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Lord of the flies by William Golding

Lord of the flies (original 1954; edition 1975)

by William Golding, E.L. Epstein (Foreword)

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30,00845730 (3.74)1 / 750
Title:Lord of the flies
Authors:William Golding
Other authors:E.L. Epstein (Foreword)
Info:Aeonian Press (1975), 190 p.
Collections:Your library
Tags:Inkish literature

Work details

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

1950s (11)
1960s (95)
Unread books (1,055)
  1. 153
    Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (JGKC, Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: Two books that explore the survival instinct of people, even at youg age, as fueled by fear and lust for violence
  2. 136
    The Giver by Lois Lowry (FFortuna)
  3. 60
    High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (bertilak)
    bertilak: Two books about 'civilized' people becoming tribal and violent. However, Ballard is a disinterested diagnostician and Golding is a moralist.
  4. 60
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (literarybuff)
    literarybuff: Both of these books are allegories that make the reader question whether or not there really are differences between animal nature and human nature.
  5. 82
    The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (KayCliff)
  6. 51
    A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: Similar outlook on youth but a lot funnier and great description of a hurricane that plays the same role as the nuclear holacaust in Lord.
  7. 52
    Robinson Crusoe [Norton Critical Edition] by Daniel Defoe (one-horse.library)
  8. 30
    Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburō Ōe (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Kinder auf sich allein gestellt - was sagt es über die Gesellschaft aus?
  9. 52
    The Beach by Alex Garland (booklove2, mcenroeucsb)
    booklove2: The Beach is like Lord of the Flies for adults, starring adults.
  10. 64
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (villanova)
  11. 31
    Under the Dome by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: Under the Dome is an adult version of Lord of the Flies.
  12. 20
    Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: A more optimistic view of young people in a society of their own- I read this on my own from the school library a few years before Lord of the Flies was required reading, and it seemed much more reasonable to me.
  13. 31
    Friday and Robinson: life on Esperanza Island by Michel Tournier (yokai)
  14. 10
    I'm the King of the Castle by Susan Hill (KayCliff)
  15. 21
    The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: A world without adults with some differences and similarities.
  16. 21
    The Drifting Classroom, Vol. 1 by Kazuo Umezu (scotchpenicillin)
    scotchpenicillin: Comment des enfants confontés à une situation extraordinaire re-construisent un semblant de société...
  17. 21
    Savages by Shirley Conran (shesinplainview)
  18. 22
    Nothing by Janne Teller (meggyweg, meggyweg)
  19. 12
    House of Stairs by William Sleator (MyriadBooks)
  20. 01
    Orphan Island by Rose Macaulay (KayCliff)

(see all 26 recommendations)


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English (418)  Italian (7)  Dutch (6)  Spanish (6)  Finnish (6)  French (6)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (456)
Showing 1-5 of 418 (next | show all)
A group of boys are stranded on an island. As friendships breakdown, and social behaviors become primitive, the boys struggle for survival. Addresses social psychology and human compassion.
Ages: High school and up
Source: Puyallup public libraary
  amandapanda613 | Nov 25, 2014 |
I've had this on my bookshelves since I was a young teen, so it was about time I read it really. Unfortunately for such a highly anticipated read, I wasn't as blown away by it as I'd hoped. I wanted a kind of Coral Island-esque adventure that gradually descended into savagery and violence; what I GOT was a disappointingly jerky, uneven allegory that glossed over the survival element almost entirely, skipped forward in time in unspecified bounds, and grew quite repetitive at times. As a result, some of the most important and moving scenes didn't have that much impact at all, and the hunters' savagery was less "diminishing sense of civilisation" and more "well, that escalated quickly". It took me a surprisingly long time to read such a short novel - well over two weeks - and sadly the cover remains my favourite thing about it! ( )
  elliepotten | Nov 8, 2014 |
Note: I have stated that this book is for mature readers only, and the same is true of this review. This book contains many heavy themes which I discuss in my review.

The Story.

When their plane is shot down by an enemy plane, a group of British schoolboys – most of them strangers to each other - find themselves stranded on an island. The only adult on the plane was the pilot, who is dead, so there are no grownups in the group; only several big boys – Ralph, Jack, Piggy, Roger, Simon, Robert – and a gaggle of “littluns”.

It’s the biggest, boldest adventure any of the boys has ever experienced – life in the wilds with real mountains to climb and forests to subdue. But as time progresses and jealousies flare, it becomes apparent that unless the boys are able to subdue themselves, the freakish howls in the nighttime will not be the most fearsome thing on the island.

They’ll be the savages…


I first heard of Lord of the Flies in 2008. It was inevitable - having just read The Coral Island I discovered in almost every review of that book a reference to this one. From my thirteen year old perspective, Lord of the Flies seemed to be an effrontery – a corruption of the happy lark that I found so fun and amusing in The Coral Island. I decided that Lord of the Flies would be banned from my reading list; never would I so offend R.M. Ballantyne as to read this improper version of his story!

As I grew older, I became more aware of the continuous struggle in literature between idealism and realism. I came to recognize that, while pleasant, The Coral Island was simply an idyllic story which (rather like The Mysterious Island) reflected none of the true agonies and raw emotions which would be aroused by complete isolation from civilization. I grew more curious. I purchased a copy of the book, still wondering. And finally, I broke down and read the thing.

I’m not going to engage in a continued comparison between the two books. As I’ve already said, you can hardly find a review of one that does not draw heavily from the other. It will be enough for my review to say that they follow much the same pattern of events while portraying a completely different version of “happy boyhood”.

As the story opens, the boys slowly trickle out of the forest and convene together in their first assembly. With the exception of some sniveling on the part of a few of the littluns (and the near-prophetic concern of Piggy), the reigning spirit is one of realized adventure. These boys feel that they are living out the stories they’ve always read about – Treasure Island and The Coral Island specifically. The world is bright and happy – the beach is under their bare feet, the mountains await their conquering stride, and mighty deeds of exploration are just an arm’s length away.

Ralph is elected as the group’s chief. Together, all of the boys collaborate in a governing assembly, deciding which projects are of importance and who should complete them. Basic rules are established and responsibilities are doled out amongst the boys. They are playing at being rulers of the island.

And that’s where the breakdown begins. Because to the boys, organization isn’t a matter of sanity or survival. It’s just another game. Assembling together and declaiming bold speeches is another fulfillment of fantasy and gives the boys feelings of power. They follow the assembly’s decisions, but only when they want to. When a boy tires of building huts, he throws in the towel and goes swimming or exploring instead. They don’t have the self-government to force themselves to behave by the rules but follow their impulses instead.

Ralph, Jack, Piggy, and Roger notice this pattern. But they respond to it in two different ways - Ralph and Piggy one way, and Jack and Roger the other. These two sets of boys are reflecting negatives of each other. Ralph and Jack are both natural leaders with the ability to inspire confidence and to mobilize their followers, while Piggy and Roger each serve as counselors to their chosen leader.

Ralph initially exhibits a tendency to care only for himself. But after he is appointed chief, he grows into this role and views himself as responsible for the success and safety of the colony. He clings to the necessity of maintaining a civilized order, even when it seems dispensable. His constant attention to keep the signal fire ablaze testifies to his realization that ultimately he and the boys are in need of rescue. As order begins to disintegrate, he recognizes and seeks to repair his weaknesses as a leader by accepting counsel from Piggy. Even as reality grows more nightmarish and he begins to lose sight of why it is important to be civilized, he desperately clings to the fact that it is important and that without civilization they will destroy themselves.

Jack, the only boy to challenge Ralph in the initial election, seems to also acknowledge the importance of order. But after his (witnessed) failure to stab a wild pig when it was within his power to do so, he develops an obsession with hunting – partly to void his previous faintheartedness, and partly because it corresponds to his deep-rooted desire for power over others. After Ralph publically reprimands Jack for hunting when he should have been tending the signal fire, (due to Jack’s neglect, a passing ship went unsignaled), Jack revolts against Ralph’s system of order. After all, what is the point of maintaining rules and systems when all that is needed to survive is food and drink? Jack promises that any boys who come to his side will be given their fill of meat and be allowed to idle and play as they please. Whereas Ralph allowed all of the boys to speak at his assembly and acted as a public servant, Jack makes autocratic decisions and demands his boys to walk behind him in procession, announcing his presence as though he was a king. Jack also paints his face with pigmented clay, delighting in the savage anonymity the mask gives him.

Piggy, although initially rejected by the older boys on account of his corpulence, eventually becomes Ralph’s trusted counselor. Sensitive alike to affection and rejection, Piggy has a comprehensive understanding of human nature and is the first to predict the dark twist which overtakes their group. His constant cry of “What would the grownups think?” indicates his disdain for the childish inability to reason through plans and control impulses exhibited by most of the group. As Ralph begins to forget why civilization is necessary, Piggy is the lone reminder and becomes prophetic in his evaluation of the situation. After Jack and Roger steal his glasses, leaving him nearly blind, Piggy refuses to knuckle under and instead insists on being led into their presence where he decries their actions, boldly showing them the end of their savagery.

Roger’s character is developed last out of the four and, as Jack contrasts Ralph, Roger contrasts Piggy. Whereas Jack reverted to savagery out of jealousy and anger, Roger seems to fall into it naturally. Whereas Jack’s cruelty is born of a desire to rule others, Roger exhibits the characteristics of a true sadist – he enjoys cruelty for its own sake. Although no one is equal to Jack in his kingdom, Roger comes the closest and is co-instigator with Jack in the final acts of cruelty which complete their return to savagery.

A running theme throughout the story is fear. Jack feels it when he first goes hunting – he has a feeling as though someone was watching him. The littluns feel it more violently in the form of nightmares and supposed glimpses of a beast. As the camp devolves into less and less order, the fear grows proportionately, until even a few of the older boys believe they have glimpsed the beast. This beast becomes the embodiment of their terror and when Jack becomes his own chief, he insists that his men leave the head of their catch on a pole as an offering to the beast. Simon comes across this head in a heat-induced rambling, and, in the moment which defines both the title and the theme of the book, names this rotting, fly-swarmed pig head as the Lord of the Flies. In Simon’s dehydrated state, he believes that the Lord of the Flies speaks to him and his statement is colossal.

Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” Said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?” [pg. 143]

And here, the message of the story which was effectively demonstrated before is now properly stated. The Lord of the Flies, that rotting, putrid fearful drive, is not an outer force. It is an inner reality which, unhampered by social conventions or self government, dominates. Now, I do not know if William Golding was a Christian. But this is a Christian portrayal of human nature – man, on his own, may regulate his sinful urges, but he can never conquer them. Evil is not something that exists primarily out there – it is strongest in here. In the case of these boys, no restraining influence of society was present to curb their descent and they had not the maturity to govern themselves. Their decline was inevitable.

There is a concept that has emerged, disappeared, and reemerged countless times throughout the centuries. It is that of the noble savage – that man, unregulated by societal conventions, is there to be found at his freest and best. William Golding, whether intentionally or not, strikes a death blow to this concept. Certainly, outer rules never made a man better. But they provide incentive to hide and fight sinful urges. They prevent that sin from festering openly. And they help to teach a man to govern himself so that when he finds himself in ungoverned territory, he still acts upon principle rather than desire.

While Piggy and Ralph fight desperately to adhere to a form of civilization, Jack and Roger reject it utterly. But their descent does not end there, for the mere presence of civilization on the island acts as a condemnation to their lifestyle. It maddens and enrages them, so they began to launch attacks on Ralph and Piggy’s camp. The fire, kept aflame to signal a ship, represents an appeal to civilization for rescue, which rankles Jack’s band. They capture the fire and debase its noble purpose by using it to cook the meats which they then gorge upon. Piggy’s constant moral wisdom enrages them, so they lash out at him, stealing his glasses and rendering him helpless. In the end, although he represents no threat to their empire, they hunt down Ralph, because they cannot stand that even one example of what they ought to be should exist, casting silent judgment upon them.

Happily, just as they corner him on the beach, the rescue ship arrives. After the paranoiac atmosphere which prevailed, the commanding officer, rather than seeming like a return to reality, himself seems unreal. As he surveys the painted, bloodied boys he remarks with an appalling shallowness, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys – you’re all British, aren’t you? – would have been able to put up a better show than that.” [pg. 202]

All the boys can do, and all we the readers can do, is gape at this profoundly ignorant imperialism. As though national pride, or birth, or any other force short of redemption could hamper the ravages of sin. As though boys are somehow less human than men and less subject to overpowering emotions of greed, hatred, anger, jealously, and power. As though complete, ungoverned, unchosen isolation was idyllic. As though anywhere in the world there existed that thing called innocence.

Ralph looked at him dumbly. For a moment he had a fleeting picture of the strange glamour that had once invested the beaches. But the island was scorched up like dead wood – Simon was dead – and Jack had… the tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, and darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” [pg. 202]


I don’t see how anyone could read the above discussion and not grasp the fact that this book is driven by mature themes, but I’ll state it anyway. This book is not for the faint-hearted, weak-minded, or feeble-nerved. It is a fulfilling book, but not a comforting one. I personally feel strengthened by having read it, but would not recommend it for those much younger than myself. Man’s sinfulness, while easily contemplated in theological terms, is not as reassuring when specifically examined.

Apart from the obvious overarching theme of degeneration, only one other element stood out, and that was the violence which grew in proportion to the descent of Jack and his boys. While initially Jack was unable to man himself to stab a pig, he soon grew to delight in the hunt, and one hunting scene is depicted. The boys chase down a sow, stabbing her with knives and spears until one boy finally cuts her throat. In this scene, one of the boys stabs a spear into her posterior, which is referred to by a vulgar term.

Out of this love of the chase develops a mantra which the boys chant whenever they hunt – “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill the blood!” [pg. 152] One night, after a successful hunt, the boys are chanting this around their fire when a figure crawls out of the forest. They do not realize that this is the boy, Simon, who has been missing, and in a frenzy of excitement kill him before they discover his identity. (They have been worked into a fervor of fear against “the beast” and believe that they have caught him.) They also kill Piggy in a fit of anger and are hunting Ralph when the rescue arrives.

Conclusion. A heavy, sober read which I would recommend to mature readers who are interested in studying the complexities of human nature. For those looking for “light” or “adventurous” reads, this book will probably be outside your zone of interest – and comfort.

Visit The Blithering Bookster to read more reviews!

www.blitheringbookster.com ( )
  LauraKathryn | Nov 4, 2014 |
I read this book when I was in ninth grade, and it is one of my favorite books I have ever read in school. It's thought-provoking in that it tells a story about boys without adults. A plane of school boys crashes on a deserted island, and some have the want to survive, and others want to just hunt and live forever on the island. The main characters are Ralph and Jack. Ralph is the protagonist and Jack is the antagonist. Ralph is more concerned with getting rescued and returning home, and Jack is not concerned at all, and Jack and his clan of boys separate themselves from Ralph's group. Jack thinks that is group is superior and later dedicates himself to killing Ralph. This book ponders morals and what makes people good and bad, something I appreciate because I love books that ponder such philosophical questions and try to answer them. It's frightening what this author thinks can happen when boys are left alone in a lawless land. ( )
  jburkett16 | Nov 2, 2014 |
Through an incredible and disturbing story of a group of island-stranded kids, William Golding explores the puzzling question: is mankind good, or is it evil? The kids, who survived a terrible plane crash, are put face to face with death in a variety of situation. The group quickly develops a way of government. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, and Piggy, Ralph's chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island's wild pig population. Soon Ralph's rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest enemy is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as their unstable civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted. Golding's gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.
  matiacone | Nov 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 418 (next | show all)
There is no blinking the fact that this English schoolmaster turned novelist understands growing boys to the heart; one must go back to"High Wind in Jamaica" to find a comparable tour de force. The uneasy conviction persists that he despises the child who is father to the man-and the man as well. Homo sapiens needs all the friends he can find these days, in and out of novels.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, William du Bois (pay site) (Oct 21, 1955)
"Lord of the Flies" is an allegory on human society today, the novel's primary implication being that what we have come to call civilization is, at best, skin deep. With undertones of "1984" and "High Wind in Jamaica," this brilliant work is a frightening parody on man's return (in a few weeks) to that state of darkness from which it took him thousands of years to return. Fully to succeed, a fantasy must approach very close to reality. "Lord of the Flies" does. It must also be superbly written. It is.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, James Stern (pay site) (Oct 23, 1954)

» Add other authors (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Goldingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Déry, TiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Epstein, E. L.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jessurun d'Oliveira, H.U.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perkki, JuhanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother and father
First words
The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.
His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
Maybe there is a beast - maybe it's only us.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
When Lord of the Flies appeared in 1954 it received unprecedented reviews for a first novel. Critics used such phrases as "beautifully written, tragic and provocative...vivid and enthralling...this beautiful and desperate book...completely convincing and often very frightening...its progress is magnificent...like a fragment of nightmare...a dizzy climax of terror...the terrible spell of this book..." E.M. Forster chose it as the Outstanding Novel of the Year. Time and Tide touched upon perhaps the most important facet of this book when it said, "It is not only a first-rate adventure story but a parable of our times," and articles on this and subsequent Golding novels have stressed these twin aspects of Golding: a consummate control of the novel form, and a superb all-encompassing vision of reality which communicates itself with a power reminiscent of Conrad.
Haiku summary
Diverging lenses
To start a fire? Golding knew
Nothing of optics.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0399501487, Mass Market Paperback)

William Golding's classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, "the boy with fair hair," and Piggy, Ralph's chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island's wild pig population. Soon Ralph's rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: "He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet." Golding's gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition. --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:36 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

The classic tale of a group of English school boys who are left stranded on an unpopulated island, and who must confront not only the defects of their society but the defects of their own nature. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.… (more)

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