Lord of the Flies Chapter 1 Summary & Quotes

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  • 0:01 Ralph Meets Piggy
  • 1:14 Ralph Calls a Meeting
  • 2:38 Ralph Leads an Expedition
  • 3:42 Significant Quotes
  • 6:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

Expert Contributor
Cailin Roles

Cailin received her MA in English specializing in Cultural Studies from Kansas State University. She has two years of teaching and tutoring experience at the university level.

This lesson provides a summary of chapter one of William Golding's 1954 novel, 'Lord of the Flies,' as well as an analysis of several quotations that reveals aspects of the characters' personalities.

Ralph Meets Piggy

The first chapter of William Golding's 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, is called 'The Sound of the Shell.' Ralph, a young 12-year-old boy, is poking around the jungle trying to get a sense of his surroundings. He comes across another boy, who is short, overweight, and wears glasses. Ralph tells the boy his name, and the boy says he does not want to be called what his classmates used to call him: Piggy. Ralph embraces the nickname and calls the boy Piggy anyway, before he gets a chance to tell him his real name.

The boys discuss their circumstances, revealing to the reader that they are survivors of a plane crash. Ralph says his father is a commander in the Navy, and is confident that he will rescue them. Piggy believes he heard the pilot say something about an atom bomb being dropped, but does not give details about where it was.

Piggy suggests they try to find other survivors and write down their names. As they walk around, they come across a large shell, which Piggy recognizes as a conch. He suggests that they blow into it to summon anyone else who might be around, so they can have a meeting. His asthma prevents him from blowing into it himself, but he instructs Ralph on how to do it.

Ralph Calls a Meeting

As Ralph blows into the conch, children come out of the jungle and congregate around him and Piggy. Piggy tries to get everyone's names and tell them to Ralph, but Ralph does not seem interested.

Ralph spots a group of boys marching in line, all dressed in black choir robes. They are more uniform and organized than the first group of children that straggled out of the jungle in tattered clothes. They are being led by a boy who is shouting orders to them. The boy approaches Ralph and Piggy, asking where the man with the trumpet is. Ralph explains that it was just him using the shell to call a meeting, and invites his group to join them. The leader of the choir introduces himself as Jack. Jack is intimidating and a little aggressive, calling Piggy 'Fatty' as soon as he meets him.

Ralph suggests that they choose a leader to make decisions for the group. Jack immediately says he should be the leader because he is already the leader of the choir, and was the head boy at his school. Another boy, Roger, suggests that they let the children vote on the leader. The children elect Ralph, even though the only thing Ralph has done is summon everyone with the conch, at Piggy's suggestion, which makes him the leader in everyone's eyes.

Ralph can tell that Jack is disappointed that he wasn't elected leader, so he offers to let him retain leadership of the choir boys and to make him in charge of a hunting group. Jack agrees.

Ralph Leads an Expedition

After the meeting, Ralph decides that they should see if they are really on an island. He chooses Jack and another boy, Simon, to come with him to explore the area. Piggy tries to join them as well, but Ralph tells him he can't come along. Piggy is hurt and humiliated, not just at Ralph's rejection but also because Ralph told all the other children that his name was Piggy, after he told him that he didn't want to be called that. Ralph tells Piggy to stay behind and keep getting everyone's names.

The three boys, led by Ralph, climb rocks until they get to the top. They see that they are, indeed, on an island that appears uninhabited by other humans. They make plans to hunt for food until someone rescues them.

As they start back to the rest of the group, the boys see a small pig tangled in vines. As they approach it, Jack draws out his knife and prepares to kill it. He hesitates, however, and the pig escapes. He is embarrassed at looking like a coward, and vows that the next time they catch a pig, he will kill it swiftly and show no mercy. The boys continue their walk back to rejoin the group.

Significant Quotes

Let's look at some quotes from chapter one of Lord of the Flies. Each quote is significant because it shows how each character's dialogue, or conversations, reveal aspects of their personalities.

Let's start with Piggy:

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Additional Activities

Discussion Questions about Chapter 1 of Lord of the Flies

The following questions will ask you to think about the characters you have met so far in Lord of the Flies, as well as the role these characters may serve in the novel's larger themes of civilization and morality.

Question 1

As the boys explore the island, different kinds of leadership emerge. How do Ralph and Jack compare as leaders? Which boy would you choose as your leader?

Question 2

Throughout the chapter, our attention is drawn to different characters' names and their use. For example, although Piggy tells Ralph his real name and that he does not like the nickname Piggy, Ralph chooses to call him Piggy anyway. Later, Jack calls Piggy "Fatty" as an insult. What do we learn about Ralph and Jack through these interactions? Why are names important and, by extension, what does it mean when Ralph and Jack refuse to use other boys' correct names? What other moments demonstrate the significance of names?

Question 3

The first chapter focuses primarily on the characters Ralph, Piggy, and Jack. Why might the author have chosen to focus on these boys? Looking forward, what do you predict will happen to these characters in future chapters?

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