Lord of the Flies: Novel Summary: Chapter 1
Golding’s first chapter describes a new world, an uninhabited tropical island, which a group of English boys discover after their plane crashes, killing all the adults on board. The first two characters described are Ralph, the tall boy with "fair hair," and Piggy, said by Golding to be a short and "very fat" child. While Ralph seems perfectly content and almost exited with the prospect of being free of adults and on his own in this strange island, Piggy, the perpetual voice of the adult world, is terrified by the idea of having no grown-ups to take charge. Piggy continually makes references to his "auntie," who has instilled in him the logic and reasoning of adult England.
Right away Piggy tries to make sense of their chaotic situation, telling Ralph that they need to hold a meeting and make a list of every boy’s name. This again underscores Piggy’s reliance on law and order to ensure his (and society’s as a whole) well-being. Yet Ralph doesn’t go along with Piggy completely; often he rejects Piggy’s ideas, saying, "sucks to your auntie!"
Ralph, like Piggy, believes strongly in the idea that the boys’ rescue is most important. He even boasts about his dad being a commander in the Navy. Right now, the whole episode seems like a tale of Swiss Family Robinson to Ralph; he doesn’t recognize the deep consequences which will quickly ensue. Golding describes Ralph’s feelings of independence, narrating, "Here at last was the imagined but never fully realized place leaping into real life. Ralph’s lips parted in a delighted smile..."
Finally Ralph and Piggy find the conch shell. After tinkering with the fascinating object for awhile, Ralph eventually finds the way to call from it by blowing into the shell. Piggy quickly seizes the opportunity, telling Ralph, "We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us—."
Soon hosts of boys emerge from the jungle and along the beach, following the sound of the conch. Most of the boys are similar in dress except for Jack and his gang of choir members who wear all black. Immediately Jack turns on Piggy, ridiculing him for his weight and awkwardness. It obvious that these two won’t get along well. Also, it’s soon apparent that Jack, their leader, is not willing to submit his authority to Ralph, and a direct confrontation quickly ensues when Roger calls for a vote for chief. Although all of the choir members vote for Jack in grudging obedience, Ralph wins the majority of votes mostly because he’s the won who holds the conch.
Eventually Ralph and Jack (who seems to function as a co-leader of sorts, though not officially) decide to take a tour of the island in order to determine that it is an island and also to make sure there isn’t anyone else on it. Soon Simon joins them and the trio of exploration is complete. During the journey, the three experience a peaceful contentment of brotherhood and common purpose. Golding narrates, "Eyes shining, mouths open, triumphant, they savored the right of domination. They were lifted up: were friends." Here, the reader feels a genuine sense of hope that the boys, despite their differences, will ultimately get along and cooperatively find a mode of rescue.
Golding concludes his first chapter with an eerie foreshadowing when he details the near killing of a pig which the trio discovers on the trail. Jack is especially enamored by the pig, feeling a creeping desire to slay it with his knife. Yet Jack’s anarchist, hunting influence hasn’t had sufficient time to conquer the voice of reason articulated by Piggy. All three boys are afraid of actually taking the life of a living thing. Golding articulates their feelings, saying, "They knew very well why he hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood." Soon Jack’s attitude will change when the desire to kill transcends the necessity to obey.