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Lord of the Flies

William Golding
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Lord of the Flies

author  William Golding

type of work  Novel

genre  Allegory; dystopian fiction

language  English

time and place written  Early 1950s; Salisbury, England

date of first publication  1954

publisher  Faber and Faber

narrator  The story is told by an anonymous third-person narrator who conveys the events of the novel without commenting on the action or intruding into the story.

point of view  The narrator speaks in the third person, primarily focusing on Ralph’s point of view but following Jack and Simon in certain episodes. The narrator is omniscient and gives us access to the characters’ inner thoughts.

tone  Dark; violent; pessimistic; tragic; unsparing

tense  Immediate past

setting (time)  Near future

setting (place)  A deserted tropical island

protagonist  Ralph

major conflict Free from the rules that adult society formerly imposed on them, the boys marooned on the island struggle with the conflicting human instincts that exist within each of them—the instinct to work toward civilization and order and the instinct to descend into savagery, violence, and chaos.

rising action The boys assemble on the beach. In the election for leader, Ralph defeats Jack, who is furious when he loses. As the boys explore the island, tension grows between Jack, who is interested only in hunting, and Ralph, who believes most of the boys’ efforts should go toward building shelters and maintaining a signal fire. When rumors surface that there is some sort of beast living on the island, the boys grow fearful, and the group begins to divide into two camps supporting Ralph and Jack, respectively. Ultimately, Jack forms a new tribe altogether, fully immersing himself in the savagery of the hunt.

climax  Simon encounters the Lord of the Flies in the forest glade and realizes that the beast is not a physical entity but rather something that exists within each boy on the island. When Simon tries to approach the other boys and convey this message to them, they fall on him and kill him savagely.

falling action Virtually all the boys on the island abandon Ralph and Piggy and descend further into savagery and chaos. When the other boys kill Piggy and destroy the conch shell, Ralph flees from Jack’s tribe and encounters the naval officer on the beach.

themes  Civilization vs. savagery; the loss of innocence; innate human evil

motifs  Biblical parallels; natural beauty; the bullying of the weak by the strong; the outward trappings of savagery (face paint, spears, totems, chants)

symbols  The conch shell; Piggy’s glasses; the signal fire; the beast; the Lord of the Flies; Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Roger

foreshadowing  Piggy’s death is foreshadowed by his physical frailty and dependence on his glasses; fire as a source of conflict is foreshadowed by the first fire the boys set on the island; the boys’ eventual rescue is foreshadowed by references to civilization and Simon’s prediction.