurking on the island. The bigger boys try to placate him, saying that if such a beast did exist they would have seen it during the daytime hunts, but the littlun responds by saying that the beast lives in the sea during the day. This sows a seed of doubt for all the boys, which is to grow to dramatic proportions as the novel progresses. The fear that the boys have for this mythical beast roaming the island is the catalyst, which ignites the power struggle between Ralph and Jack, between civilization and the primitive, savage world.
One night the nuclear war comes close to the island and one of its
casualties, a parachutist, floats down, coming to rest on the mountaintop.
His parachute is snagged and as the wind inflates the canopy, it causes his body to rise and fall. The signal firewatchers awake to see this terrifying sight and they rush down from the mountain to tell the rest of the boys that the beast does exist and it has not been imagined by the littluns.
As a result of the chaos, which ensues, Jack starts to form his own
As he now seems the best person to lead them in their fight against the beast, he ends up with most of the boys following him with the exception of Piggy, Simon, Samneric and a few littluns who stay loyal to Ralph. It is easy to see the attraction, which Jack offers, getting to hunt pigs, wearing camouflage face paint made up of clay and charcoal and performing frenzied tribal dances. Jack soon has them out on a hunting party and they find an easy prey in a sow suckling her young, which the tribe slaughter and mutilate placing the pig’s head on a stake which provides their tribe with an idol to worship, and also a symbol to placate the beast. This idol becomes the Lord of the Flies and has been positioned outside Simon’s hiding place who is suffering from hallucinations and thinks that the pig’s head is speaking to him, warning him not to spoil the fun which is to be had on the island.
Simon is the only boy who has the courage to go back up the mountain and
find out the true nature of the beast, and he discovers the truth.
He realizes that the beast, which they are all frightened off, is not a creature lurking in the jungle, but a primordial, evil buried in everyone’s sub-conscious. Exhausted, Simon decides to go back to Jack’s camp to tell them the truth, but they mistake him for the beast in disguise and brutally murder him.
There are now only a handful of boys in Ralph’s camp, but they have the
ability to make fire, whereas Jack’s group have to steal burning branches in order to have a pig roast.
When Ralph decides to let the fire burn out, Jack’s tribe raid Ralph’s party and steal Piggy’s glasses. When Ralph confronts Jack and his tribe in an attempt to obtain the glasses back so that they can maintain the signal fire, Piggy is killed and the conch he is holding is smashed, the last symbol of civilization on the island. Jack, leaving Ralph to fend for himself on the island, captures the rest of the boys.
Roger, Jack’s lieutenant tortures Samneric in order to persuade them to join
Jack’s tribe. He was also the one responsible for the death of Piggy and the tribe is now held together by fear, not just of the beast, but also from Jack, Roger and the oldest boys.
Jack decides to mount a manhunt to track down and kill Ralph and they set
light to the jungle in order to flush him out.
The smoke that this generates attracts a passing ship and a British Naval Officer, who is amused to see the boys having such fun, playing like primitive cavemen, saves Ralph from certain death.
Ralph breaks down when he considers what has happened to them
all since they were marooned.