This is the tale of three British lads who get shipwrecked on a South Pacific island during the mid-19th century. They are Jack, Ralph and Peterkin.
The tropical island is precisely the same place in both novels. The big difference between the two stories, however, lies in the quality of the boys.
Ballantyne's heroes are gentlemen -- and they remain gentlemen throughout the novel.
They are true leaders and remain totally loyal to one another. To them, the entire incident is a fun-filled adventure which they enjoy to the entirety.
Jack is the leader in The Coral Island. He is 18 years of age, whereas Ralph is 15 and Peterkin just 14. The younger boys therefore look up to Jack at all times and he takes the role of a gentle but adventurous older brother.
Although Peterkin is not quite as bright as either Jack or Ralph, he is nevertheless also a fun-loving young chap and remains a respected member of the trio.
William Golding, however, shows serious reservations about the character of the boys as Ballantyne presents them in The Coral Island.
Indeed, Golding's premise is that British boys of today are not gentlemen at all but are yobs who, if freed from strict adult control, would quickly descend into unutterable savagery.
In Lord of the Flies, therefore, much of the original plot becomes the springboard for a frightening scenario of little boys who become megalomaniacs -- little Hitlers -- who would stop at nothing, not even murder.
All the boys are younger in Lord of the Flies. Indeed, the three protagonists -- Jack, Ralph and Piggy -- are only twelve. A fourth important character -- Simon -- is also introduced and he is only six.
Peterkin is replaced by Piggy, a boy who is very logical but is fat, irritating and suffers from asthma. Golding then immediately starts eroding Piggy's comfort zone, making him an antagonist with Jack....