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Lord of the Flies Chapter Summaries
Read our chapter by chapter overview of the novel to get a better understanding of the plot
Chapter One: The Sound of the Shell
Ralph meets Piggy on the island. We learn that their plane has crashed and there are no adults left alive. Despite the scar in the forest caused by the crash, the island seems a good place. But Piggy’s nickname – revealed in confidence to Ralph, who will tell the others – and his fatness and his inescapable “lower” class dialect, remain evident. It is Piggy who knows the truth about the atom bomb and the crash: “Nobody don’t know we’re here.” He also realises the use of the conch to call the survivors together. We meet Jack, leading the choir with military discipline. But Ralph has the conch and is elected leader. He pleases Jack by making him chief of the hunters and the two of them plus Simon explore the island. Ominously they push a rock down into the forest. They find a trapped piglet but at this early stage Jack can’t bring himself to wield the knife.
Chapter Two: Fire on the Mountain
Ralph organises the first meeting and suggests the rule that the conch is passed to whoever wants to speak. He tells them they may be there for a while but “this is a good island,” and “Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.” But one of the small boys mentions a beast he thinks he saw. Ralph’s father is in the Navy and he puts his trust in them being rescued. But they must have a signal fire. They use Piggy’s “specs” but the fire gets out of control. Piggy realises some kids are missing, including the one who “saw” the beast. He is frustrated that they didn’t build shelters first and that no-one will listen to him. Already order is threatened.
Chapter Three: Huts on the Beach
By now Jack, clearly in his element, is naked, hunting in the forest. Ralph, by contrast, is finding that building shelters is almost impossible without real discipline. Jack is overwhelmed by the glamour of the hunt and the two disagree about what matters most. Simon suggests it may not be a good island after all. But at the end of this chapter it is he who seems closest to the spirit of nature.
Chapter Four: Painted Faces and Long Hair
They begin to adjust to the rhythms of the island, especially the “littluns”. Roger, who will later murder Piggy, drops stones around Henry but does not throw them at the younger boy. This shows that, at this point, he is still inhibited by the “old life” – “a civilisation that knew nothing of him and was in ruins” To help kill the pigs Jack and Roger experiment with face paint. They take a step back into mankind’s tribal past. When Ralph spots a ship they realise their signal fire is not giving off smoke. Jack and his hunters have neglected the fire but they return triumphantly with a dead pig chanting “Kill the pig. Cut her throat.” The conflict between Ralph and Jack breaks into the open and Jack strikes Piggy, partly breaking his glasses. Jack asserts his power by deciding who will have meat. They act out the killing of the pig.
Chapter Five: Beast from Water
Ralph calls an assembly. He is feeling the pressures of leadership and realises “I can’t think. Not like Piggy.” He tries to re-assert the importance of the fire and of shelters and sanitation. But he fears: “Things are breaking up.” At this point Jack is insistent that there is no beast, but they are all made uneasy by the idea that it might come from the sea. It is Simon who suggests “maybe it’s only us.” The meeting collapses into chaos. Ralph says the rules are all they’ve got; to which Jack retorts “Bollocks to the rules.” Simon, Piggy and Ralph yearn for adult reassurance – “Then things ‘ud be all right.”
Chapter Six: Beast from Air
A dead parachutist lands on the island, still attached to his harness. Seeing the wind move the figure, Sam and Eric are sure they’ve seen the Beast. Piggy, half blind, is left behind with the littluns. The others set out to hunt the beast. Jack suggests a part of the island where it might be. Simon says that he doesn’t believe in the beast but Ralph goes alone to confront it until Jack joins him. Jack sees this place as a natural fort where his hunters are tempted to play but Ralph insists that they must continue the search.
Essays on Chapters 4, 5 & 6
Chapter Seven: Shadows and Tall Trees
In their search they cross the island and looking at the vastness of the ocean, Ralph doubts that they will ever be rescued. Simon, however, prophesies that Ralph will “get back.” Ralph dreams of home where “everything was good-humoured and friendly.” But even he is excited by the hunting. Missing a pig they mock-hunt Robert, anticipating what will later happen to Simon. When Ralph suggests they must warn Piggy if they’re delayed, Jack’s taunts make him ask: “Why do you hate me?” Jack, Roger and Ralph continue up the mountain in increasing darkness. Seeing the parachutist they are all convinced they’ve seen the Beast – “something like a great ape was sitting asleep...Then the wind roared...and the creature lifted its head.”
Chapter Eight: Gift for the Darkness
Ralph now believes in the Beast. He insults Jack by calling the hunters “Boys armed with sticks.” Jack for once calls a meeting, challenging Ralph’s authority. But the assembly backs Ralph against Jack. Jack runs off in tears. Simon suggests climbing the mountain to face the Beast but no-one is keen. They are happy with Piggy’s idea of building a fire on the beach away from the dreaded mountain. Jack’s band is now separate from the others. They kill a pig in a horrifying way which Roger clearly enjoys. Jack orders them to leave the pig’s head on a stick as an offering to the Beast. Simon sees this... “in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned.” Jack’s band, now naked and painted, raid for fire, inviting anyone to join them. They now call him the Chief. Simon has a kind of fit. He hears the Lord of the Flies telling him: “I’m the reason why it’s no go.”
Chapter Nine: A View to a Death
A storm is building. Simon, recovered from his fit, sees the dead parachutist and realises the truth. He sets out to tell the others. All the other boys, apart from Ralph and Piggy, are feasting with Jack. He gives them meat and “authority sat on his shoulder.” When Ralph tries to re-assert his power Jack leads the others in a frenzied dance, saying “Who’ll join my tribe and have fun?” When Simon comes out of the forest they kill him in a kind of mania, imagining that he is the Beast. Simon’s body, surrounded by the small creatures of the sea, floats away in a Christ-like manner- a prophet whose word was ignored.
Chapter Ten: The Shell and the Glasses
Even Piggy and Ralph were involved in Simon’s death but Piggy insists it was an accident. Jack’s band is now gathered at Castle Rock. Jack’s identity has been completely taken over by the chief’s role, asserting his authority through violence, in absolute command. He even argues that the Beast isn’t really dead, and makes himself their protector. Jack’s gang raid Ralph’s shelter but not for the conch, now irrelevant, but for Piggy’s glasses. They now have total control.
Chapter Eleven: Castle Rock
Piggy, who still puts his trust in reason, sets out with the conch to confront Jack. Ralph and the twins – Samneric – help their half-blind friend. Ralph and Jack fight with spears but not yet with the points. Piggy reminds Ralph why they’ve come. When Samneric are taken prisoner, Piggy tries to use the conch to stop the fighting and make them see reason. He asks: “Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?” The answer comes when Roger levers a huge rock onto Piggy, killing him instantly and smashing the conch. Jack now hurls the spear’s sharp point at Ralph, who flees for his life.
Chapter Twelve: Cry of the Hunters
Ralph finds the pig’s head, which is now only a skull. He shatters it but “its grin [is] now six feet across” – stronger than ever. Ralph learns from Samneric that he is to be hunted the following day and that “Roger [has] sharpened a stick at both ends.” Ralph wakes up to discover that the twins have been tortured and have betrayed him. Jack’s gang surround him in the thicket where he is hidden. When they try to smoke him out, Ralph runs. There is no doubt he would be murdered were it not for the arrival of a naval officer – the first living adult in the story. Through his eyes we see them as children once again – “Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island.” But even “the trim cruiser in the distance” cannot hide what we have learnt of “the darkness of man’s heart.”