Memorable Quotes From William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'

The famous banned book still resonates with readers

'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding
The cover of 'Lord of the Flies'. Penguin

"The Lord of the Flies" by William Golding, was first published in 1954 and was instantly controversial. The twisted coming-of-age story tells the tale of a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island after a plane crash. It's by far Golding's best-known work.

As the boys struggle to survive, they devolve into violence, as this commentary on human nature shows its darkest undertones.

The novel is now sometimes considered something of a companion piece to J.D.

Salinger's coming-of-age story "The Catcher in the Rye." The two works can be viewed as flip sides of the same coin, with the themes of isolation, peer pressure and loss featuring heavily in their plots.

"The Lord of the Flies" is one of the most read and most popular books for high school and college students studying youth culture and influences.

Here are a few quotes from the novel, with context provided. 

Piggy's Role in 'The Lord of the Flies'

Concerned with order and doing things in a civilized way, Piggy is doomed early on. He tries to help keep order and grows distressed when the boys can't even manage the basic task of building a fire. 

  • "They used to call me Piggy!'"

Before this statement, Piggy tells Ralph "I don't care what they call me... so long as they don't call me what they used to call me in school." The reader might not realize it yet, but this does not bode well for poor Piggy; his weakness has been identified (and when Jack breaks his glasses not long afterward, readers have  begun to suspect that Piggy's life is in danger) 

Ralph and Jack Battle for Control

  • "'We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything.'"

This is a central point of "The Lord of the Flies," and is Golding's strongest commentary about both the necessity and the futility of trying to impose a structure on a world inhabited by people with base instincts.

Jack, who later becomes the leader of the "savage" group of boys, can't conceive of a world without British dominance. 

  • He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling."

This description of Jack in chapter 4 shows the beginning of the tendency toward savagery. It's a truly disturbing scene and sets the stage for the brutality that's coming next. 

  • "All this I meant to say. Now I've said it. You voted me for chief. Now you do what I say."

Ralph still has some semblance of control as the group's leader at this point, with the "rules" still somewhat intact. But the foreboding here is clear, and it's obvious to the reader that the fabric of their little society is about to tear. 

  • "And you shut up! Who are you, anyway? Sitting there telling people what to do. You can't hunt, you can't sing..."
  • "I'm chief. I was chosen."
  • "Why should choosing make any difference? Just giving orders that don't make any sense..."

This exchange between Ralph and Jack shows the larger dilemma of earned power and authority versus power that is bestowed. It can be read as a debate between the nature of a monarchy versus elected rulers. 

The Beast Within?

  • "Maybe there is a beast....maybe it's only us."

As the doomed Simon and Piggy try to make sense of what's really happening on the island, Golding gives us yet another larger moral theme to consider.

With the world in "The Lord of the Flies" at war, and Golding's status as a war veteran, this statement seems to question whether humans are their own worst enemy (the author's answer is an emphatic "yes.").

 

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