The Oxford Dictionary defines “anarchy” as a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority. We can assume, therefore, that the young boys in the film “Lord of the Flies” were living in a state of anarchy when they survived a plane crash, only to be stranded on a desert island without any adult supervision. A British film, it was shot entirely in Puerto Rico in 1963, and is faithful to novel on which it was based, written by William Golding.
Author William Golding Wikimedia
Ralph (James Aubrey) and “Piggy” (Hugh Edwards) are the first two boys that we meet as they encountered each other walking through the brush after the plane crash. Ralph found a huge conch shell which he blows to alert any other survivors to join them on the beach. Another half dozen or so show up, fortunately without any serious injury from their recent ordeal. They hear singing in the distance, and about a dozen boys come into view wearing choir robes and singing “Kyrie Eleison,” a Christian prayer meaning “Lord, have mercy.” The unspoken perception is that this group is from a different school than Ralph’s group.
It appears that the leader of the choir-robed boys is Jack (Tom Chapin) who is slightly taller and older-looking than the rest of the survivors. They all appear to be in the age range of 7 to 14. Ralph made the suggestion that each boy should have an assigned task, and that the conch will serve as a call to all that an “assembly” is scheduled. It is apparent that a leader should be chosen, and it is a close tie between Ralph and Jack, but Ralph won out, to the consternation of Jack.
Desert Island - Wikimedia
Tension in the Group
Ralph’s initial group sees the need to build shelters and find food sources, whereas Jack’s group wants to romp and hunt and just have fun. Both groups realize that they will have to find a way to start a fire. Their elementary education has told them that a magnifying glass focused on some twigs, aided by the sun’s rays, could start a fire. Since Piggy is the only boy who wears glasses, he offered his glasses for the experiment. Voila! Fire!
Jack and a few members from his faction have the task of seeing that the fire never goes out. Searching for twigs is part of that assignment. Meanwhile, Ralph and Piggy, who have bonded nicely, have searched the island, and climbed to one of its highest points. Ralph spotted a plane overhead and waved and screamed frantically at the aircraft, without a response. He learned on coming down that Jack had let the fire go out which lost them the chance of being seen from the air.
Piggy’s Glasses are Broken
Piggy, who seemed always to be the sensible one, reprimanded Jack for not tending to the fire. Jack took a swipe at Piggy and knocked off his glasses, breaking one of the lenses. Piggy was handicapped further by Jack’s cruel action. It was easy to see that the sides were lining up, each with a different leader. Jack and his tribe made fun of the conch as a symbol of authority, calling the group together.
Jack was responsible for one positive outcome, however, when he was able to capture a pig and roast it over the newly built fire, so that the boys were able to fill their bellies and stay well. At different times, they are seen drinking coconut milk and eating bananas and berries. The island is rich and fertile, providing sustenance for such a large crowd.
William Golding Plaque - Wikimedia
A Beast is Imagined
Somehow, the boys had an idea that the island was inhabited by a beast who would come up from the water. It was spoken of so much that it became a reality to them. After killing another pig, Jack placed the pig’s head on a stick as an offering to the beast. The rebel group painted their faces with berry juices and mud, and gradually their clothing became threadbare. They made spears by whittling large sticks with the one knife they had. Some were naked; some were covered with leaves and brush.
Simon is Killed
Simon, who was the youngest boy on the island, came upon the pig’s head swarming with flies, and ran away as fast as he could. He imagined that it was the beast. As he ran through the jungle, Simon came upon a dead pilot surrounded by his parachute, but hidden from sight. He ran to Jack’s camp to tell him. In the darkness, some of the boys mistook him for the beast and killed him. He was found lying at the edge of the water. Ralph was heartsick about Simon’s death, but Piggy tried to console him that it couldn’t be prevented; it was an accident.
When Piggy took the conch to speak to the other group, they jeered at him. Later they came over to his camp and stole his glasses. Piggy had to depend on Ralph to lead him to wherever he was going. Civilized behavior no longer existed between the two camps. Roger, one of the more contemptible members, loosened a boulder just above where Piggy was sitting, killing him immediately.
Piggy is Killed
Ralph was devastated. Only a handful of the younger boys had taken his side, and he had lost Piggy’s rational outlook on their situation. Jack’s camp was running amok, uncontrollable and disruptive. They had become savages. They built a huge fire to smoke Ralph out. Fearing for his life, he ran through the jungle until he came to the beach. He fell down, exhausted, only to look up and see a man dressed in white, a naval officer, standing over him. Five other officers disembarked from a small boat and were coming ashore.
Rescue Has Come
As the other boys came shyly out of their camp, they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. One of the youngest boys walked up to the officer and touched him. He was trying to tell the man his name, but the boy could not remember his own name.
The last scene shows Ralph with tears streaming down his face, grateful that their nightmare had ended. His realization of the cruelty of humans to each other was too much to bear.
Nicholas Hammond Wikimedia
Only Nathan Hammond Continues as an Actor
The film “Lord of the Flies” did not hire experienced actors for the roles of the surviving boys. None of the boys had ever acted before. In fact, the director, Peter Brook, allowed the boys to ad lib many of the scenes, giving it a more spontaneous impact. Only one of the several dozen boys continued with the theater as his career. That was Nathan Hammond, who played Robert, a member of Jack’s camp. Nathan was in the film “The Sound of Music,” playing Friedrich, one of the von Trapp children. He was also the first Spider-Man, before Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. He played the action hero in the series “The Amazing Spider-man from 1977-79. He had a role in “The Brady Bunch,” as well as other parts in television or on film, up to the present day.
“Lord of the Flies” is a classic story which has become required reading in many high schools in the United States and England. An American adaptation of the book was also filmed in 1990.