Fire in Lord of the Flies: Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Fire is the most important possession on the desert island in 'Lord of the Flies'. Read on to find out how the boys battle one another for such a valuable resource.

Food, Water,...Fire?

If you were stranded on an island, you might think of food and water being the most important things to attain. However, fire might be what gets you off the island if you signal a passing ship or plane!

On the desert island in the novel Lord of the Flies, there aren't many items that can be used as bargaining chips or currency. While not as explicit as the conch or Piggy's specs, fire is the most important possession. Let's take a look at how fire is used in the book.

a campfire on the beach
a campfire on the beach

The Most Important Thing

One of the first conclusions the boys come to after banning together is that they 'must make a fire'. Their plan is to use the fire as a signal to passing ships so that they can be rescued. Naturally, their plans go awry.

Many times throughout the novel, the characters repeat that 'the fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don't keep a fire going? Is a fire too much for us to make?' While the boys have the basic needs of any human such as food, water, and shelter, they are correct in their assumption that none of that matters if they are doomed to spend the rest of their lives on the island.

After they proclaim Ralph as chief and use Piggy's specs to make the first fire, Jack, who is supposed to be in charge of keeping the fire burning, takes his group of hunters out to kill one of the wild pigs on the island. When Jack returns, the fire has died.

Ralph is furious. His argument is that 'the smoke is more important than the pig, however often you kill one'. For that, he decides that they 'won't have a fire anywhere but on the mountain. Ever.' In doing so, Ralph hopes to ensure that the fire will not go out again and that they will be rescued. In order for the boys to be rescued, they must have 'smoke and you can't have no smoke without a fire'.

Civil War

As the group of boys begins to fracture into Jack and his hunters versus Ralph, Piggy and the rest, the fire grows even more important. Jack and his hunters kill another pig, but they don't have a fire with which to cook it. When Roger asks, 'How can we make a fire?' Jack's response is to 'raid them and take fire'.

At this point that the two groups have become completely separate entities. Not only are they no longer working together but they are now actively working against one another.

After Ralph's camp is raided for fire, he brushes the antics of Jack and his hunters aside: 'The fire's the most important thing. Without the fire we can't be rescued. I'd like to put on war-paint and be a savage. But we must keep the fire burning. The fire's the most important thing on the island'.

It sounds almost like he's trying to convince himself as much as he's trying to convince the others how important the fire is by trivializing the antics of Jack's hunters, but Ralph is correct in that without the fire, they are all doomed to a savage existence on an island.

Ultimate Rescue

Eventually, smoke from the fire is what attracts the attention of a passing ship, but not in the way the boys had planned: The fight between Ralph and Jack culminated in a destructive end, for 'they had smoked him out and set the island on fire'.

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