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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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Ralph allows himself to be one of Jack's followers. He is struggling with his role as leader, trying to hang on to it, wanting to let go when Simon makes his prophecy. Ralph gives in to the lust for blood and later sees the beast.

Golding brings us close to Ralph, as though we were thinking his thoughts, stumbling along behind Jack, feeling the forest. He distracts himself with thoughts of cleaning himself, "his toilet." Ralph has made a complete circle in his thinking: Civilization is now the dream, not freedom from it.

All the boys are dirty, not from playing but because they're cut off from the civilizing effects of the world. Their clothing is mostly gone, only tattered pieces remaining to remind them of the past, and filth has become an accepted part of their life. Ralph realizes that he is giving in to the jungle. "He discovered with a little fall of the heart that these were the conditions he took as normal now and that he did not mind."

Ralph's values have adjusted themselves once again. Ralph is discovering he can no longer stand to be isolated from the civilized world and also be set apart from his group. As a human being, he needs the comfort and friendship of the other boys. Without the world he has always known to sustain him, he cannot bear being cut off from his peers. He cannot sustain himself.

Loneliness and the fear of isolation are common human experiences. How often do you do something with your friends, something you would never consider doing alone, just to be with them? These are natural feelings for people of all ages.

The side of the island the boys are exploring differs from the area where the lagoon and the shelters are. "The filmy enchantments of mirage could not endure the cold ocean water and the horizon was hard, clipped blue." The area where the boys live is equated with home and safety-what they long for- but on this side of the island Ralph can't hang on to his illusions of leadership. It's too hard and too lonely, and he feels "numbed" by the indifference of nature to human beings. The sea with its rising and falling tides is vast; if it happens to destroy man in its wake, the sea does not care. It is a moving, living force that has no feelings, does not mind whether Ralph or anyone else lives or dies. "Faced by the brute obtuseness of the ocean, the miles of division, one was clamped down, one was helpless, one was condemned."

Into Ralph's moment of despair Simon whispers like a spirit, "You'll get back to where you came from." Ralph still has the ocean in mind ("It's so big"), but he is struggling with his own smallness, his limited ability to act as leader.

The irony in what Simon appears to be saying prompts Ralph to respond in kind: "Got a ship in your pocket?" Because he has come so far from the person he used to be, Ralph can't fathom getting home again. He's too overwhelmed by the indifference of the world about him, too lost-in a spiritual sense-to find his way back. Simon's statement is prophetic, and his spiritual nature encourages us to believe what he says.


Some critics argue that Lord of the Flies is a fable; others deny this strongly. A fable is a tale in which the characters represent ideas and the events point toward a moral. In a fable we don't usually care much about the characters because they are representations rather than real people. Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare" tells us something about competition; we don't worry how the hare felt after losing the race. But we do care about the characters in Lord of the Flies, for they are believable people. In that sense, then, the book is not a fable.

However, each of the boys comes to represent something more than just himself. Some readers interpret the story from a political point of view: Ralph represents democratic power, Jack is totalitarian power, and Simon is religion. Another critic may find that the characters stand for psychological concepts. Still others may see the tale in terms of religion, as a battle between good and evil. You may agree or disagree with any of these theories, and you may well discover an entirely different way to understand Lord of the Flies.

The important thing is that you notice your own reactions as you read. The boys on the island seem to be reflections of other things we know about. Their plight is ours, and what happens to them will somehow affect us; they offer us insights and ideas about ourselves. If you find this to be true, you may begin to see the events of the story taking on a significance beyond the story itself. In this way Lord of the Flies is like a fable, because of the meaning the characters and events take on.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary

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