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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 1 - The Sound of the Conch
The story begins with two boys, Ralph and Piggy, coming out onto the beach from the dense jungle where they have met. The reader realizes from their conversation that they are on an island although they are yet to confirm it. They belong to a group of boys who were being flown to some unknown destination, but their plane has crashed. The pilot of the plane is missing, and there seems to be no grown-ups on the island.
Ralph and Piggy wonder where the other boys could be. They find a conch shell and blow on it, sending out a loud and blaring sound. All of the other children soon start to appear. First to enter is a party of boys marching in step in two parallel lines. They are all dressed in strange, but similar, clothing. They are choirboys, and their leader is Jack Merridew. He is authoritative and very rude to Piggy; after a few short questions, he seems to size up the situation. Jack wishes to be the chief, especially since he is already head of the choirboys. The boys, however, decide to have a vote; everyone except the choir votes for Ralph as their leader. Realizing Jack's anger at being defeated, Ralph offers him the position of Head of the Hunters.
Ralph, Jack and Simon decide to explore the island while the others are asked to wait on the beach. Jack rudely puts down piggy when he wishes to join them. All three boys start off briskly, happy to be in each other's company. They reach the end of the island, which has jagged rocks stretching towards the mountains. They have to move in and out of the jungle to reach the rocky paths leading upward. They move towards the summit, pushing a huge rock over the edge of the cliff on the way, an event that clearly foreshadows the boulder that pushes Piggy over the cliff to his death on the rocks below.
The view from the square mountaintop is breathtaking. It confirms that they are on an uninhabited island. Ralph proudly keeps proclaiming their ownership of the land. On their way back down, they come across a piglet caught in the creepers. Jack draws his knife, ready to kill the pig, but he stops. He is obviously a civilized boy with no stomach for the blood letting. The pig takes advantage of the moment and runs away. Jack excuses himself by saying that he was choosing the right place to stab it and that the next time he would definitely kill. The boys come out of the jungle and move towards the boys waiting on the beach.
In the first chapter, the scene is set for the action of the novel. A plane carrying schoolboys has crashed on the island. Ironically, the boys were escaping a nuclear war and being flown to freedom. The boys, aged roughly between five and twelve, are now marooned on the island. In this opening chapter, they feel they have reached paradise, for the island is uninhabited and free of adult rules and supervision. Ralph, a handsome, trim, and athletic boy of twelve, is particularly overjoyed to note that there are no adults around and to see the beauty of the island. He sheds his clothes and enters the lagoon to bathe. This shedding of clothes is symbolic of the shedding of civilization.
The boys are introduced, one by one, as they gather on the beach. The first person Ralph meets is Piggy. Appropriately nicknamed and in contrast to Ralph, Piggy is fat, clumsy, and not very physically fit. He also wears thick glasses, being almost blind, and has asthma. In spite of his physical limitation, Piggy is very good- natured and extremely rational. He immediately senses the gravity of the situation and is eager to locate other survivors. Piggy is also the one that spies the conch shell on the beach and suggests that Ralph blow it in an effort to call the other stranded boys. Ralph, a rational boy himself, does not take an immediate liking to his first island acquaintance.
Jack and his troop of choirboys are next introduced. Wearing black capes and caps, they march on to the beach in military style. Aggressive and demanding, Jack immediately asserts his authority and takes his place beside Ralph. The protagonist and antagonist are, thus, brought together in the opening pages of the book and depicted as opposites in nature. Jack represents the world of hunting, tactics, and skill; Ralph represents common sense and sensitivity to the natural world. The reader senses an immediate rivalry between them.
When all of the boys discuss their situation, they quickly realize that they need a leader. Ralph is elected, probably because he has blown the conch and called the boys together. The new leader, sensitive to the needs of others, recognizes Jack's disappointment over not being selected and appoints him as Head of the Hunters. This appointment, along with his bullying of Piggy, makes Jack feel better. As Jack torments Piggy, Ralph realizes that he has been inconsiderate of the boy as well; he tries to apologize to Piggy and be more friendly to him.
Ralph tells the others to wait on the beach while he, Jack, and Simon (another choirboy who is quiet and shy) go off to explore the island and search for inhabitants. It is obvious that the three boys, at this point in the book, enjoy one another's company and the freedom they have found. As they play games in the jungle and climb the mountain, they seem to bond with the beauty of the island and one another.
It is significant to note that the trio's first encounter with a pig will significantly contrast to later scenes of the hunters living for "the kill". When Jack spies the piglet caught in the undergrowth, he brings out his knife in readiness, but something stops him from killing the pig. He is obviously still held back by the laws of the civilized world he has left behind and, as a youth, has no natural instinct for the hunt and its brutality and bloodiness. It is also important to note that in the first chapter the conch shell becomes a symbol of authority and order. Ralph uses it to call the boys together and displays it to show his leadership. Towards the end of the novel, when Piggy is crushed and killed, the conch shell is also crushed. Its destruction symbolizes the end of order and the breaking up of civilization on the island.