Lord of the FliesComprehensive Storyform
The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Lord of the Flies. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.
"Lord of the Flies" is about how fragile civilization is, and how quickly it can fall apart. Under the dueling approaches of two boys, the character of a group of boys is tested, to see if they will follow Ralph, who struggles to build the barest of civilizations, or Jack, who is willing to give up all semblance of his upbringing in England to be the leader.
Source Material: Book "The Lord of the Flies" by William Golding
Analysis by: Mike Wollaeger
8 of the 12 essential questions
- Main Character Resolve
When Ralph first realizes (p.2) that the island may only be populated by children, the “delight of a realized ambition overcame him.” As he thinks, “He at last was the imagined but never fully realized place leaping into real life.”
However, after he is elected chief and determines for sure that they are on an unpopulated island, he adds to this, “We want to have fun. And we want to be rescued…. We must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire.”
Ralph is steadfast in his pursuit of having a signal fire on the island, and his belief that it is the only way they will be noticed by a passing ship.
- Main Character Growth
Ralph is holding out until they get rescued.
- Main Character Approach
Ralph laments that he cannot think like an adult (or like Piggy). He begins Chapter 5 alone, preparing for an assembly, trying to organize his thoughts to make sure he can successfully convey the order of business. Ralph prefers to lead through force of personality and consensus over direct action.
- Main Character Mental Sex
Despite a fairly good gut instinct that they are on an island, Ralph still wants to walk the island to make sure they are in fact on an island. He posits they must be rescued because the Queen has a map “with this island on it.” He knows smoke will lead to rescue.
When Samneric see the Beast, Ralph reasons that it must reside somewhere Jack has never visited in his explorations of the island. When ghosts become an issue, he has everyone vote on whether or not ghosts exist.
He also shows a distict lack of being able to deal with holistic problems: “Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why.”
- Story Driver
The story begins with the boys’ plane crashing onto the island, leaving them with no adults to look after them, and they must decide who is going to be “chief.”
When a ship passes (and the fire is out), this forces deliberation at the assembly.
After multiple people encounter the Beast at the top of the mountain, they are forced to reconsider what they are going to do about the fire.
When Jack steals Piggy’s glasses, Ralph and his small band have to decide how they are going to approach Jack—armed with spears, or dressed in their old clothes.
The story concludes when the British Navy sends a cutter to the island, and the boys are no longer responsible for themselves.
- Story Limit
The story begins with a civil meeting where Ralph is elected chief by everybody except the choir, who are already intimidated by Jack. Slowly, all of the “biguns” start defecting to Jack—hunting when the are supposed to be watching the fire, going with him to Castle Rock—until the only hold-out is Ralph.
This brings about the story’s climax when Ralph’s refusal to covert leads to the boys’ efforts to kill him.
- Story Outcome
The boys manage to survive until they are rescued.
- Story Judgment
When the boys are saved by the British Navy, Ralph “gave himself up to [tears] for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body…. Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart….”
Overall Story Throughline
"Being Stuck on an Island without Adults"
- Overall Story Throughline
The boys are stuck on an island, which motivates their need to look after themselves, their need to be rescued, and their fears of the Beast.
- Overall Story Concern
Life on the island is about problems now: there is fruit to eat, but it provides chronic diarrhea; there is no fresh water at the beach; at night, fears of the beast escalate. And, of course, keeping the fire lit is a constant problem.
- Overall Story Issue
Many things are agreed upon at the meetings—that shelters need to be built, water needs to be brought, the fire needs to be maintained—but most everyone slips away before the jobs are completed or fails to do the job day after day. “Is a fire too much for us to make?”
- Overall Story Counterpoint
The first time the boys start a fire it seems to be something they can do without a problem. But they fail in that their fire burns out of control, destroying part of the island and killing the boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark on his face. So while the fire is not at issue, discipline to do it properly is where they stumble.
- Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Most of the things the boys need to do are simple and they can easily achieve complete them, but they lack the internal strength to persevere day after day in the face of the temptations of the sun, water and fruit.
As the group falls apart and people defect to Jack, things that were possible for Ralph and his followers before become impossible: the amount of work that must be done exceeds the number of boys left to do it.
- Overall Story Problem
“I should have thought that a pack of British boys… would have been able to put up a better show than that.” So says one of the British Naval Officers who finds the boys on the island, revealing the blind spot that plagued them: the belief that civilized people will always be civilized.
In addition, when they see the Beast for the first time (both Samneric and Jack, Ralph, and Roger) it is very dark. During the day, they would clearly see that it is a downed pilot, but they don’t return, incorrectly inferring that it will still be a beast during the day.
- Overall Story Solution
By lighting the island on fire, enough smoke is produced to make a passing ship conclude that someone must be on the island.
- Overall Story Symptom
The littluns’ fear that a beast lives on the island is verified when Samneric come face-to-face with the downed fighter pilot (p. 134).
- Overall Story Response
Even though the existence of the Beast strains credulity—“a beast with claws that scratched, that sat on a mountain top, that left no tracks and yet was not fast enough to catch Samneric” (p.141)—and fails to satisfy common sense, Ralph and the biguns cross the island to Castle Rock to see if the beast might live there.
- Overall Story Catalyst
When they first attempt to make a fire, they realize the magnitude of their situation—they light a huge portion of the island on fire, and kill a boy.
When Ralph sees a ship passing on the horizon, they make attempt to reach the top of the mountain to light the fire, leading to the first major conflict between Ralph and Jack.
The group traverses the island to find a beast they are not sure exists, but in doing so, have to admit that maybe it does.
Jack attempts to get elected Chief.
Ralph approaches Jack on Castle Rock and tries to get Piggy’s glasses back.
- Overall Story Inhibitor
Every time they blow the conch, it is to talk about something on the island: why nobody is helping out, if the beast exists, etc.
- Overall Story Benchmark
The Benchmark is the most notorious take-away from “The Lord of the Flies”: the breakdown of civilization.
(p. 78) After spending some time on the island, Maurice “though there was no parent to let fall a heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrongdoing.” Roger, throwing stones at Henry: “Yet there was a space round Henry… into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.” However, by page 199, Bill states, “Being savages… must be jolly good fun.”
In chapter 5, a child has begun to lose his grip on where he came from, introducing himself as “Percival Wemys Madison. The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele—” By the end of the book, this has faded to “I’m, I’m—”.
- Overall Story Throughline Synopsis
A group of British School boys finds themselves stranded on a deserted island. They are excited to be in a situation with no grown-ups. However, they are unwilling to do the work to keep order on the island, and soon irrational fears of a Beast living on the island overtakes them. After a hunt for the Beast defeats them, most of the boys find it easier to hide behind rituals designed to appease the Beast than to continue to work to maintain a signal fire—their only hope of contacting a passing ship.
Additional Overall Story Information →
Main Character Throughline
Ralph — The Struggling Leader
- Main Character Throughline
As the elected Chief, Ralph has the burden of trying to motivate everyone to build shelters and maintain a signal fire. His troubles grow from his inability to do so, and the knowledge that their only opportunity to get off the island is being squandered.
- Main Character Concern
Ralph has the idea that he needs to think like an adult. Even as late as the penultimate chapter, he asks for time because he is “trying to think.”
- Main Character Issue
Ralph has to worry about how hard he can push. When Jack leaves the assembly and is joined by several boys, Ralph considers calling an assembly (p. 124), but, “If I blow the conch and they don’t come back; then we’ve had it. We can’t keep the fire going. We’ll be like animals. We’ll never be rescued.”
He also knows that his best efforts to be clear can be undone by “practiced debaters” such as Jack, Maurice and Piggy.
- Main Character Counterpoint
Ralph is not a thinker like Piggy, nor a natural leader like Jack.
- Main Character Thematic Conflict
Motivating the boys to work is a constant struggle to overcome his deficiencies without creating any backlash.
- Main Character Problem
Ralph refuses to relax his belief that a signal fire is the only way off the island. His nonacceptance to relax his convictions is a key source of his personal motivation.
- Main Character Solution
If Ralph accepts the will of the group over his own misgivings, he would no longer be at odds with them. However, he does not adopt this position to resolve his personal drive.
- Main Character Symptom
Ralph can’t understand why people won’t accept something that is irrefutably true: that they need a fire to be rescued. “But nobody else understands about the fire. If someone threw you a rope when you were drowning. If a doctor said take this because if you don’t you’ll die—you would, wouldn’t you? I mean?” (p.194)
- Main Character Response
Ralph believes taking time to formulate his thoughts gives him the best opportunity to convey them correctly and make people listen.
- Main Character Unique Ability
Ralph is disabused early on of the notion that they will be discovered simply because the island they are inhabiting is on a map. What is lacking, then, is a way of signaling somebody who passes by. “So we must make smoke at the top of the mountain.” (p. 46)
- Main Character Critical Flaw
The early conclusion that everyone accepts is that they need a rescue fire, but Ralph cannot keep the biguns from following Jack, who temps them with meat.
- Main Character Benchmark
Ralph is more comfortable acting the Chief as the story goes on. At first, he cedes the choir to Jack. Later, he directs the hunt for the beast, and ultimately he confronts Jack and his entire tribe to get Piggy’s glasses back.
- Main Character Description
Ralph is just over 12 years of age, making him one of the older boys on the island. He is also attractive with the body of an athlete, yet he is not a natural leader. He lacks the charisma and, while intelligent, is not a thinker.
He believes rules are the right place to start, but he is not an angel, and frequently picks on his confidant, Piggy as a way to bring him closer to the other boys.
- Main Character Throughline Synopsis
Role: The Struggling Leader
Extended Role: Ralph is selected to be the leader on the island, and he strives to get the boys to tend to the necessities of survival and getting rescued.
Character Type: Complex
Motivation: Consider (Ralph gets people to consider the results of their actions, and what will get them rescued.); Pursuit (Ralph is constantly trying enlist people to build and tend the signal fire.); Logic (Ralph is driven by the logic that a signal fire is the only way to attract a ship and be rescued.); Conscience (Ralph stresses that you need to build shelters before the rain comes, instead of going swimming or playing.)
Evaluation: Proven (Ralph only agrees that they are on an island after traversing it and seeing no signs of inhabitants.)
Purpose: Speculation (Ralph is satisfied to avoid situations that might possibly lead to bad outcomes, like blowing the conch at the wrong time.)
Additional Main Character Information →
Influence Character Throughline
Jack Merridew — The Hunter
- Influence Character Throughline
Jack begins the story excited to be a hunter, but it seems to be nothing more than a fantasy, and he is unable to kill a pig when he first has the opportunity. He eventually learns the necessary skills, and is able to become a killer who seduces the other boys with the promise of meat, or the use of violence.
- Influence Character Concern
Jack learns how to hunt.
- Influence Character Issue
Jack is able to figure out the essential things that will allow him to capture a pig: paint, barbed spears, a group of hunters, and how to track a pig.
p. 66: “If we could only make barbs—”
p. 69: “I’ve got it! They’ll lie up there—they must, when the sun’s too hot—”
- Influence Character Counterpoint
Jack rebels at any effort to curtail his hunting.
- Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Jack makes progress despite Ralph’s insistence that he overrates the important of hunting, which bolsters his ego.
- Influence Character Problem
Jack is mortified by the fact that he was not chosen to the be leader, operating under the belief that “I was the leader of the choir, so I should be the leader here.”
As a civilized British boy, he is unable to kill a pig when first given the opportunity.
- Influence Character Solution
When he sees that he has let down the British Officers, and that his leadership is a poor show, he weeps.
- Influence Character Symptom
Jack is a problem for Ralph because his hunting reduces the number of boys available for the fire. At first, it’s intermittent—he takes Samneric away for one hunt. Then it becomes permanent, when he starts his own tribe.
- Influence Character Response
Jack wants his tribe to focus on the dances and feasts—his goal is to make the island fun.
- Influence Character Unique Ability
Jack’s influence over the boys on the islands, especially the biguns essential to tending the fire, is a constant pressure on Ralph.
- Influence Character Critical Flaw
Jack’s savagery and ultimately his killing forbid Ralph from ceding power to him.
- Influence Character Benchmark
Jack begins with a base mindset—he wants his choir to be an army or hunters. But then he dedicates himself to hunting. He applies more and more paint to his face and body. Eventually, he adds rituals, having the boys say “The Chief has spoken,” sitting on a throne, and dancing in order to provide protection.
- Influence Character Description
Jack is “tall, thin and bony; and his hair was red… His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness.” He has an air of “superiority and… offhand superiority.”
He is 12.
- Influence Character Throughline Synopsis
Jack sees the island as an opportunity to play out his childhood fantasies of being a hunter. However, on his first attempt to kill a pig, he is unable to bring himself to kill. He then throws himself into the task of becoming a hunter, and eventually becomes very skilled. Along the way, he realizes that the ability to provide meat also gives him the ability to draw boys away from Ralph, whom he hates for being elected Chief. He quickly takes that power too far, forming his own tribe that acts on its more primal instincts of hunting, sacrifice and dictatorship.
More Influence Character Information →
Relationship Story Throughline
"Jockeying to be Leader"
- Relationship Story Throughline
Jack is focused only on hunting pigs. Ralph is focused only on rescue and the fire.
Ralph: “I was talking about smoke. Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!”
Even when Ralph partakes in a hunt—of the beast—it’s not for the hunt itself, but to relight the fire that has been abandoned.
p228. When Ralph is alone with his small tribe, when he is focused on leading: “There’s only one thing we can do to get out of this mess. Anyone can play at hunting, anyone can get us meat—”
- Relationship Story Concern
Even though they are on the same island facing the same problems, they do not come to the same conclusions.
Jack seizes on the need for meat—“People need meat”—and draws his hunters away even when they are supposed to be tending the fire. Later, he steals Piggy’s glasses to start a cooking fire, which is insufficient as a signal.
Jack cannot stay focussed on what is needed now:
Ralph: “The best thing we can do is get ourselves rescued”
Jack had to think for a moment before he could remember what rescue was. And after he does, “Still, I’d like to stick a pig first—” and he’s back to dwelling on hunting
Ralph upbraids Jack for only thinking about hunting the beast, and not focusing on the fact that the fire is out—the real consequence of the beast’s appearance (p 141).
- Relationship Story Issue
Investigation is at the heart of their relationship. In Chapter 1, they investigate the island together and become friends because of it. Later, the investigation of Castle Rock is their most harmonious activity—Ralph is the leader, but Jack is called upon because of his skill and knowledge. But then the late night investigation into the Beast near the fire is the final straw that severs their relationship.
- Relationship Story Counterpoint
Neither Jack nor Ralph gives enough weight to the others’ focus. Ralph is too dismissive of the power of hunting and meat, and it eventually draws all the boys to Jack. Jack is too dismissive of the need for the fire, even though it is the only way to signal to a ship.
- Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Investigation into the Beast up near the fire gives way to fear too quickly, and eventually becomes the deciding moment in Jack leaving to form his own tribe.
- Relationship Story Problem
Ralph’s reactions to problems on the island are to make more rules. Jack’s are to make more fun.
- Relationship Story Solution
- Relationship Story Symptom
Their friction stems from the fact that they cannot both hunt and keep a signal fire going.
- Relationship Story Response
Their relationship withers as the two boys hold out for the other one to come around. Even after it is too late and Jack plots Ralph’s death, Ralph toys with the slim chance that he can wander into Jack’s camp and pretend everything is fine.
- Relationship Story Catalyst
- Relationship Story Inhibitor
Ralph immediately cedes leadership of the choir to Jack when he is elected Chief. Ralph asks Jack to take them to Castle Rock to look for the Beast. He lets Jack leave the assembly without calling him back, providing a short term release of tension.
- Relationship Story Benchmark
As the rift between them grows, the less able they are to contain their anger, eventually coming to blows at Castle Rock before Piggy’s death.
- Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis
Jack and Ralph begin as strangers who form a friendship quickly. But it breaks down the more they fail to see eye to eye about the priorities everybody must have. Eventually, Jack grows tired of living under Ralph’s leadership and goes to form his own tribe. When his power is challenged by Ralph, Jack decides the only solution is to hunt Ralph down and kill him.
- Relationship Story Backstory
When Jack gets to the island he is the “chapter chorister and head boy” in charge of a boy’s choir. Ralph happens upon two things that set him up to be the chosen leader: Piggy attaches himself to Ralph, and looks up to him immediately, and he has the conch that pulled everyone together after the accident.
Both of them see the need for rules on the island. Ralph sees them as a way to maintain order; Jack sees them more as a way to mete out punishment.
Jack: “We’ll have rule! Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks ‘em—”
Additional Relationship Story Information →
Additional Story Points
Key Structural Appreciations
- Overall Story Goal
All of the boys on the island are concerned with surviving to the best of their ability until they are rescued. For the littluns, this consists mostly of eating fruit. The bigguns know that optimal survival depends on having a way of working as a unit. Ralph and Piggy try to keep everyone involved in an open, democratic organization. When Jack’s minimized role is too much for his ego to take, he sets up his own tribe, where he is the dictator.
p231: Ralph: “We’ve got to get out of this… Get rescued.”
- Overall Story Consequence
The idyllic nature of the island makes it difficult to stay focused on the necessities of being rescued. If they fail to be rescued by exhausting all the options—essentially, removing anyone with the sense to try to get rescued—they will be condemned to being unable to focus on it at all.
- Overall Story Cost
The island is initially conceived of as a utopia where anything can happen. But their experience becomes less and less time for fun as realities set in.
- Overall Story Dividend
- Overall Story Requirements
The relationship between Ralph and Jack changes from a fragile friendship into a murderous lust that eventually results in a huge fire.
- Overall Story Prerequisites
Jack is oversensitive to Ralph’s position as Chief, and it chaffs him until he is no longer able to remain a subordinate and leaves.
- Overall Story Preconditions
In order for Ralph to keep the peace and get Jack’s cooperation with the fire, he must let them hunt.
- Overall Story Forewarnings
The more the boys play being savages, hunting and spending time with Jack, the less concerned they are with the fire.
In chapter 10, when all of the biguns are at Castle Rock, Ralph gets more keenly aware that they need to be rescued. “If we don’t get home soon we’ll be barmy.”
Dynamic Act Appreciations
- Overall Story Signpost 1
A plane carrying a group of British School Boys is shot down over the ocean, stranding the boys on an uninhabited island.
- Overall Story Journey 1 from Past to Progress
An Island without Civilization to Destabilizing Forces Get Stronger. A ship goes by without seeing the signal fire, because it has gone out. Because there is no civilization on the island, the limits of their own civilized past start to fade away.
- Overall Story Signpost 2
Jack’s influence over the boys becomes a real force, and the feeling that there is a beast on the island grows stronger.
- Overall Story Journey 2 from Progress to Future
Samneric see the corpse of the downed pilot. When the twins mistake the downed pilot for the beast, the excursion across the island results in Jack leaving Ralph’s group to start his own.
- Overall Story Signpost 3
Forecasts of a Dire Future:
Jack’s feast forecasts what is to come for the boys if they choose to join his tribe: all hunting, murder, and no fire.
- Overall Story Journey 3 from Future to Present
All but four boys join Jack, leading to the death of Piggy, the torture of Samneric, and thaving to deal with Ralph.
- Overall Story Signpost 4
Dealing with the Current Situation:
Current problems overwhelm the story: retrieving Piggy’s glasses, converting Samneric to Jack’s tribe, and killing Ralph.
The castaways are saved by the arrival of the British Navy.
- Main Character Signpost 1
Hitting on the Idea of a Signal Fire:
Ralph has the idea that they need to build a signal fire to be saved.
- Main Character Journey 1 from Conceiving to Becoming
Hitting on the Idea of a Signal Fire to Embodying a Chief:
By struggling to get people to work, Ralph gets resentful of people shirking.
- Main Character Signpost 2
Embodying a Chief:
Ralph stands in the ashes of the burned out fire, asserting his chieftanship.
- Main Character Journey 2 from Becoming to Conceptualizing
Embodying a Chief to Carefully Planning:
After getting more comfortable as leader, Ralph can take time to think things out.
- Main Character Signpost 3
Ralph plans out a hike around the island to look for the beast and re-light the fire.
- Main Character Journey 3 from Conceptualizing to Being
Carefully Planning to Being Piggy’s Mouthpiece:
The plan goes awry when it verifies there is a beast on the island, and results in the murder of Simon.
- Main Character Signpost 4
Being Piggy’s Mouthpiece:
Ralph is the only member of the island who refuses to duck the reality that they have committed murder, but he has trouble holding onto his thoughts and must be fed his ideas by Piggy, who pushes him to go to Castle Rock.
- Influence Character Signpost 1
Jack hunts obsessively.
- influence Character Journey 1 from Doing to Obtaining
Jack Hunts Obsessively to Jack Kills a Pig:
By hunting obsessively, Jack is able to gain the necessary skills to kill a pig.
- Influence Character Signpost 2
Jack Kills a Pig:
Jack kills a pig and provides a feast.
- Influence Character Journey 2 from Obtaining to Learning
Jack Kills a Pig to Jack Learns Ralph’s Opinion about “Hunters”
- Influence Character Signpost 3
Jack Learns Ralph’s Opinion about “Hunters”:
Faced with the true threat of the Beast, Jack learns what Ralph thinks of his hunters, “boys with sticks.”
- Influence Character Journey 3 from Learning to Understanding
Jack Learns Ralph’s Opinion about “Hunters” to Jack Understands What He Has Done:
Jack’s ego forces him to split from Ralph, and his transition to acting completely savage is accelerated.
- Influence Character Signpost 4
Jack Understands What He Has Done:
When Jack sees the British Officer, he understands that he has gone astray of civilized thinking.
- Relationship Story Signpost 1
As new friends, they create wonderful memories as they search the island, which they refer to later:
“Remember when we went exploring?” They grinned, remembering the glory of the first day (p 67).
- Relationship Story Journey 1 from Memory to PreconsciousCreating Memories to Sitting on Emotions
- Relationship Story Signpost 2
Sitting on Emotions:
Jack is able to compensate for his error of taking the boys by apologizing, and when Ralph calls him out on it —“a dirty trick” (p95)—their friendship turns to enmity.
- Relationship Story Journey 2 from Preconscious to Subconscious
Sitting on Emotions to Lack of Fear:
Ralph is getting more comfortable as leader, even to the point where he is letting Jack lead them across the island without feeling threatened. But Jack lashes out at him.
Ralph asks him, “Why do you hate me?”
He gets no answer, but Jack continues to goad him, trying to make him look fearful and weak.
- Relationship Story Signpost 3
Lack of Fear:
When Jack shows up to steal fire for the first time, Ralph is not scared by him, although everyone else is.
- Relationship Story Journey 3 from Subconscious to Conscious
Lack of Fear to Arguing
- Relationship Story Signpost 4
They argue about why Jack stole Piggy’s glasses to build a small cooking fire.
Plot Progression Visualizations
Dynamic Act Schematics
OS: MC: IC: RS: