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Taking place during World War II, a plane full of English schoolboys crashes and the boys that survive swim to the shore of a nearby island. At first the boys have good intentions. They have decided to keep a fire going so that someone can see the smoke and rescue them, however because of lack of interest, the good intentions that some of the boys had, were quickly put aside for more exciting things. The hunting of a pig slowly began to take over the boys life, and the first sign of a major change in the minds of the boys comes from Jack, the elected leader of the hunters, after he can no longer live with himself, because he could not bring himself to slaughter the first pig he comes across. Soon the leader of the whole group, Ralph, is forced to split everyone up into separate groups because a ship doesn't spot the signal fire that Jack and his hunters neglected to replenish while off making their first kill. This causes the first separation of power in the book, because Ralph finds that no one is willing to stick to the tasks that he has assigned.
The first sign of symbolism in the book is when one of the little boys, also known as the littluns, tells the group that he saw "A snake-thing. Ever so big" (p 35). This puts the group into an uproar about how some sort of beast is lurking on the island. Being the leader, Ralph tries to calm everybody down by saying "he must have had a nightmare" (p 36), but Jack just has to pop in stating that "if there was a snake we'd hunt it and kill it. We'll make sure when we go hunting" (p 37). The beast ends up playing a major role in the novel. It is as though the idea that some sort of beast is on the island, has taken over control of the boy's minds. They become so overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty, that the older boys change their fears into hatred towards the other boys, especially the littluns.
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One night, an air battle is going on and a dead paratrooper falls from the sky and lands next to the signal fire where Sam and Eric have fallen asleep. When they wake up, they are terrified by the shadows and noises caused by the paratrooper. They then came running down to the beach claiming "we saw the beast" (p 99). A team of explorers are sent out the next day to search for the beast. The explorers, led by Ralph and Jack, set out to find the beast. While on their hunt, the boys come across pig droppings, and decide that it would be great to have meat. They track down the pig, and even Ralph is immense with excitement brought on by the hunt. He even throws his spear at the pig and hits it in the snout. The pig manages to run off, and the boys fail to kill it. Caught up in the excitement of the hunt, they decide to play a game where one of the boys in the group is the pig, and they will be trying to kill him. While on his hands and knees playing the role of the wild boar, Robert is nearly killed by the other boys, who have seem to have forgotten that it was only a game, not an actual hunt. Robert who has been hurt by the boys game suggests, "You need a real pig because you've got to kill him" (p 115). Jack shows signs of savagery when he suggests that "[we could use a littlun" (p 115). By playing this deadly little game, and laughing at Jack's cruel suggestion that they use a littlun the next time, the boys have obviously lost all sense of reality, and of what's right and wrong.
During the night of the boy's search for the beast, Jack claims to have seen it. The following morning he calls a meeting and lets everyone know that there is really a beast. He also calls Ralph a coward, and suggests that they remove him from his leadership position. The rest of the boys don't go for that, and because of this, Jack informs the group, "I'm not going to be a part of Ralph's lot I'm going off by myself. Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too" (p 127). This pretty much destroys any order and authority that Ralph had on the group, and leaves him in a depression. Ralph's closest companion, Piggy, cheers him up by suggesting they build a new signal fire on the beach. During the night some of the boys who stay with Ralph run off, and join Jack.
Jack's group kills a huge pig, and stick it's head on a post, "the head is for the beast. It's a gift" (p 137). Perhaps one of the most significant parts of the story happens next, in that one of the boys, Simon, who seems to be one with nature, wanders off, and comes across the pig's head in a clearing. He sits, mesmerized by the sight of the head, and it actually speaks to him as The Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Flies tells him "I'm the Beast. Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!" (p143). Simon passes out after having this discussion with the Lord of the Flies. When he awakens, he stumbles up the mountain and discovers the dead parachutist. Knowing that this what the other boys have mistaken for the beast, he is eager to let them know about his find.
Back at Jack's new camp, all of the boys including Ralph and his followers, are feasting on the pig that the others killed. The boys in Jack's group are dancing wildly around their fire, during the cookout. They even start their little game again, and reenact their hunt of the pig. Even Ralph and his group find themselves caught up in the excitement. During the chanting and wild dancing, "A thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly" (p 152). This thing of course, was Simon, but all of the boys are too caught up in acting like savages, that they don't even recognize him. Assuming that the shadowy figure of Simon is the Beast, all of the boys surround him, and begin destroying him. "There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws" (p 153), and it isn't until the boys decide that the Beast has been killed that they back off and realize that it was Simon they had killed during these outbursts and from this act of pure savagery, what little humanity the boys had left, was now gone.
After Simon has been killed, most of the boys are immense with guilt and shame, and Piggy kept repeating "It was an accident" (p 157). Back at Jack's camp, they are planning an attack on the others. The objective of this raid is to steal Piggy's glasses, which are what they have been using to make fire. The raid was a success and now Jack can control fire, which in turn gives him all the power on the island. Without Piggy's glasses, any hopes of lighting a signal fire have been destroyed. They decide that their only choice is to go to Castle Rock to make Jack's tribe see the light, because without his glasses, Piggy is almost blind. They set out for Castle Rock, and once they arrive they are met by guards who begin throwing rocks at them. Ralph blows the Conch, and Jack and some hunters come out from the forest. Ralph demands that Jack gives Piggy his glasses back, but Jack doesn't go for that and attacks Ralph. Ralph struggles to make Jack understand the importance of the glasses, as it is their only chance of lighting another signal fire. Jack doesn't seem to care, and orders his hunters to capture two of the boys with Ralph and tie them up. This causes Ralph to start up another fight with Jack, and as they fight Piggy stands up to try once more to get the boys to understand the importance of the fire. Just as he is trying to speak, Roger shoves a massive rock down the mountain slope, and it crushes Piggy. Jack then throws his spear at Ralph, but he manages to run off into the jungle. This has been yet another one of those savage outbursts, brought on only by Jack's desire for power and authority. The other boys just seem to be fueled by the examples that Jack sets.
Ralph hides, he is not far from the Castle Rock. He crawls to the lookout near Castle Rock and calls to two of his former companions. They give him a chunk of meat and tell him that Roger has sharpened a stick at both ends, but Ralph cannot attach a meaning to this. Ralph crawls away and hides in a thicket where he can safely sleep. When he awakes he can hear Jack and Roger outside the thicket. They are trying to find out where Ralph is hiding. Ralph finally runs away, not knowing what he should do. He decides to hide again, then realizes that Jack and his boys are setting the island on fire to smoke him out. Ralph rushes toward the beach, where he finds a naval officer. His ship saw the smoke from the blazing jungle and came to the island. The other boys begin to appear from the forest. Ralph says that he is boss, and the officer asks how many there are. He scolds them for not knowing exactly how many there are and for not being organized, as the English are supposed to be. Ralph says that "it was like that at first" (p 202). Ralph begins to weep for the first time on the island. He weeps for "the end of innocence and the darkness of man's heart" (p 202), and for the death of Piggy. The officer turns away, embarrassed, "to give them time to pull themselves together" (p 202).
Through the hard days and nights that the boys endured, there were many tremendous acts of hatred and savagery. Perhaps the most ironic part of the novel came at the end, when the boys were only rescued because Jack's bloodlust led him to set fire to the entire island, which in turn got them rescued, not the ever so important signal fire that Ralph had based all of his efforts around while stranded on the island. Inside of us all lies many signs of evil, hatred and savagery, which if given a chance to, can show up without you even knowing it.