Lord of the Flies - Leadership
Lord of the Flies (1954)
Written by the Englishman, William Golding (1911-93),
His naval service in the Second World War convinced him that people are naturally evil, the
book’s main message.
- The literal meaning of Beelzebub (the devil) is the Lord of the Flies.
- Made into a film in 1963.
- Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983.
A group of boys including Jack, Ralph, Piggy,
Roger and Simon
A large number of evacuated English boys, aged 7 to 12, are stranded on a tropical island after their plane is
shot down during a war.
Amongst them are Ralph, Simon and Piggy who
support responsibility and morality.
Jack and Roger are evil and ambitious egomaniacs.
Ralph and Piggy (pictured right in the film) discover a special conch shell, which Ralph
blows to call all the boys onto the beach.
Ralph is elected their leader and appoints Jack to lead the group hunting for
Roger is given responsibility for keeping the signal fire alight. But they become so obsessed
with killing pigs that the fire goes out, missing a passing
ship and leading to a row between:
- Ralph (supported by Piggy and Simon) and
Jack and his group (including Roger) are cruel bullies. They taunt and hurt the little children
(known as “littluns”).
The children are also troubled by nightmares and the frightening idea that a beast hides in the sea and comes
out at night. This fear increases when two boys think they see the beast, when actually it is the
silhouette of a dead fighter pilot’s parachute.
Ralph and Jack are now bitter rivals and more and more boys are joining Jack’s less
civilized group, which violently kills and decapitates a pig.
Only Simon knows that the dead pig's head (the Lord of the Flies) represents the evil within the boys.
Then Simon discovers the dead parachutist and realizes that this is the beast and rushes off to tell
In the rain Jack’s group mistake him for the beast, brutally kill him and (the next day) steal Piggy’s glasses
to light a fire.
Ralph and his few supporters demand them back. But they are attacked and Piggy is killed by
Roger and his glasses and the conch shell are smashed.
Ralph, now alone, just manages to escape and hides in the forest, hunted by the others who want to kill him.
Weeping because of the evil in people’s hearts, Ralph is rescued by a British naval ship
which sees the fire.
Lessons for leadership
1. Dictatorship can be destructive
Dictator Jack, is evil, killing Simon and Piggy and destroying the:
- democratic leader, Ralph.
- the conch shell, the symbol of democracy (because it is blown to call the boys to their
Jack wins over the boys’ support, because they see his evil savagery as more fun.
2. People can be evil (but don’t give up hope)
The murderous tyranny of Jack and his followers triumphs over goodness, democracy and intelligence (personified
by Simon, Ralph and Piggy).
Evil (which Simon says is in everyone) crushes Ralph’s attempt to lead through compassion and consent. .
The book shows that mankind constantly lives on a knife edge between civilization and
3. Treasure the truth
Jack (pictured right in the film) fools people by saying he wants to “do the right thing” and does the
The myth of the beast also shows how easily people can believe the unbelievable, encouraged by
evil and manipulative leaders like Jack.
The Christ-like Simon sacrifices his life telling the boys the truth about the beast.
4. Know yourself
The boys’ belief in the beast stops them:
- doing something about it.
- exercising their own will.
They disastrously fail to:
- accept the truth about themselves.
- listen to Simon (about his discovery that the beast doesn't exist and is the dead parachutist).
- accept responsibility for killing Simon and Piggy.
5. Fear is fatal
Fear of the imaginary beast leads to Simon’s savage murder.
Piggy (pictured right in the film) believes that science has the answer to fear
6. Goodness doesn’t guarantee greatness
Ralph is a good person, but he fails as a leader because he is:
- slow (to deal with Jack and act upon Piggy’s good advice).
Despite the unpopularity it brings him, Piggy is constantly reminding the others of:
- the evil of Jack’s group.
7. Concentrate on what’s important
Unlike Jack, Piggy realizes the importance of the:
- civilized values (of honesty, humanity, order and democracy).
8. Don’t stop learning
Piggy’s wisdom comes from academic knowledge.
Simon relies on intuition and Ralph learns from experience, particularly
people’s potential for evil.
Piggy’s glasses are a symbol of
- practical knowledge (they are used to light a fire).
- wisdom to see good and evil (illustrated by the glasses’ theft and
Ralph’s leadership is destroyed when he loses the will to fight for Piggy’s principles after
9. Unity is vital
The boys are strongest when they are united under Ralph’s leadership, but his rivalry with Jack
weakens them irreparably.
10. Put thought into positive action
Simon (pictured right in the film) :
- finds a quiet place in the jungle for reflection.
- immediately puts this thought into action (like telling the others about the true identity
of the beast).
Ralph isn’t so reflective and his leadership suffers because of it.
“If only one had time to think!”, he laments.
Key quotes on ethics
Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.
Maybe it’s only us, Simon (on people’s innate evil)
Key quote on
Bollocks to the rules, Jack
Two literature websites to