You can use these Sparknotes to help you review each of the chapters for the book. There is also a deeper literary analysis of the chapter, what’s happening and characters after each summary.
Symbolism in Lord of the Flies
Understanding symbolism in Lord of the Flies by William Golding deepens one’s appreciation of the novel. Make your teacher think you are really smart by with this top 10 list.
The Top 10 Symbols
1) The Conch – Ralph and Piggy find the conch shortly after landing on the island. It soon becomes the symbol of authority and law and order. The conch is used to call assemblies and only the person holding the conch could speak at the meetings.
Ralph and especially Piggy respected the symbol of the conch until it is smashed to bits by Roger, one of Jack’s followers. The destruction of the conch symbolizes the destruction of what little civilization the boys possessed.
2) Piggy’s Glasses – The glasses symbolized the ability to see and understand things clearly. Piggy is the only boy, besides Jack, who really sees how things should be done. The cracking of the first lens symbolizes the boys losing sight of what they need to do. The glasses are also important in so much as they are needed to start the fire.
3) The Signal Fire – The signal fire symbolizes the boys connection to civilization. The fire, initially, is important in the novel. As the boys grow more savage, the fire becomes less important to them. Jack and the hunters let the fire go out in order to hunt. Ralph’s effort to keep the fire going are consistent but unsuccessful, in the same way his efforts to restore order are unsuccessful.
Golding uses the signal fire to also symbolize hope, something which Jack destroys as the novel progresses. At times the signal fire rages out of control, symbolic of the boys themselves.
4) The Beast – The beast represents the inner savagery of the boys and all mankind. The boys personify it by calling it a giant snake and mistaking a dead parachutist for it. Simon is the only boy who understands that they are all beasts inside.
5) The Lord of the Flies – This is the pig’s head that Jack impales on a wooden stake in sacrifice to the beast. In one chapter Simon believes the Lord of the Flies to speak to him explaining the nature of evil. The Lord of the Flies is both a physical representation of “the beast”, as well as a symbol for Satan himself. “Lord of the Flies” is a literal translation from Hebrew and means Beelzebub.
6) The Dead Parachutist – Piggy looks for a sign from the adult world. He gets it the very same night. Miles above the island, a plane is shot down. A dead man floats onto the island and becomes lodged in rocks and trees. The dead parachutist symbolizes the adult world and its inability to maintain peace. Piggy’s desire to learn civilized behavior from adults goes unfulfilled. The dead man also becomes the beast.
7) The Plane Crash – The plane crash symbolizes the breakdown of modern society. The boys leave England to get away from the war and are shot down by the enemy.
8) The Scar – The scar left by the plane crash, symbolizes the damaging encroachment of humans in paradise. The vivid imagery that Golding uses to describe how the scar smashes into the jungle illustrates the affect humans have on the earth and how devastating man can be.
9) The Island – The island symbolizes the Garden of Eden before the arrival of the boys. After the boys arrive it becomes corrupted and destroyed.
10) The Boys – The boys also stand as symbols: Simon represents goodness; Ralph and Piggy symbolize law and order; Jack and Roger stand for evil; The big kids represent the ruling classes; and the littluns symbolize common folk.
Characters in Lord of the Flies
written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/20/2012
- Piggy – in Lord of the Flies, Piggy represents civilization. He tries to figure things out logically and scientifically. He wants more than anybody else to be rescued. His physical ailments–asthma, poor eyesight, and obesity–make him the least suitable of all the characters in Lord of the Flies to survive on the island. From the beginning of the adventure, Piggy is an object of derision and scorn from all the boys, especially Jack. As the novel progresses, he becomes a trusted advisor to Ralph. His glasses are valuable for starting fire and become an important possession after the tribe splits.
- Samneric – Samneric are actually two boys, twins. Other than Piggy and the littluns, they are the only boys that stay with Ralph. The twins let the fire go out when the boat passes in chapter 4 and were the first to report the sighting of “the beast” in chapter 6. Their presence serves as comic relief–beating each other up in the dark during the hunters’ raid in chapter 10, for example. In chapter 11, they are taken by Jack’s tribe, tied up, and possibly tortured. Even though they sympathize with Ralph, they are coerced into giving away his location during the final hunt.
- The Leaders Ralph – Elected chief soon after the boys’ plane crashes on the island, Ralph struggles to maintain order. He understands things the other boys do not: the need to keep the rescue fire going, the necessity of building huts, and the need for work. Ralph tires of having to think like an adult and the other boys rebel. Ralph senses himself, at times, falling into the same savagery as the others. By the end, Ralph stands alone as his friend Piggy is murdered and the twins are captured.
- Jack Merridew – Jack is the militant choir leader turned savage hunter. He is angry about losing the election to Ralph and never being able to unseat him “legally.” Jack turns savage, living only for the hunt. He cares little about being rescued. He eventually leads off most of the tribe because of his ability to provide meat. After becoming the de facto chief, Jack rules without mercy. He and his hunters are responsible for Simon and Piggy’s death.
- Minor Characters Simon – The strangest of the boys, Simon is extremely shy and unable to communicate the truth about the island, the beast, and human nature. He is kind. He picks fruit for the littluns and gives Piggy meat. He enjoys wandering off by himself. In chapter 7, he goes to find out the truth about the beast. He sees a pig’s head on a stick that Jack had left for the beast and hallucinates (probably brought on by dehydration) that the pig’s head is talking to him. Simon awakes and discovers the beast is actually a dead parachutist and resolves to inform the others. As he wanders out of the jungle, the other boys, acting out the pig hunt, surround him and kill him.
- Roger – The antithesis of Simon, Roger is pure evil, a bully who quickly loses his sense of right and wrong. He becomes Jack’s assistant after the tribe splits. He apparently is in charge of torture and punishment. His last duty is to sharpen a stick at both ends, to be used on Ralph after he is hunted down.
- Maurice – a hunter who sides with Jack.
- Percival – a littlun who has a mental breakdown.
- Mulberry Littlun – Percival’s brother, killed in chapter two by an out of control fire.
- Littluns – a generic name given to the stranded children six-years-old and under.
- The Beast – The beast is an imaginary snake that comes out of the forest at night, according to the littluns. He’s a dead parachutist caught in the rocks and trees. He’s the evil that lurks in the human consciousness, according to Simon.
- The Lord of the Flies – Appearing only briefly, The Lord of the Flies is a pig’s head on a stick, whose guts attract flies. It is set there by Jack as a sacrifice to the beast. The Lord of the Flies is another name for Beelzebub, the Hebrew term for devil. Simon hallucinates that the pig is speaking to him. Hint: since the title of the novel is Lord of the Flies and the Lord of the Flies appears briefly, there’s a good chance that what it says is the key to understanding the novel.