Lord of the Flies Chapter 1 Summary
by William Golding

The Sound of the Shell

The opening chapter begins with two boys, Piggy and Ralph, making their way through the jungle. We learn, through their dialogue, that they had been traveling in an airplane with a group of British school children. The plane had presumably been shot down and crashed on a an island in the Pacific. It is hinted that the rest of the world is at war, and that most of it has been destroyed by nuclear attacks -- possibly explaining that the children were being evacuated.

A storm has come and gone, washing the wreckage away. Ralph and Piggy meet and revel at the prospect that they are alone on a tropical island with no adults. They make their way to the beach where they find a large conch shell. Using the shell as a horn, Ralph summons any other children that may be on the island. They begin to come from the jungle and Piggy tries to take names.

Along the beach two marching files of black-clad children approach. This is the first we see of Jack Merridew (who, oddly enough is the only child, besides Percival, whose last name we will learn). Piggy is immediately singled out by the group and made fun of. The children do not like him and never will.

Being children, and at first thinking that survival is a game to be played and that rescue is inevitable, they decide to vote for a chief "to decide things." It is obvious the only two contenders are Jack and Ralph. Ralph is voted in; he had possession of the conch -- already magical in quality to those present -- and seemed the most able. Jack's black-clad choir are designated as hunters upon Jack's insistence -- already revealing his need to hunt and kill.

Ralph's first decision as chief is to send a party out to investigate whether or not they are really on an island. Himself, Jack, and Simon leave to scale the mountain. As they climb the pink granite, they take time to have fun and roll a large boulder off the edge to watch it be destroyed "like a bomb." This need to destroy begins with this innocent rock-rolling and will eventually culminate with the killing of a sow, Simon, Piggy and the hunting of Ralph later in the story.

They reach the summit and indeed discover they are on an island, apparently uninhabited. A new friendship develops between Ralph and Jack. They savor the "right of domination," and Jack comments about how they will have fun and hunt "until they fetch us." Jack believes rescue is inevitable and these thoughts will contribute to his behavior later in the novel.

On the descent down the mountain they discover a piglet caught in the underbrush. Jack unsheathes his knife and raises it, ready to let fly -- but he cannot. His current nature will not let him spill blood -- but this will change. He is embarrassed and promises that next time he will kill.

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