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Blogging Lord of the Flies, Chapter 1: The Sound of the Shell

Blogging Lord of the Flies, Chapter 1: The Sound of the Shell

You asked us to blog Lord of the Flies; your wish is our command. Enjoy! —SparkNotes editors

Lord of the Flies is a novel by Englishman William Golding. It was published in 1954, which explains why the kids in the book wear stockings and periodically blurt out noises that make no sense. This is actually a pretty fast and exciting story, at least as far as assigned reading goes. After all, you could be stuck with 300 pages of interchangeable Greeks getting described and then dying, so count your blessings. Oh, and in case you wandered in here entirely by mistake, the SparkNote for Lord of the Flies is right over here.

(Warning: Cryptic spoilers follow.)

In a nutshell, a plane crash strands a bunch of schoolboys on a deserted island, which may or may not contain a monster. The boys struggle with one another and the baser impulses of human nature. If you recognize this as vaguely similar to the plot of TV's LOST, that's because it's exactly the plot of TV's LOST. At least until LOST started to be about things that are ridiculous.

Chapter 1: The Sound of the Shell

The first chapter begins with our as-yet unnamed protagonist struggling through a rocky forest (SUPER-SPOILER: his name is Ralph). Within a page we are also introduced to a poor kid whose name is not Piggy, but who winds up being called Piggy because that is the absolute last thing he wants to be called. Thus begins a long tradition of people paying attention to Piggy almost exclusively to mock him, so get used to it now.

Ralph and Piggy explore their surroundings a bit, and Golding uses this time to point out that repeatedly OMG GUYS, RALPH IS JUST THE BEST, AND EVER SO PRETTY, while Piggy is fat, bespectacled, and asthmatic. Also, within the first three pages, he endures an embarrassing incident involving pooping. So Piggy is not really off to a great start.

lookin' good, Piggy!

From their conversation, in which Ralph is kind of a jerk (more out of childishness than because he means to be), it sounds like an atom bomb was dropped on England, and the kids were being flown to safety when their plane was shot down. Despite all that, Ralph is pretty happy to be free of grownups, and just goofs around while Piggy does all the actual thinking. Speaking of which, don't assume from Piggy's weird grammar ("Them fruit" and so on) that he's intended to be dumb. He's evidently lower-class, unlike our perfect bronzed superhero protagonist, but Piggy is generally the only thoughtful kid on the island.

Soon Ralph notices what we'll soon see is a Metaphor For Leadership lying at the bottom of a lagoon. Piggy accurately identifies it as a conch shell, then rambles on about cows and someone's mom until Ralph tells him to shut up and the two boys retrieve the conch. Again, as the smart one, Piggy realizes that the shell could be used as a horn to summon other survivors, whereupon Ralph promptly starts making fart noises with the shell because he is twelve and this is hilarious. Eventually Ralph uses the thing the right way and successfully gathers a cast of characters from around the island, including a pair of twins (Sam and Eric) and a host of forgettable younger kids (littluns) who generally only get names if something awful is about to happen.

Then the choir arrives, marking perhaps the first time in the history of anything that a bunch of 12-year-old choirboys are made to seem intimidating. They march up the beach wearing black cloaks, and then suddenly appear less impressive when one of them passes out (it's Simon). Also in the group is Roger, about whom we know nothing at this point (except that he's dark and secretive).

The choir's authoritarian leader is Jack Merridew, who insists on going by "Merridew" for about thirty seconds, then immediately forgets about that and just stays "Jack." Jack is "tall, thin, and bony," his face "crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness."

While exchanging names, Ralph accidentally calls Piggy "Piggy," which seems like it was bound to happen since nobody bothered to learn his name, and everyone laughs. This fulfills our Making Fun Of Piggy requirement for this page.

With no obvious rescue forthcoming, the boys decide to vote for a chief. Jack suggests himself, and his choir wearily agrees, but everyone else votes for Ralph. Their reasons: Ralph is 1.) big, 2.) attractive, and 3.) has the "trumpet-thing." This might not be logical, but it reflects reality: tall people are more successful. Ralph immediately shows a nice ability to compromise by allowing Jack to lead his own choir (Jack instantly decides that the choir's job will be hunting).

Ralph leads Jack and Simon ("a skinny, vivid little boy") on an expedition to determine that they are in fact on an island. The three of them excitedly head up to a clifftop to view their surroundings. They do so, and find that the island's deserted, which isn't too surprising, because otherwise they'd walk to the nearest McDonalds and we'd be done here. More importantly, though, they bump into some foreshadowing.

First, on their way up, they stop and spend time knocking a large boulder down the forest slope (because they are 12-year-old boys), then stand around shouting triumphant gibberish (because they are English). The point is that there really is no point, though, save for the fun of breaking stuff. Second, on the way down, they come across a piglet trapped in some creepers (vines); Jack draws and raises his knife, then pauses, "only long enough for them to understand what an enormity the downward stroke would be," at which point the piglet escapes. Jack asserts that he was just picking the right spot to strike, but "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."

With that grisly bit of hinting out of the way, Jack goes ahead and stabs a defenseless tree to emphasize that next time he will be all about stabbing things. He'll stab more trees in about a page, but the details of that tree-assault are reserved for the next post, because it takes place in Chapter Two: Fire on the Mountain.

Topics: Books
Tags: books we could do without, blogging the classics, blogging lord of the flies, books we love to hate

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