The protagonist of the story, Ralph is one of the oldest boys on the island. He quickly becomes the group’s leader. Golding describes Ralph as tall for his age and handsome, and he presides over the other boys with a natural sense of authority. Although he lacks Piggy’s overt intelligence, Ralph is calm and rational, with sound judgment and a strong moral sensibility. But he is susceptible to the same instinctive influences that affect the other boys, as demonstrated by his contribution to Simon’s death. Nevertheless, Ralph remains the most civilized character throughout the novel. With his strong commitment to justice and equality, Ralph represents the political tradition of liberal democracy.
Although pudgy, awkward, and averse to physical labor because he suffers from asthma, Piggy–who dislikes his nickname–is the intellectual on the island. Though he is an outsider among the other boys, Piggy is eventually accepted by them, albeit grudgingly, when they discover that his glasses can be used to ignite fires. Piggy’s intellectual talent endears him to Ralph in particular, who comes to admire and respect him for his clear focus on securing their rescue from the island. Piggy is dedicated to the ideal of civilization and consistently reprimands the other boys for behaving as savages. His continual clashes with the group culminate when Roger murders Piggy by dropping a rock on him, an act that signals the triumph of brute instinct over civilized order. Intellectual, sensitive, and conscientious, Piggy represents culture within the democratic system embodied by Ralph. Piggy’s nickname symbolically connects him to the pigs on the island, who quickly become the targets of Jack’s and his hunters’ bloodlust–an association that foreshadows his murder.
The leader of a boys’ choir, Jack exemplifies militarism as it borders on authoritarianism. He is cruel and sadistic, preoccupied with hunting and killing pigs. His sadism intensifies throughout the novel, and he eventually turns cruelly on the other boys. Jack feigns an interest in the rules of order established on the island, but only if they allow him to inflict punishment. Jack represents anarchy. His rejection of Ralph’s imposed order–and the bloody results of this act–indicate the danger inherent in an anarchic system based only on self-interest.
The most introspective character in the novel, Simon has a deep affinity with nature and often walks alone in the jungle. While Piggy represents the cultural and Ralph the political and moral facets of civilization, Simon represents the spiritual side of human nature. Like Piggy, Simon is an outcast: the other boys think of him as odd and perhaps insane. It is Simon who finds the beast. When he attempts to tell the group that it is only a dead pilot, the boys, under the impression that he is the beast, murder him in a panic. Golding frequently suggests that Simon is a Christ-figure whose death is a kind of martyrdom. His name, which means “he whom God has heard,” indicates the depth of his spirituality and centrality to the novel’s Judeo-Christian allegory.
Sam and Eric
The twins are the only boys who remain with Ralph and Piggy to tend to the fire after the others abandon Ralph for Jack’s tribe. The others consider the two boys as a single individual, and Golding preserves this perception by combining their individual names into one (“Samneric”). Here one might find suggestions about individualism and human uniqueness.
One of the hunters and the guard at the castle rock fortress, Roger is Jack’s equal in cruelty. Even before the hunters devolve into savagery, Roger is boorish and crude, kicking down sand castles and throwing sand at others. After the other boys lose all idea of civilization, it is Roger who murders Piggy.
During the hunters’ “Kill the pig” chant, Maurice, who is one of Jack’s hunters, pretends to be a pig while the others pretend to slaughter him. When the hunters kill a pig, Jack smears blood on Maurice’s face. Maurice represents the mindless masses.
One of the smallest boys on the island, Percival often attempts to comfort himself by repeating his name and address as a memory of home life. He becomes increasingly hysterical over the course of the novel and requires comforting by the older boys. Percival represents the domestic or familial aspects of civilization; his inability to remember his name and address upon the boys’ rescue indicates the erosion of domestic impulse with the overturning of democratic order. Note also that in the literary tradition, Percival was one of the Knights of the Round Table who went in search of the Holy Grail.
A dead pilot whom Simon discovers in the forest. The other boys mistake him as a nefarious supernatural omen, “The Beast.” They attempt to appease his spirit with The Lord of the Flies.
The Lord of the Flies
The pig’s head that Jack impales on a stick as an offering to “The Beast.” The boys call the offering “The Lord of the Flies,” which in Judeo-Christian mythology refers to Beelzebub, an incarnation of Satan. In the novel, The Lord of the Flies functions totemically; it represents the savagery and amorality of Jack’s tribe.
The naval officer appears in the final scene of the novel, when Ralph encounters him on the beach. He tells Ralph that his ship decided to inspect the island upon seeing a lot of smoke (the outcome of the forest fire that Jack and his tribe had set in the hopes of driving Ralph out of hiding). His naivete about the boys’ violent conflict–he believes they are playing a game–underscores the tragedy of the situation on the island. His status as a soldier reminds the reader that the boys’ behavior is just a more primitive form of the aggressive and frequently fatal conflicts that characterize adult civilization.
- “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding…summary for Waec/neco Literature Exams (50) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Background to “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding (51) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)