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Lord of the Flies

William Golding

Chapter 1

Summary Chapter 1

In Chapter 1, the boys, still unsure of how to behave with no adult presence overseeing them, largely stick to the learned behaviors of civilization and order. They attempt to re-create the structures of society on their deserted island: they elect a leader, establish a division of labor, and set about systematically exploring the island. But even at this early stage, we see the danger that the boys’ innate instincts pose to their civilization: the boys cruelly taunt Piggy, and Jack displays a ferocious desire to be elected the group’s leader.

Throughout Lord of the Flies, Golding makes heavy use of symbols to present the themes and dramatic conflicts of the novel. In this chapter, for instance, Golding introduces the bespectacled Piggy as a representative of the scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization. Piggy thinks critically about the conch shell and determines a productive use for it—summoning the other boys to the beach. The conch shell itself is one of the most important symbols in the novel. The conch shell represents law, order, and political legitimacy, as it summons the boys from their scattered positions on the island and grants its holder the right to speak in front of the group. Later in the novel, Golding sharply contrasts the conch shell with another natural object—the sinister pig’s head known as the Lord of the Flies, which comes to symbolize primordial chaos and terror.