Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies Video

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Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

Video Transcript:

Lord of the Flies begins when a plane carrying a group of British schoolboys is shot down over the Pacific Ocean during an atomic war. The pilot is killed, but many of the boys survive, deserted on an uninhabited island without adult supervision. The boys discover food and fire. They craft tools and form political and social systems. However, their brutal instincts eventually devolve into savagery and violence. Their challenges for control demonstrate the struggles for power between democratic and authoritarian political systems.

• Ralph is the protagonist of the story and the elected leader of the boys. He is a handsome, confident, and calm twelve year old. He represents the political and moral tradition of liberal democracy, trying to protect the group of boys from nature and their base instincts.

• Ralph’s friend, Piggy, is a pudgy and awkward asthmatic boy with glasses who shows keen intelligence. Piggy detests physical labor, embodying intellectualism and culture within the democratic system that Ralph represents.

• Jack is aggressive, cruel, and sadistic, exemplifying militarism under authoritarianism. Once the leader of the boys’ choir, he turns the choir boys into hunters, seeking to conquer and control nature through violence.

• Simon has a deep affinity with nature and often walks alone in the jungle. Like Piggy, he is an outcast. He represents the spiritual side of humanity.

• Sam and Eric are identical twins. The others consider them the same person and combine their names into one name: "Samneric." They embody the struggle for individualism and human uniqueness.

• Roger is boorish and cruel like Jack, and enjoys hurting others.

• Maurice relishes the ritual of hunting and epitomizes the mindless masses within a militant society.

• Percival is one of the smallest boys on the island. His character is an example of the weak members of society that a successful democracy strives to protect.

The novel opens with Ralph climbing out of plane wreckage searching for survivors on a beach. He finds others like himself and they elect him as their chief. Ralph, Simon, and Jack explore the island and search for food. Jack shows early signs of violent behavior when he tries to kill a wild piglet, but balks before he can actually stab it.

Ralph calls a meeting with all the boys to set rules of order. Jack agrees with his edict because rules are an opportunity to inflict control and punishment. They all agree to use a conch shell, which authorizes its holder to speak and is available to all. Ralph instructs the boys to build a fire on the mountaintop to signal their presence to any passing ships. Piggy proves essential when his glasses are used to start the fire.

The boys soon settle into a daily pattern on the island, showing decency toward one another. Jack and his choir-boys-turned hunters try to hunt pigs, unconcerned with their long-term survival. Ralph orchestrates the building of shelters. The youngest of the boys, known generally as the "littluns," spend most of the day searching for fruit to eat and are in constant fear of an imaginary beast. Piggy, who is viewed as an outsider among the boys, considers building a sundial. Simon, the only boy who has consistently helped Ralph, enjoys walking around the jungle alone where he finds a serene open space with aromatic bushes and flowers.

A ship passes by the island but doesn’t stop, perhaps because the fire has burned out. Piggy blames Jack for letting the fire die, for he and his hunters have been preoccupied with killing a pig at the expense of their duty. Jack punches Piggy, breaking one lens of his glasses, and his hunters chant, "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in." They perform a ritualistic dance in which Maurice pretends to be a pig and the others pretend to attack him.

Ralph becomes concerned by the irresponsible behavior of Jack and his hunters and begins to appreciate Piggy's maturity. He calls an assembly and criticizes the boys for not assisting with the shelters and not maintaining the fire on the mountaintop. The “littluns” express their fears of an imaginary beast but Ralph attempts to demystify the question of the “beastie.” Jack then decides to abandon established rules and to lead an expedition to hunt the beast, leaving only Ralph, Piggy and Simon behind. Piggy warns Ralph that if Jack becomes chief, the boys will never be rescued.

That night, during an aerial battle, a pilot parachutes down to the island. The next morning, as the twins Sam and Eric are adding kindling to the fire, they spot the dead pilot and mistake him for the beast. When they alert the others, Jack calls for a hunt. Ralph decides to join the expedition to find the beast, despite his wish to rekindle the fire on the mountaintop.

The next morning, the boys gather on the beach to discuss what the hunters saw. Piggy remains skeptical that there actually is a beast. Ralph dismisses the hunters as boys with sticks, but Jack accuses him of calling his hunters cowards. Jack attempts to assert control, calling for Ralph's removal as chief, but when Ralph retains the support of the other boys Jack runs away, crying.

Piggy tells the group that they are better off without Jack. If the beast prevents them from getting to the mountaintop, he says, they should build a fire on the beach. Simon leaves to sit in the open space that he found earlier. Far off along the beach, Jack claims that he will be the chief of the hunters; he will lead them to Castle Rock where they will build a fort and have a feast.

The hunters kill a pig, and Jack smears the blood over Maurice's face. They then cut off the head and leave it on a stake as an offering for the beast. The pig’s head is a symbol of the lawlessness and violence that motivates Jack's desire for power. Jack lures the other boys with hunting and meat and all of them, except for Ralph and Piggy, join him.

Meanwhile, Simon finds the pig's head that the hunters had left. He dubs it The Lord of the Flies because of the insects that swarm around it. He believes that it speaks to him, telling him how foolish he is and that the other boys think he is insane. Simon falls down and loses consciousness, then wakes up. He wanders around to find the dead pilot that the boys perceived to be the beast and realizes what it actually is. He throws up in disgust, then rushes down the mountain to alert the other boys.

Ralph and Piggy search for the other boys to check on them. When they find Jack, Ralph and Jack argue over who will be chief. When Piggy claims that he gets to speak because he has the conch, Jack tells him that the conch does not count on his side of the island. As a storm begins, Simon rushes from the forest, telling them about the dead body on the mountain. All of the boys mistake him for the beast and kill him.

The next day, Ralph and Piggy discuss Simon's death. They both took part in the murder, but now attempt to justify their behavior as motivated by fear and instinct. The only four boys who are not part of Jack's tribe are Ralph and Piggy and the twins, Sam and Eric, who help tend to the fire relocated from the mountaintop to the beach.

Jack now rules over the other boys with the trappings of an idol at his newly established camp at Castle Rock. He has kept one boy tied up, and he instills fear in the other boys by warning them about the beast and intruders. Meanwhile, Ralph, Piggy, Sam and Eric struggle to keep the fire going. During the night, the hunters raid the shelters and attack the four boys, who fight them off but suffer considerable injuries. Piggy learns the purpose of the attack: they came to steal his glasses.

After the attack, the four boys decide to go to Castle Rock to appeal to Jack as civilized people, dressed in their schoolboy clothes. When they reach Castle Rock, Ralph uses the conch, trying to establish the old order. Jack, fresh from hunting, refuses to listen to Ralph's appeals to justice. Ralph calls the boys painted fools and defends himself with a spear when Jack attacks him with his own.

Jack takes Sam and Eric as prisoners and orders them to be tied up. Piggy asks if they would rather have rules and peaceful agreement or be able only to hunt and kill, but Percival tips a rock over on Piggy, causing Piggy to fall down the mountain to the beach. The impact kills him and, to the delight of Jack, shatters the conch shell. Jack declares himself chief and hurls his spear at Ralph, who runs away injured.

Ralph hides near Castle Rock, where he can see the other boys, whom he no longer recognizes as civilized British boys, but as savages. He crawls to Jack’s camp, where Sam and Eric are now stationed as guards, and they give him some meat and urge him to leave. While Ralph hides, the other boys roll rocks down the mountain. Ralph realizes they are hunting him and setting the forest on fire in order to smoke him out and destroy whatever fruit is left.

As the boys close in on him with spears, Ralph finally collapses on the beach where a naval officer has arrived with his ship. The officer tells Ralph he saw the smoke from the ship and decided to investigate the island. He thinks that the boys have only been playing games, and he scolds them for not behaving like respectable British boys. As they prepare to leave the island for home, Ralph weeps for the death of Piggy and for the end of the boys' innocence. All of the other boys begin to cry as well.