William Golding’s adventurous tale about a group of boys marooned on an island is more than an action story. It is a commentary on the darkness that exists in all mankind. The evil in every soul that seeps through when humans are unsupervised, uncivilized and driven to madness.
In the midst of a nuclear war a group of school boys become abandoned on an island when their plane goes down. Without adult supervision they must work together to survive. At first the boys are civilized and choose to elect a leader. A boy of twelve years old, Ralph, is elected. The first day goes rather smoothly and they talk about rescue and what they have to do until then. Ralph is adamant about establishing a smoke signal so a pair of twin boys are assigned the duty to start and watch a signal fire. Another group, the choirboys, elect themselves to become the hunters and provide meat for the group. They are led by a strong willed twelve year old, Jack. Besides these boys there are several younger boys about the age of six known as the littluns. Simon, an enlightened and spiritual boy and Piggy, a scientific thinker, quickly become the counsel for Ralph.
Jack and the hunters become increasingly consumed with killing sows. They even begin painting their faces and tracking the animals. All the boys begin to be fearful of a supposed beast in the jungle. Their fears are further fueled by the arrival of a dead man with a parachute that lands on the top of the mountain. The boys begin to see Jack as a protector and look to him for leadership, some look up to him, some fear him.
Simon, one day while in his hiding place sees the head of a sow mounted on a stake and becomes delusional. He believes the head is talking to him. He decides to make his way up the mountain to investigate the beast. He finds the truth that it is merely a dead man with a parachute, no beast and proceeds to the beach to tell the others who have become complete savages partaking in daily tribal dances and even torture disobedient members. When he arrives at the beach he tries to tell the boys the truth but is mobbed and killed. His body is washed away by the tide. Soon after Jack’s mob grows and includes nearly every boy on the island except for Ralph, Piggy, Sam and Eric and a couple of the littluns.
Jack’s tribe raids Ralph’s camp one night and steals Piggy’s glasses. The next day Ralph approaches them and ask for the glasses back. They kidnap Sam and Eric, kill Piggy and injure Ralph. The following day a manhunt ensues and the tribe chases Ralph with an intent to kill him. Ralph is saved at the feet of a British military officer on the beach who saw the smoke signal from his ship. Ralph breaks down in tears over all that has happened.
Ralph - The main protagonist and elected leader of the boys. He is a twelve year old British pupil and the group’s common sense. Ralph tries to maintain a sense of order, structure and discipline. He represents the civilizing instinct of human beings while Jack represents savagery and evil.
Jack - The antagonist of the novel. One of the older boys and leader of the choir, he easily acquires a following of boys and they become “the hunters”. Jack becomes increasingly dark and disturbed. He is representative of the evil that exists within all men that manifests in uncivilized situations.
Simon - The “enlightened” one. He is the only boy who has a true natural sense of morality. He spends a lot of time alone and is one with nature which lends him to ridicule from the other boys. Simon helps the younger boys and comforts them in their frightful moments. Simon is also the only boy courageous enough to venture to the other side of the mountain to investigate the beast. His death is similar to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Piggy - The “brain”. He is the scientific mind, the rational thinker. Though criticized for his weight, asthma and lack of physical agility Piggy’s bright thinking helps the group create innovative tools and in actuality, survive. Piggy is Ralph right hand man, so his death leaves Ralph alone in the battle against Jack’s savages.
Roger - An oddly secretive and sadistic older boy. He thrives on preying on those younger and weaker. He quickly becomes Jack’s first follower and carries out Jack’s evil wishes.
Sam and Eric - Also known as “samneric”. Twin boys who seem to be one person. They are always together and complete one another’s sentences. They are allies of Ralph and enjoy their duty of keeping the signal fire going. Jack eventually tortures them into joining his tribe.
Through dialogue between Ralph and Piggy it is revealed that a nuclear war of some sort has occurred and these private school boys were being evacuated when their plane when down on this island. Ralph and Piggy make their way out of the jungle to the beach and continue to talk.
Ralph is excited at the thought of having no adults and being on this island alone, he thinks it will be a lot of fun. While going for a swim he finds a conch shell. Piggy tells him he can blow into it and use it as a sort of calling device. He does and slowly more boys aged six to twelve emerge from the jungle.
The boys all meet and choose Ralph as a leader. Ralph appoints Jack and the choirboys the hunters while Piggy is made the administrative assistant of sorts. He has to collect the names of the boys and make a roster. Later Ralph, Simon and Jack tour the island and verify it is uninhabited. They spot a wild baby pig and Jack tries to kill it but misses. He vows he’ll get it next time.
After returning from the excursion around the island Ralph blows the conch to call a meeting. He starts to lay down a few rules but Jack continues to interrupt and then leads a charge up the mountain to start a fire. The fire gets out of control and turns into a forest fire of sorts. Piggy gets upset noting that they should have been more careful and thought more before setting such a large fire where the littluns had been playing. He says they could have killed some of the little boys.
Ralph tries to place the blame on Piggy noting that he should have had a list of the boys done and known where they were. If he had known all of this they wouldn’t have been in danger. No one is really listening, they are all trying not to face reality.
Jack goes out on the hunt again and this time tracks the pigs. He returns unsuccessful and upset at his inability to bring back a kill. Meanwhile Ralph and Simon work on creating sturdy structures. Ralph thinks it is the most important thing that needs to be done and should be everyone’s priority. He is upset because all the boys promised to help but only Simon has done so.
When Jack returns he and Ralph butt heads about what is most important. Simon sneaks away to his secret place in the jungle for some much needed alone time.
The littluns play on the beach and build sandcastles. Two of the older boys, Maurice and Roger return from the jungle and stomp through their sandcastles, destroying them. Jack gets his group together and they paint their faces. He also coerces Sam and Eric into joining him even though they are supposed to stay and tend to the fire.
Ralph spots a boat and is certain they will be rescued because they have had a signal fire going since the first day. But Simon points out that there is no longer smoke rising from the mountainside. Ralph, Piggy and Simon rush up the mountain and find that the fire is out. By the time they get there the boat is no longer in sight.
Later Jack and the hunting group return with a pig carcass. Ralph becomes extremely upset about the fact that they let the fire go out and prevented their rescue. Jack and his hunters gather around the fire pit and reenact the hunt in a celebratory ritual tribe dance.
Ralph calls a meeting and brings up the boys pledge that they were all going to work together and build shelters, keep the fire going and maintain a clean water supply. He then brings up the conversation on everyone’s mind, the beast. Different boys share their opinions. Piggy brings up a rational scientific explanation for the beastie. Simon explains that the beast may really just be a fear that everyone has within them. That the beast is own our fears. Jack says that if there was a so called beast he would have already seen it in his hunting adventures. Jack leads his group into a mutiny and then they continue in a tribal dance on the beach. Simon urges Ralph to call them back to order but Ralph lets them go. Around this time an arguement occurs between Pggy and Jack which results into breakage of one glass of Piggy's specs.
After the events of the group meeting everyone goes to sleep. Meanwhile an aerial battle is going and a dead man floats down onto the island. He lands on the top of the mountain and his parachute is inflated and deflated by the wind. Sam and Eric, on the mountain tending to the fire, see something and hear the sound of the parachute. They flee in terror to Ralph and tell him an exaggerated tale about what they saw.
Ralph decides they need to investigate the one point of the island they haven’t yet visited, a castle like rocky beach point. They all go and the boys play for several hours while Ralph continues to talk about the need to check on the fire.
Ralph dreams about being clean and civilized. Simon seems to read his mind and assures him that someday he will get home. Jack leads the boys in another pig hunt, this time Ralph involved and hit the snout of a pig but does not kill it. The boys then act out a mock hunt but one of the boys becomes hurt in the process. Simon volunteers to cross the island alone to notify Piggy that the others will not return before nightfall. Jack badgers Ralph continually as they search for the beast but both boys are terrified when they see the dead parachute man hanging in the dark.
Jack becomes angry with Ralph because he overhears Ralph tell Piggy that he would run away and not protect anyone if the beast come out. Jack tries to get the group to renounce Ralph as leader but after they refuse he simply runs away into the jungle. Simon wants to go to the mountain to face the beast but no one else cares to join. He leaves and goes to his secret hiding place.
Jack is successful in killing another sow and mounts the head on a stake as an offering to the beast. He then steals fire from the group on the beach. The mounted pig head is right in front of Simon’s concealed spot. He has a siezure, as a result of his epilepsy, and hallucinates that the head is talking to him. Shortly after he passes out. Some of the bigguns follow Jack into the jungle.
Simon wakes up and goes to the beast on the mountain. He inspects the body and realizes what has happened. From the top of the mountain he can see that a storm is coming and he can see the boys on the beach. He heads down the mountain to tell them about his findings. Ralph and Piggy are all alone so they decide to go see what everyone else is up to at Jack’s place on the beach. They are roasting the pig and dancing again in a tribal fashion. Jack makes his claim over all the boys and declares himself the tribe leader. Ralph tries to protest and get the boys to rejoin him, but it’s too late. Simon limps towards the fire pit, but in his weakened state he is reduced to a crawl. He attempts to tell the boys about what he found on the mountain but they overtake him and kill him.
The body of the man with the parachute is lifted off the mountain by the stormy weather and lands in the water. The boys scream and scatter. Simon’s body is washed out to sea by the tide.
Piggy, Ralph and Sam and Eric talk about the previous night’s events. They try to reason that the others killed Simon but find it difficult to come to terms with the fact they were somewhat involved as well. On Jack’s side of the island he becomes an ever increasingly evil leader. He has some of the bigguns tie up one of the boys because the boy was upsetting him. They plan to steal fire from Ralph again but their raid turns into an attack when they find that the fire is no longer burning. Instead the boys steal Piggy’s glasses.
Ralph decides they should go ask Jack for Piggy’s glasses back. They go to ask the tribe and they mock him. Jack tells Ralph to return to his end of the island. Ralph refuses, he wants the glasses back. The tribe grabs Sam and Eric and ties them up. This leads to a fist fight between Ralph and Jack. Piggy grabs the conch and starts a speech to the boys about being rational and using your sense. Roger sets a boulder in motion towards Piggy which knocks him off a cliff to his death. Jack begins to throw spears at Ralph. Ralph is injured but escapes.
Ralph doesn’t want to spend the night alone so he returns to Jack’s side. Sam and Eric warn him that a manhunt is planned for the following day and tell him a place to go stay. In the morning the tribe rolls boulders down to scare him out of the jungle area he slept in. They chase him from one place to another and light fire to the jungle. When it seems like all is lost Ralph runs to the beach and falls at the feet of a British military officer. His boat had seen the smoke from the fire and come to see who was on the island. Ralph and the rest of the children breaks down in tears.