Ralph is the boy who is introduced to us in the very beginning of the novel, in fact with the very opening words as “the boy with fair hair”. Ralph is about twelve years and a few months of age. He is old enough to have lost the prominent tummy of childhood and yet not old enough for adolescence to have made him look awkward. His shoulders are wide and heavy, and it seems that he might one day become a boxer. But there is a mildness about his mouth and eyes which proclaims that there is nothing of the devil in him. Subsequently, we learn that he has frequently to push back his hair in order to prevent it from obstructing his vision by falling upon his eyes. He is taller than most other boys on the island and has a handsome appearance.
His Mood at the Beginning of the Novel
When we meet Ralph first, he is in a mood of elation. Finding that there are no grown-ups on the island, he feels really happy at the thought of the autonomy which he would be able to enjoy here. It seems that an ambition which he had been nourishing for a long time has at last been realized. The ambition was that he should feel free to behave just as he likes without any control being exercised over him or his actions by the grownups; and now he really finds himself free. Besides, the island seems to be full of enchantment to him; and the glamour which he finds here adds to his joy. Seeing a large school of tiny, glittering fish in the water he feels so happy as to exclaim “Whizzoh ! “ Finding a beautiful pool of water, he jumps into it, and finds that the water is warmer than his blood. He does a surface dive and then swims under water with his eyes open. In order to give an expression to his feeling of joy he often stands on his head. Indeed, his mood of jubilation is the most striking feature about him at this early stage in the story. He is proud of his swimming skill and tells Piggy that he had learnt to swim when he was only five. He also ells Piggy that his father is a commander in the Navy and that his father would rescue them from here as soon as possible.
His Discovery of the Conch
In reply to a question by Piggy, Ralph tells him that they are really on an island. He then sees a strange object lying in the water. This object excites his curiosity because he does not know what it is. Piggy tells him that it is a conch-shell and that a loud sound can be produced from it by blowing into it. Piggy then gives him a few instructions by following which Ralph is able to blow the conch. Ralph goes on blowing the conch for a little while. In response to the loud sound of the conch, all the boys, who had got scattered on the island after landing from their passenger-tube, gather close to the spot where Ralph has been blowing the conch. Thus Ralph’s blowing the conch (at Piggy’s suggestion and under Piggy’s instructions) has proved to be a means of bringing all the boys together. These boys include the choir led by Jack. Ralph then suggests that they should elect a chief. Jack offers himself as the chief, saying that he was the head boy of his class and the head chorister, and that he can sing C sharp. Ralph, however, suggests that the chief should be chosen through voting. As the majority of the boys are in favour of Ralph, Ralph becomes the elected chief. The reasons why the boys voted in his favour are, first, that he has a robust physique and an attractive appearance and, secondly, that it was he who had blown the conch the sound of which had brought all the boys together.
His Qualities of Leadership : (i) An Exploration of the Island
From this point onwards Ralph gives evidence of certain qualities which show that he is really fit to perform the role which has been assigned to him and which he had himself desired. These qualities are his boldness and fearlessness, his right sense of priorities, his concern for the welfare of others, his democratic outlook, and his sensible decisions. Immediately after having been elected as the chief, he makes the following speech:
Listen, everybody. I’ve got to have time to think things out. I can’t decide what to do straight off. If this isn’t an island we might be rescued straightaway. So we’ve got to decide if this is an island. Everybody must stay round here and wait and not go away. Three of us will go on an expedition and find out.
Thus his first priority is to make sure whether or not the boys are on an island because, if this is not an island, they would be rescued without much delay. Ralph then selects Jack and Simon to accompany him on the expedition. In the course of the expedition, he is once again struck by the glamour of the island, and once again stands on his head to give expression to his feeling of elation. Seeing a number of sea-birds nesting on a rock, he compares them to “icing on a pink cake”. He then suggests the point from which they would try climbing the mountain, and leads the other two in the ascent. However, he is not able to give the correct reply when Jack asks who might have made the track going upwards. Ralph thinks that the track was made by human beings but Jack tells him that this track had been made by animals; and Jack is right. From the top of the mountain, Ralph points to a reef in the distance and says: “A coral reef. I’ve seen pictures like that.” He then spreads his arms and says that the entire island belongs to them. When the survey from the mountain-top is over, Ralph says with the authority of a chief: “Come on. We’ve found out what we wanted to know.” The survey has confirmed that they are on an island.
(ii) Framing a Rule About Addressing the Assembly
After this first expedition, Ralph calls another meeting of the boys by blowing the conch. At first he feels somewhat hesitant to speak, but then he discovers that he can talk fluently and explain what he has to say. He passes a hand through his fair hair and says:
We are on an island. We’ve been on the mountain-top and seen water all round. We saw no houses, no smoke, no foot-prints, no boats, no people. We’re on an uninhabited island with no other people on it.
Having supplied this information to the assembly, Ralph says that they must have a rule according to which anybody who wishes to speak at the assembly should be able to do so. He then suggests that anybody, who wishes to address the assembly, should ask for the conch. When anybody asks for the conch, it would be handed over to him, and he would then be entitled to speak. Ralph then informs the assembly that the aircraft by which they had been travelling had been shot at and had burst into flames. He says that their whereabouts are unknown to the authorities and that they may have to stay on here for a long time. But this is a good island, he goes on to say. There is food on this island, and there is drinking water. The island is truly a “wizard”, meaning that it is really an enchanting island, and then he says:
While we’re waiting we can have a good time on this island. This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.
When one of the little boys expresses his fear of the snake-thing or the beastie, Ralph says that there can be no beastie on an island of this size and that beasties are to be found only in big countries like Africa and India. He then says that the little boy must have had a nightmare. When Jack admits the possibility of the existence of a beastie on the island. Ralph feels annoyed and tells Jack firmly that there is no beastie on this island.
(iii) His Suggestion About Lighting a Fire on the Mountain-Top
Ralph then informs the assembly that his father is in the Navy and that his father had told him that there are no unknown islands left in this world. Ralph expresses his firm hope that they would soon be rescued and then suggests that, in order to hasten the rescue, they should light a fire on the top of the mountain to make it possible for the sailors on a passing ship to notice the smoke from the fire and to come to the island to rescue them. Subsequently, Ralph lights a fire on the mountain-top with Piggy’s spectacles serving as “burning glasses”, even though it was Jack who had suggested the use of Piggy’s glasses for the purpose of lighting the fire.
(iv) His Suggestion About Building Huts or Shelters
Later Ralph suggests the building of huts or shelters along the beach. Two huts are built speedily but then the boys lose their interest in the building of huts so that the third hut is built by Ralph himself, helped only by Simon, with the result that this third hut is a shaky structure. Ralph feels very annoyed at the boys’ indifference to the building of huts. And he expresses his displeasure to Jack who is now the leader of the so-called “hunters” on the island. Then Ralph becomes even more annoyed when he sees a ship in the distance but finds at the same time that the fire on the mountain-top has been neglected by Jack’s hunters and has gone out. As there is no fire and no smoke rising from it, the sailors on the passing ship would not become aware of the need to rescue any stranded persons on the island. Ralph at this time feels very distressed because a golden opportunity of being rescued has been lost on account of the negligence of Jack’s hunters. Subsequently, he orders the fire to be re-lighted. As Jack and his hunters are now enjoying themselves in a mock-hunt, Ralph feels resentful of them and announces that he is going to call another assembly to discuss the situation.
(v) His Criticism of the Boys’ Negligence
In accordance with his announcement, Ralph calls another assembly by blowing the conch. Ralph decides that this meeting must not be “fun” but “business”, and on this occasion again he makes a speech which shows him to be a true leader. He says that this meeting is being held not for laughing, not for making jokes, not for cleverness, but to put things straight. He says that it is to be regretted that decisions are taken at these meetings only to be forgotten. He points out that the boys have not been implementing the decisions to keep coconut-shells full of drinking-water, that they have not implemented the decision to build the shelters against rain, that the boys have been making the rocks dirty by using them as lavatories. And then Ralph comes to what in his opinion is the most important thing. He says that the fire had been allowed to go out and that a ship had passed with no smoke rising from the mountain-top to attract the attention of the sailors on that ship. He tells Jack and his hunters that maintaining a fire and its smoke is more important than killing a pig. He also tells the boys that they should not light cooking-fires everywhere on the island because these fires might set the whole island ablaze. He then emphasizes the need on the part of the boys to follow his instructions closely and to carry out the decisions which they themselves take at these meetings. He expresses his sorrow at the way things are “breaking up”. They had begun well and they were happy; but now things are taking a turn which he cannot approve of. He also reprimands the little boys for feeling frightened of a beastie or the snake-thing which does not really exist. At this meeting Ralph also rebukes Simon for having gone out of the hut in the darkness of the night, because his moving through the trees in the darkness had given rise to terrible fear in the minds of one of the little boys. When some of the boys, and especially Jack, try to speak without first taking the conch in their hands, Ralph rebukes them and says that there is too much talking out of turn and that the rules must be observed. Thus he emphasizes once again the need of maintaining discipline. When the talk centred round ghosts, Ralph wisely suggests that this subject should not be taken up at such a late hour in the evening.
(vi) His Self-Assertiveness. But Defeated By Jack
This whole speech of Ralph brings out all his qualities of leadership. He attaches the utmost importance to the fire and the smoke because only through the fire and the smoke would any rescue be possible. He emphasizes the need to build shelters or huts. He firmly says that the rule about holding the conch in one’s hand when one wishes to speak must be observed. He tries to drive out from the minds of the Littluns their fear of an imaginary beastie or snake-thing. He does not feel afraid of Jack who shows signs of defiance. Despite these excellent qualities and sensible decisions taken by Ralph, he is unable to maintain his hold upon the boys. Even though he himself joins in the search for the beast, the, existence of which has been reported by the twins, his leadership is challenged by Jack. Ralph does retain his grip over the situation till the time of his climbing up the mountain in the company of Jack and Roger, but soon afterwards Jack breaks away from his association and cooperation with Ralph, and is able to wean away most of the Biguns from Ralph. Even at the time of Jack’s first real defiance of Ralph’s authority, Ralph had told Piggy and Simon that he would like to resign his position as the chief; but at that time he had been dissuaded from doing so by those two boys. Now, however, Jack has revolted against Ralph’s authority and has won over most of the other Biguns to his side. From this time onwards, Ralph’s authority as the chief is recognized only by Piggy, Simon, Samneric, and the Littluns.
His Relations With Jack
In the beginning Jack is quite friendly with Ralph even after Jack has failed to get elected as the chief. Ralph takes Jack and Simon with him on the expedition to the mountain-top to verify if they are really on an island. At this time there seems to be a perfect understanding between Ralph and Jack, and Jack fully shares Ralph’s feelings of jubilation and exultation as they go, exploring the island. However, a small difference of opinion takes place between the two boys (in Chapter II) when Ralph declares that there can be no beastie or snake-thing on this island while Jack admits the possibility of the existence of a beastie here. When a little later, Jack takes all the boys up the mountain to light a fire, Ralph is left alone with Piggy. Here is the first sign of Jack’s efforts to take away the leadership from Ralph. Matters come to a head (in Chapter III) when Ralph complains to Jack that all the boys including Jack and his hunters have been ignoring the task of building the huts. Jack attaches more importance to his plans for hunting pigs. At this point, the author makes the following remark : “Now the antagonism was audible.” A little later the author tells us that the two boys “walked along, two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate.” Ralph is thinking: of the unbuilt shelters, while Jack is thinking of trying to track a pig and kill it. “They (Ralph and Jack) looked at each other, baffled, in love and hate.” Then Ralph feels deeply annoyed with Jack and his hunters because they have allowed the fire on the mountain-top to go out, with the result that a golden opportunity for the boys to be rescued by a passing ship has been lost. This time there is a real clash between the two boys, with Piggy bearing the brunt of Jack’s anger. Ralph describes Jack’s action in breaking Piggy’s spectacles as “a dirty trick”. However, the clash does not lead to a complete breach, and Ralph even accepts the pig-meat which Jack and his hunters have roasted after having killed their first pig. The next clash between the two proves to be the most serious. Jack now openly defies Ralph and declares that he does not care for the rule about holding the conch in one’s hands while speaking. As most of the Biguns follow Jack, Ralph tells Piggy that he feels like resigning his position as the chief. However, Ralph again cooperates with Jack, and Jack too is in a cooperative mood, when the twins report that they have seen the beast on the mountain-top. In the course of the search for the beast, Ralph says at one point to Jack: “Why do you hate me?” But Jack gives no reply. Then Jack himself calls an assembly at which he brings all sorts of accusations against Ralph and instigates the boys against Ralph. Jack is almost in tears when he quits the platform. On this occasion most of the Biguns follow Jack and Jack’s revolt is complete. The breach between Ralph and Jack is also now complete, so that from now onwards Jack becomes a sworn opponent of Ralph.
His Attitude to Piggy
In the beginning Ralph takes hardly any notice of Piggy in spite of the fact that Piggy tries to become chummy with him. It is only when Piggy mentions his name or nickname and points out that he is somewhat ashamed of it, that Ralph becomes interested in Piggy. At the mention of this nickname Ralph shrieks with laughter, thus causing a lot of embarrassment to Piggy. When Piggy” mentions his auntie. Ralph scornfully says : “Sucks to your auntie !” When Piggy mentions his asthma, Ralph again speaks scornfully, saying : “Sucks to, your ass-mar !” A little later Ralph, who has been swimming in the bathing-pool, asks Piggy in a tone of authority to bring his clothes to him. When Piggy asks him to be a little more careful while handling the conch-shell, Ralph says: “Shut up.” After Ralph has been elected the chief and has to select two other boys to go with him to the mountain-top, Piggy wants to be chosen by him as one of those who would accompany him. But Ralph unceremoniously rejects Piggy and says to him: “You’re no good on a job like this. When Piggy expresses his grievance at Ralph’s having given away Piggy’s nickname to the other boys, Ralph says; “Better Piggy than Fatty.” Ralph then asks Piggy to go and take down the names of all the boys. “Now go back, Piggy, and take names. That’s your job. So long.” Later in the story, Piggy makes a suggestion that the boys should be asked to make sun-dials in order to know the time. But Ralph shows no interest in this proposition which is quite practical and which, if implemented, could prove very useful to the boys in knowing the time. Ralph does not attach any importance to Piggy’s suggestion. In fact Ralph thinks Piggy to be a bore. In Ralph’s opinion Piggy’s fatness, Piggy’s asthma, and Piggy’s matter-of-fact ideas are dull. Ralph is interested only in pulling Piggy’s leg just to derive some entertainment from this game. However, in course of time, Ralph’s attitude towards Piggy undergoes a change. He begins to understand that Piggy has a thinking mind and that Piggy’s views should not be ignored. When all the big boys have to set out to make a search for the supposed beast, Ralph, entrusts Piggy with the task of looking after the Littluns during the time of the absence of the big boys. When the expedition has been delayed, Ralph thinks it is necessary to send someone to Piggy in order to inform him that the Biguns would come back to the shelters late in the evening and that Piggy should not therefore feel perturbed. Later, when Piggy wants to get his spectacles back from Jack and would like to go to Jack’s camp for this purpose, Ralph readily goes with him. Then, on Piggy’s behalf, Ralph calls upon Jack to return the spectacles, and he goes to the extent of calling Jack a thief. It is, of course, unfortunate that Piggy, who has incurred the wrath of both Jack and Roger, now gets killed; but Ralph has tried his utmost to help Piggy. By now Ralph has understood that Piggy has been a true friend to him. After all, Piggy was the only Bigun, besides Simon, who had stood by Ralph when all the others, led by Jack, had deserted him. On the last page of the novel we read that Ralph weeps for his “true, wise friend called Piggy”. At the same time it is rather problematic that Ralph does not think of Simon at this time. Perhaps, Ralph was not able to understand Simon at all. Ralph had certainly appreciated Simon’s cooperation in building the huts, but somehow Ralph has not been able to appreciate, the overall character of Simon as a saintly type of person. Even the death of Simon, though recognized by Ralph as a murder, does not affect Ralph profoundly. In this respect, Ralph’s thick-headedness is to be deplored.
His Introspective and Contemplative Nature
Ralph has an introspective nature and a contemplative mind. On various occasions he gets lost in thought. For instance, on one occasion, when he has called an assembly, he has been thinking how to express himself so as to be understood even by the Littluns. On this occasion Ralph becomes conscious of the “wearisomeness of life”. He has a feeling that every path in life is an improvisation and that a considerable part of one’s waking life is spent in watching one’s feet. Then, with a convulsion of the mind, Ralph discovers dirt and decay not only around him but on his own person and clothes. Then it occurs to him that, if he has to be a successful chief, he must think over every step that he takes and must prove himself to be “wise”. Thought is a valuable asset and brings about results. Ralph now envies Piggy for the latter’s capacity for thinking. Piggy may not be fit to be the chief, but Piggy has brains. Ralph now recognizes this quality in Piggy. On another occasion we find Ralph once again lost in thought. This time he looks at his grey shirt and wonders whether he would be able to wash it. He would like to have a pair of scissors in order to cut his hair which has grown too long. He would like to have a proper bath with soap. He also feels the need to brush his teeth, but has no toothbrush. Then he looks at the clothes and the hair of the hunters and feels that they too need to wash themselves well in order to look clean. But it also occurs to him that the conditions of life on this island make it impossible for anyone to look neat and clean. On yet another occasion Ralph gets into a reminiscent mood and thinks of his early life when he used to live in a cottage on the edge of the moors in England. He used to live with his father and mother at that time. Wild ponies came to the stone wall at the bottom of the garden. When it was snowing, Ralph used to watch the falling flakes of snow from a shed behind the cottage. When he felt cold, he would go inside the cottage. At bed-time, he was given a bowl of corn-flakes with sugar and cream. By his bed stood the shelf on which were books of various kinds. There was a book about two girls, Topsy and Mopsy, which he had never read; there was a book about a magician ; there was a book about the excavations in Egypt; there was a book about trains and a book about ships; and so on. “Everything in those days was all right; everything was good-humoured and friendly.” Sometimes Ralph feels upset by the course which the events are taking on the island. It seems to him that sanity is giving way to confusion. He feels perturbed by the thought that the boys are thinking more of the beast than of the fire which they must maintain in case they wish to be rescued. Seeing the boys talking, arguing, and gesticulating, Ralph feels very disturbed:
To Ralph, seated, this seemed the breaking-up of sanity. Fear, beasts, no general agreement that the fire was all-important : and when one tried to get the thing straight the argument sheared off, bringing up fresh, unpleasant matter.
In a similar mood Ralph once asks Piggy: “What makes things break up like they do ?” Once when Ralph is falling asleep, his mind begins to indulge in all sorts of fancies. He is half-asleep and half-awake. He imagines himself and the others being rescued by a jet aircraft and taken to England. He imagines himself living in his parents’ cottage once again, and he thinks of the wild ponies which used to come and look over the garden wall. Then he imagines himself dancing round a lamp-post. He thinks of a “tamed town” where savagery does not exist. It is clear from all this that Ralph is different from all the other boys. The author has depicted the inner life of Ralph because Ralph does have an inner life. The author does not take us into the working of the mind of any other boy. Piggy has a thinking mind also, but the author has not given us any account of the private thoughts of Piggy.
His Capacity For Action
If Ralph has a reflective and contemplative nature, it does not mean that action and enterprise are beyond him. As we have already noted, most of the constructive suggestions come from him, and as we have noted that he takes the lead in exploring the island and also in climbing up to the mountain-top when a search for the beast has to be made. It is true that, in the search for the beast, Jack shows a slightly greater initiative than Ralph, but Ralph by no means lags far behind Jack in such matters. Ralph’s capacity for action and enterprise shows itself in a more striking manner when he has been deserted by Jack and Jack’s hunters and when he is left alone with Piggy and the twins, besides the Littluns. He goes with Piggy to attend Jack’s feast, and there he tries to re-assert his authority as the chief, though he does not receive much attention. He then once again points out to Jack and his hunters that it is necessary to maintain a fire and that, in the, event of its raining, they would all need shelters. When, subsequntly, Jack and two of his hunters raid Ralph’s but, Ralph puts up a brave fight. Jack, of course, succeeds in taking away Piggy’s spectacles, but Ralph has shown a lot of courage in fighting against the raiders. Then Ralph again shows his capacity for action by going with Piggy and the twins to Ralph’s camp where he fearlessly demands the return of Piggy’s spectacles. On this occasion he talks most defiantly to Jack, going to the extent of calling him a “thief”, a “beast”, a “swine”, and a “bloody, bloody thief”. There is an exchange of blows between the two, but Ralph remains undaunted. After Piggy has been killed, Ralph is attacked by Jack with a spear and suffers an injury whereupon Ralph has no alternative but to flee from Jack’s camp. Thus, Ralph remains courageous and brave throughout, except at the end when all hope is lost and when he becomes a personification of fear. At this last stage the author thus describes Ralph’s state of mind:
He (Ralph) forgot his wounds, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet, rushing through the forest towards the open beach……Then he was down, rolling over and over in the warm sand, trying to cry for mercy.
His Deficiencies: Mental Black-Outs
Ralph is not without his shortcomings and deficiencies. In the first place, he is not a quick thinker. Ralph is conscious of this drawback in him. There are occasions when he experiences a mental black-out. A kind of darkness descends upon his mind, and he is unable to think. For instance, on one occasion when he finds the boys indulging in the game of rolling down rocks, he wishes to stop them; and then something strange happens:
A strange thing happened in his head. Something fluttered there in front of his mind like a bat’s wing obscuring his idea.
On another occasion, when Ralph is arguing with Piggy and the twins, his only followers at this time, he experiences the same incapacity for thought:
Then, at the moment of greatest passion and conviction, that curtain flapped in his head and he forgot what he had been driving at.
Later still, we come across the following sentence describing the mental obstruction which Ralph experiences in the course of a speech which he is making:
He paused tamely as the curtain flickered in his brain.
No Aptitude For Hunting
Another deficiency in Ralph is that he has no aptitude for hunting. Now, it is true that maintaining the fire and the smoke and the building of huts are more important than the hunting of pigs, but the hunting of pigs is also an essential task, and Ralph is no good at it. All the boys, including Piggy and Ralph himself, are craving for meat. They have lived only on fruits for many days, getting only occasionally a fish or a crab. Therefore, Jack’s idea of hunting the pigs appeals to all the boys. Ralph himself accepts the roasted meat of the first pig killed by Jack. In fact, at this time both Ralph and Piggy are “dribbling” after having seen a pig being roasted. If Ralph had shown some enthusiasm for the hunting of pigs, and had participated in it, perhaps Jack would not have made a complete break with him.
Not Altogether Free From Fear
Ralph is not altogether fearless. In the beginning he certainly dismisses all talk of a beastie or the snake-thing and tries to dispel the fear from the minds of the little boys. He declares with firmness that he does not believe in the existence of a beastie or the snake-thing. But afterwards, when he climbs to the mountain-top in the company of Jack and Roger, he too mistakes the dead parachutist for a beast, just as the twins hack done. He now begins to feel afraid of the beast. He certainly leads the search for the beast in order to hunt it down, but the fear remains. When Jack and his hunters raid Ralph’s hut, Ralph has the feeling that the beast might have come to attack him and the other inmates. On this occasion he inwardly hopes that the beast would capture or devour one of the Littluns and not him (Ralph). Thus Ralph is not altogether above fear; and he has now begun to believe in the existence of a beast on this island, too.
Usable to Understand People
Another deficiency in Ralph is that he is not a good judge of human nature. He takes long to understand Piggy; and he does not understand Simon at all. It does not occur to him at all in the beginning that Jack would ever betray him, or that Jack would turn into a dictator without any human feeling. However, we should not expect a boy of Ralph’s age to know the various manifestations of human nature and to understand the working of the human mind. In course of time, of course, Ralph would become a sort of specialist in human psychology. But during the period of his stay on this island he shows an incapacity to understand people, and this incapacity is a big handicap to him.
The Contrast Between His Mood at the Beginning and His Mood at the End
There is a tremendous contrast between Ralph’s mood in the beginning of the novel and his mood at the end. On the first page of the novel we find Ralph in a carefree and jubilant mood. And, in the pages that follow, this mood of elation receives further emphasis by the author. At this early stage in the story, Ralph is happy to have been released from all parental control and from all responsibility to the adults. Then in the course of the story at one time Ralph misses the adults and says that, if some grown-ups had been present here, they would have given some valuable guidance to him. On this occasion Ralph says:
If only they could get a message to us ! If only they could send us something grown-up……a sign or something.
Then at the end, when a naval officer has landed upon the island and has offered to take the boys home, Ralph is overcome by his emotion. “The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. Great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body.” Ralph is weeping at the recollection of the grim events which have taken place on the island. Now Ralph weeps for “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” Ralph’s tears at this time are an expression of his accumulated grief over the past happenings on this island. Experience brings wisdom, and wisdom brings sorrow. Ralph has now acquired a lot of experience; he has become much wiser than he was in the beginning; and wisdom has made him sad.
His Symbolic Significance
In symbolic terms, Ralph represents the principle of good as against the principle of evil. He stands for the values of civilization as against the ways of savagery. He stands for progress and advancement as against primitivism. He is a champion of discipline and orderliness as against the forces of darkness, disorder, and anarchy. He stands for a democratic functioning of society as against autocracy and arbitrary government.
His Physical Appearance; and His Nickname
Piggy is a fat, bespectacled boy, shorter than Ralph. His excessive fatness and his spectacles distinguish him from all the other boys. Besides, he is asthmatic, and his asthma is a great handicap to him as is his weak eyesight. He has been wearing spectacles since the age of three. He finds it necessary to wipe his glasses again and again in order to dry them of the sweat which makes them moist. Because of his asthma, Piggy had not been allowed to learn how to swim. Piggy is the nickname by which this boy was known at school. Actually this nickname had always been a cause of embarrassment to him and so now, when he meets Ralph, he requests him not to disclose this nickname to the others on the island. Ralph bursts into a loud laugh on being told this name, whereupon Piggy feels so embarrassed that his face becomes dark on account of an “expression of pain and concentration.” Subsequently, when the nickname is revealed to the others, Piggy feels even more embarrassed. In fact, it seems at this moment that Piggy is on one side and all the other boys on the other side. In other words, Piggy becomes a target of derision on account of this nickname. However, we are never told at any point what Piggy’s real name is or by what name he would like to be called. Besides informing Ralph about his nickname and about his asthma, Piggy also tells him that his father was dead and that he had been brought up by his auntie who owned a sweet-shop and who had always allowed him to eat as much sweets as he wanted. Piggy makes a reference to his mother also but supplies no information regarding her.
Not Very Hopeful of Rescue
Piggy is not very hopeful about the rescue which Ralph thinks would soon take place. According to Piggy, nobody knows where the stranded boys are. In Piggy’s opinion, all those who were in charge of the arrangements must be dead as a result of the atom bomb which had been dropped. Piggy says that Ralph’s dad cannot save them because their whereabouts are unknown even to him (the dad). This view is expressed by him in the very first chapter when Piggy has just met Ralph. But later also Piggy expresses the same view. He says again that he doubts whether any rescue will come because, in his opinion, the authorities are unaware of the whereabouts of the boys and would therefore not be able to organize any rescue.
His Devotion to Ralph
Piggy becomes attached to Ralph at the very outset, and remains devoted to him till the end, despite Ralph’s initial indifference to him and Ralph’s almost contemptuous attitude towards him in the early stages. At the very beginning Piggy does a great service to Ralph by explaining to him that the object, which Ralph has seen lying in the water, is a conch-shell, and then by giving him certain instructions by following which Ralph is able to produce a loud sound from the conch-shell. It is by blowing the conch-shell that Ralph is able to attract the attention of all the boys who had got scattered on the island, and it is largely because of the conch-shell in his hands that Ralph gets elected as the chief. However, only a little later Piggy receives a rebuke from Ralph when Ralph refuses to take Piggy with him on the expedition to the top of the mountain. Piggy has now two grievances against Ralph. One is that Ralph has disclosed the nickname “Piggy” to the other boys, and the second is that Ralph has rejected Piggy’s request to be included among the boys who are to explore the island and to climb to the mountain-top in order to make a survey. However, Piggy feels soothed when Ralph expresses his regret at having caused any embarrassment to Piggy. Piggy always supports Ralph in whatever suggestions and whatever advice Ralph has to offer to the boys. He always endorses Ralph’s priorities, and is always urging the boys to give Ralph time to think over the various issues in order to take correct decisions. When Jack has wrested the initiative from the hands of Ralph and when Ralph feels that most of the Biguns have more confidence in Jack than in him, Ralph feels like resigning his position as the chief; but on this occasion Piggy as well as Simon urges Ralph to continue as the chief and dissuades him from resigning. When Ralph wants to know why things are breaking up on the island, Piggy says that Jack is responsible for the break-up. After Jack has defied Ralph’s authority as the chief, and after Jack has weaned all the Biguns away from Ralph, Piggy as well as Simon and the twins stick to Ralph. Indeed, Piggy’s most striking characteristic is his unfaltering loyalty to Ralph. This trait of his character raises him greatly in our estimation.
His Deep Reverence For the Conch
It is Piggy who suggests to Ralph that the conch can be used to summon all the boys to an assembly. Piggy had known something about blowing a conch from his contact with a boy with whom Piggy had been friendly in England and who had owned a conch which he knew how to blow. Now, when Ralph frames a rule that only a boy holding the conch in his hands would have the right to address the meeting, Piggy begins to look upon the conch as a symbol of authority. In fact, Piggy now begins to feel a great respect for the conch because, with the conch in one’s hands, one acquires the right to address the gathering of the boys. Piggy now always invokes the authority of the conch when he himself wishes to speak at a meeting. He first takes the conch in his hands and then claims the right to speak. If anyone interrupts him, he asserts his right to speak without interruption on the ground that lie holds the conch in his hands. He also objects on many occasions to Jack’s speaking without having the conch in his hands. When, much later in the novel, Piggy decides to confront Jack in order to demand the return of his spectacles, he insists on taking the conch with him because with the conch in his hands he would have the right to speak uninterrupted. While Ralph and the twins on this occasion carry spears in their hands, Piggy carries only the conch which is something sacred to him. When the confrontation actually takes place, Piggy speaks with the conch in his hands as a sacred symbol of authority. As Jack’s savages begin to boo Piggy, Piggy says : “I got the conch ! I tell you. I got the conch !” Surprisingly, the savages become silent in order to listen to what Piggy may have to say. Piggy is probably the only one, besides Ralph himself, who attaches so much importance to the conch as a means of maintaining discipline at a meeting.
Perpetually in a State of Alarm About His Spectacles
Piggy’s weak eyesight is a great handicap to him. He wears thick glasses and, without these, he can hardly see anything. As he says, with the spectacles taken off he cannot even see his own hands. The result is that he is constantly in a state of alarm about his spectacles. When, for instance, Jack snatches Piggy’s spectacles from Piggy’s face in order to use them as “burning glasses”, Piggy howls : “My specs ! Give me my specs !” When subsequently Jack, in a fit of anger, gives a blow to Piggy, breaking his spectacles, Piggy laments the fact that he is now left with only one eye. One of the two glasses having got broken, Piggy would now be able to use only one glass, and he is therefore right in complaining that he has got only one eye to see with now. Later, when Jack has taken away Piggy’s spectacles after a raid on Ralph’s huts, Piggy feels utterly distraught because he has now been rendered almost blind and therefore helpless. Now Piggy cannot even find his way into the forest to pluck fruit from the trees, and has to be helped by the twins and Ralph to do so. Piggy now makes an urgent demand that his spectacles be got back from Jack, and he tells Ralph that, Ralph being the chief for whom Piggy had voted, it is Ralph’s bounden duty to get back the spectacles from Jack. Piggy then gets ready to go to Jack in person and demand his spectacles back from the marauder. Piggy is at this time a most pathetic figure because of his incapacity to see anything.
Piggy is a very timid lad. At the very outset we can perceive this timidity in the Manner in which he talks to Ralph. While Ralph is self-confident and bold in his talk, Piggy is hesitant. When Jack arrives at the head of his choirboys, Piggy feels “intimidated by this uniformed superiority” and by the tone of authority in which Jack speaks. Jack soon afterwards snubs Piggy, saying : “You’re talking too much. Shut up, Fatty.” Everybody laughs when Piggy is thus snubbed. Some time later when Piggy wishes to speak and Jack looks sternly at him, Piggy becomes silent. Jack’s harsh manner towards Piggy demoralizes Piggy. Later still, Jack goes to the extent of attacking Piggy and giving him a blow on Piggy’s stomach and another blow on Piggy’s head whereupon Piggy’s glasses get broken on one side. Piggy now feels utterly helpless, uttering only a vague threat to Jack in the following words: “Just you wait.” A little later when the boys are eating the roasted pig-meat, Piggy also feels a craving for it and asks to be given some. In fact, Piggy is feeling constantly scared of something or the other even though he declares that he does not believe in the existence of the beast or in the existence of ghosts. He is probably right when he says that a human being has reason to feel frightened only of his fellow human beings and not of beasts or ghosts. In his own case, Piggy is terribly scared of a fellow human being by the name of Jack. Later, when the twins’ report about the beast is confirmed by Ralph and Jack, Piggy begins to feel scared of the beast also. When Jack and his companions raid Ralph’s shelters, Piggy trembles with fear and clings to Ralph for security. At this time he is feeling so scared that he tells Ralph that he would go mad if he does not get back home soon ! “If we don’t get home soon we’ll be barmy.” However, when Piggy finds that his spectacles have been taken away by Jack, he becomes desperate, and in this state of desperation he picks up the courage to declare that he would go and confront Jack in order to demand the return of his spectacles. It is the first time that Piggy shows any guts, but his courage collapses again when Ralph speaks to Jack accusingly and when Jack speaks to Ralph threateningly. At this time Piggy again appeals to Ralph, saying : “Mind me,” meaning that Ralph should keep Piggy’s safety in mind. However, a little later Piggy again picks up courage and, holding the conch in his hands, begins to speak to Jack and his savages. Piggy now speaks boldly, even challengingly; but the very next moment the rock released by Roger from above kills Piggy.
In spite of his timidity and the drawback of a weak eyesight, Piggy shows an exceptional intelligence. In fact, he is the wisest of all the boys. He has a quick mind and a ready intelligence which Ralph inwardly recognizes. Piggy’s superior intelligence is seen first of all in the manner in which he suggests to Ralph the use to which the conch-shell can be put. When the fire lighted by Ralph for the first time begins to spread to the entire forest on the mountain-side, Piggy warns them all to be careful and not to allow the fire to spread. He says that the first thing they should have done was to build some shelters along the beach. Fire, he says, was not the first priority. He then points out the harm that the spreading fire might already have done in view of the fact that a number of little boys were roaming about in the forest. He particularly refers to the small boy with the birthmark, who is not visible anywhere. Piggy’s concern about the safety of the little boys certainly shows the degree of maturity which he has achieved. Later in the story, Piggy again gives evidence of his maturity and his capacity for thought. He tells the boys that there is no beast on the island and that there is nothing to be afraid of. Life, he says, is “a scientific affair”, and they should judge everything by scientific principles. In a year or two when the war would end, people would be travelling to Mars and back. With so much control over the universe, human beings have no reason to feel afraid of anything except fellow human beings. Piggy then disapproves of the boys’ general indifference to the maintenance of the fire and the general preference of the boys for hunting pigs. In this context Piggy says:
What are we? Humans? Or Animals? Or savages? What’s grown-ups going to think? Going off––hunting pigs––letting fires out !
Piggy’s intelligence is also seen in his explaining to Ralph that things are breaking up because of the wickedness of persons like Jack. Later, when Ralph and a few others including Piggy have been isolated from the main group led by Jack, Piggy lights a fire close to the platform, thus solving a problem which has been weighing upon Ralph’s mind. As yet another example of Piggy’s intelligence and wisdom, we may refer to the speech which he makes to Jack’s savages just before he is killed. He tells the savages that they are behaving like a crowd of kids. He asks which is better––to be a crowd of painted negroes or to be sensible like Ralph? He asks which is better––to have rules and obey them or to hunt and kill? He next asks which is better-law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up? However, we must recognize the flaw or the touch of dishonesty in Piggy’s view about Simon’s death. Piggy tries to gloss over the fact that Simon had deliberately been killed by Jack and his hunters. While Ralph refers to Simon’s death as a “murder”, Piggy insists on calling it an “accident”. Piggy says that Simon had no right to come out of the forest crawling in a secretive manner. Later, however, Piggy himself describes Simon’s death as “murder”. Thus, there is a little inconsistency in Piggy’s opinions about the death of Simon.
A Source of Unconscious Humour
Piggy provides much comedy in this novel which is otherwise serious to the point of solemnity and grimness. Piggy is a source of what is known as unconscious humour. His fatness and his weak eyesight, necessitating the use of spectacles, make him a target of derisive laughter among the boys. We are amused by the proud manner in which he talks about his asthma and his having to wear spectacles as if both the asthma and the wearing of spectacles were his additional qualifications. He tells Ralph that he was the only boy in his school to have asthma, and that he has been wearing spectacles since the age of three. Then he amuses us by talking about the other boys as if he were himself a middle-aged man. For instance, when all the boys follow Jack in response to Jack’s shout, Piggy disapproves of their action, saying : “Like kids ! Acting like a crowd of kids.” His speaking thus and referring to the boys as “kids” greatly amuses us because of the incongruity involved. Of course, the boys are really kids, and they would naturally behave like kids. But Piggy expects the kids to behave like grown-ups. Eventually, Piggy himself follows the crowd up the mountain; and the author says that at this time he walked with “the martyred expression of a parent” who has to tolerate the foolish enthusiasm of the children. Later in the story, he again speaks disapprovingly of the boys, saying: “What’s grown-ups going to say?” When Jack knocks him down, breaking his spectacles, Piggy becomes indignant but can do nothing. On this occasion he amuses us by uttering empty threats to Jack, saying: “Just you wait.” His threats amuse the other boys also, and they begin to laugh. On yet another occasion we feel greatly amused when, in reply to a joking suggestion by Ralph he says that he cannot write a letter to his auntie because he has no envelope and no stamp and because there is no postal box on the island either. He says this in all seriousness because he has failed to understand that Ralph was merely joking when he suggested that Piggy should write a letter to his auntie.
What the Other Boys Think of Him
As already pointed out, most of the Biguns collectively regard Piggy as an alien and treat him more or less as a buffoon because of his fatness and his having to wear spectacles. In this connection the author thus describes the attitude of the other boys towards him:
There had grown up tacitly among the Biguns the opinion that Piggy was an outsider, not only by accent, which did not matter, but by fat, and ass-mar, and specs, and a certain disinclination for manual labour.
All the boys laugh when Piggy collides against the two hunters who are carrying roasted pig-meat. At the final stage, when Piggy holds the conch in his hands and says that he would like to speak to the hunters, the hunters become silent in order to listen to him not out of any respect for him but because they expect some funny remarks from him. This happens just before he is killed. As for Jack, who is the leader of the hunters, he has begun to dislike Piggy from the very beginning, and this dislike goes on increasing till it becomes a fierce hatred which is shared by Roger who causes Piggy’s death. As for Ralph, he too treats Piggy as a comic figure in the beginning as the others do. Ralph regards Piggy as a “bore”, and he finds Piggy’s fatness, Piggy’s asthma, and Piggy’s matter-of-fact ideas to be “dull”. Ralph is always on the look-out to pull Piggy’s leg in order to derive some entertainment from doing so. But in course of time Ralph’s attitude towards Piggy undergoes a change. Ralph begins to realize that Piggy has brains inside his fat head and can think intelligently. Then Ralph also begins to appreciate Piggy’s loyalty to him. And on the last page of the novel we find Ralph weeping over the loss of his “true, wise friend called Piggy”, besides weeping over some other losses. Piggy is certainly not a hero in a physical sense; and there is something absurd about Piggy also. But by virtue of his intelligence, thinking capacity, practical sense, and wisdom, he rises above all the other boys. And, like Simon, he too dies a martyr’s death.
(3) JACK MERRIDEW
The Leader of the Choir-Boys, and Then of the “Hunters”
We are introduced to Jack in the very opening chapter when he makes a formal appearance at the head of a party of boys marching in two parallel lines. When the party has come within about ten yards of the platform on which Ralph and Piggy are standing, Jack shouts an order to his boys, at which they come to a halt. Jack then comes forward and asks where the man with the trumpet is. He is under the impression that somebody had blown a trumpet, not knowing that a boy called Ralph had blown a conch. When Jack’s boys show a tendency to disperse, Jack shouts at them, saying: “Choir ! Stand still !” And the boys obey him. Then one of the boys faints, and Jack says that this boy (Simon) is always “throwing a “faint”. On learning from Ralph that there are no grown-ups to be found here, Jack says: “Then we’ll have to look after ourselves.” When it is proposed that a chief should be chosen, Jack says that he should be accepted as the chief because he is chapter-chorister and head boy and because he can sing C sharp. From this it becomes clear that Jack is the head of a party of choir-boys who are duly obedient to him. However, Jack’s claims to leadership is not accepted by the assembly, a majority of whom are in favour of Ralph. Jack then accepts Ralph’s leadership gracefully, whereupon Ralph says that Jack would continue to be in charge of the choir and that Jack would have the right to continue to give orders to the members of his choir. Jack says that he would assign to his choir the duties of hunting; and so from now onwards the members of lack’s choir become “hunters” on the island.
His Resolve to Hunt and Kill Pigs
Jack is one of the two boys whom Ralph selects to go with him to explore the island and to make sure that it is really an island. Jack is as enthusiastic about the exploration as Ralph is. In the course of the expedition Jack excitedly says: “We’re explorers.” On seeing narrow tracks winding up the rock, Jack asks Ralph if the latter can judge who might have made these tracks. Ralph says that the tracks might have been made by men but Jack corrects Ralph by pointing out that the tracks have been made by animals. A little later Jack again speaks excitedly and says: “This is real exploring. I bet nobody’s been here before.” Then Jack helps the other two in pushing a rock downwards and enjoying the thrill of the experience. Commenting on the island, Jack says: “We’ll get food. Hunt. Catch things until they fetch us.” Thus Jack has decided upon the role that he would play on this island. He would be the head of the hunters who would hunt animals for their meat. A little later Jack confirms this self-chosen role when he takes out his knife with a flourish in order to stab a piglet, though he does not actually stab the animal. When the piglet has escaped, Jack says that he had not stabbed the animal because he had not been able to make up his mind as to which portion of the animal’s body should have been stabbed. He says that next time he would not fail to stab a pig and to cut its throat. Saying these words, he snatches his knife out of its sheath once again, and this time he slams it into a tree-trunk. Next time there would be no mercy from him for an animal, he says. Then he looks at his two companions fiercely, as if challenging them to contradict him. Thus we already find Jack to be a self-assertive boy who speaks in a tone of self-confidence and authority. We also feel here that he would not shrink from slaughtering animals.
His Potentialities as a Leader
After the survey from the mountain-top, Jack joins Ralph in giving an account of the exploration to the assembly of the boys. Jack says that “an army of hunters” is needed here to hunt the pigs. He then refers to the pig which they had seen but which he had refrained from killing. But next time, he says, he would not fail to kill a pig. Saying this, Jack once again slams his knife into a tree-trunk and looks round to see if there is anyone to challenge his statement. This action of Jack’s is again significant as it gives us another peep into his character. Soon he would develop into a ruthless and bloodthirsty person. As for the beastie mentioned by one of the little boys, Jack agrees with Ralph that there is no beastie on the island; but, admitting the possibility of the existence of a beastie, he says that, if there is a beastie, they would hunt it and kill it. By this time we have become convinced of Jack’s potentialities as a leader. Whatever he says, he says with firmness and with conviction. And then he shows a tendency to seize the initiative when he gets an opportunity. As soon as Ralph suggests the lighting of a fire on the mountain-top, Jack seizes this opportunity and shouts to the boys to follow him. He then leads the boys to the mountain-top where, for want of a match-box, he suggests that Piggy’s spectacles should be used as “burning glasses”, thus offering a very sound and practical suggestion.
His Initial Dislike, aid Subsequent Hatred, of Piggy
Jack conceives a dislike for Piggy at the very start. At his very first appearance, Jack snubs Piggy by saying: “You’re talking too much. Shut up, Fatty.” Thereupon everybody laughs, while Piggy naturally feels embarrassed. When a fire has been lighted on the mountain-top, and Piggy refers to it, Jack disparagingly says that Piggy has made no contribution to the lighting of the fire. However, Simon at this time defends Piggy by saying that Piggy’s glasses were used to light the fire. When Piggy asserts his right to speak because he is holding the conch in his hands, Jack snubs him by saying that suggests the conch has no validity on the mountain. When Piggy is scared of the fire which seems to be spreading to the forest, Jack snubs him again by saying: “You’re always scared. Yah––Fatty !” Thus Jack does not miss any opportunity to rebuff Piggy. Later, when Piggy accuses Jack of negligence in maintaining the fire, Jack becomes furious and hits Piggy in the stomach with his fist, calling him “Fatty”. Then Jack delivers a blow upon Piggy’s head, and Piggy’s glasses fly off, falling on the rocks and getting broken on one side. Jack then makes another move towards Piggy who, however, runs away. Jack has now become violent in dealing with Piggy, with the result that Piggy is left with only one eye. Later still, Jack accuses Ralph of favouring Piggy and behaving like a partisan. Jack’s hatred of Piggy now goes on increasing till one day, he, helped by two his hunters, raids Ralph’s shelters and snatches away Piggy’s spectacles which he would from now onwards use to light a fire whenever the hunters need a fir for any purpose. This action of Jack’s shows him to be a most callous and cruel boy, because depriving Piggy of his spectacles means rendering him almost blind. Later when Ralph and Piggy demand the return of the spectacles to Piggy, Jack remains adamant and refuses to give back the spectacles. When Piggy becomes desperate and makes an angry speech to the savages, Roger, taking his cue from Jack, releases a rock which comes thundering down and kills Piggy. Thus Jack’s fierce but irrational hatred of Piggy leads to the murder of Piggy.
His Clashes With Ralph, and the Growing Rift Between the Two
From the very beginning Jack has been aiming at the chieftainship of the island. In the initial stages Jack does cooperate and collaborate with Ralph, but soon differences arise between the two. Jack’s first priority is hunting pigs, while Ralph’s first priority is maintaining a fire and the smoke, his next priority being the building of huts. The two boys now find themselves at cross-purposes. When Ralph pointedly asks whether Jack would help in the building of the shelters or not, Jack’s reply is: “We want meat.” In fact, Jack is obsessed by his desire to kill a pig. An antagonism between him and Ralph now becomes clearly perceptible. The two boys now differ in their aims, and their friendship turns almost into a breach. Jack then succeeds in killing a pig but Ralph, instead of complimenting Jack on his achievement, rebukes Jack because a golden opportunity of being rescued by a passing ship has been lost on account of the failure of Jack and his hunters to keep the fire on the mountain-top burning. Still a kind of loose alliance between the two boys continues and they undertake a joint search for the beast the presence of which on the mountain-top has been reported by the twins. Eventually, however, Jack rebels against Ralph’s authority as the chief and then disowns Ralph altogether. Jack is at this time almost in tears because he has not received much support for himself from the boys. His tears serve a useful purpose from his point of view and most of the Biguns then desert Ralph and become the followers of Jack. There is no longer any need for tears, and soon afterwards Jack looks “brilliantly happy”. He then says to the boys: “We’ll hunt. I’m going to be chief.” And he does become the chief, and with a vengeance too.
His Ambivalent Attitude Towards the Beast
In the beginning Jack does not believe in the existence of a beastie or the snake-thing which one of the Littluns claims to have seen. At this stage Jack rebukes the Littluns, saying that they have proved themselves to be mere “cry-babies” and “sissies” and that there are no beasts to be afraid of on this island. He tells the Littluns that big animals like lions and tigers are to be found in big countries like India and Africa, and that on this small island there are only pigs. Thus at this stage Jack proves himself to be a true leader by trying to drive away fear from the minds of the kids. Later, when the twins report the presence of a beast on the mountain-top, Jack climbs to the mountain-top alone and then reports to Ralph and Roger that he has seen “a thing”, meaning that he has seen the beast. From this point onwards Jack becomes a believer in the existence of the beast on this island and goes so far as to try to appease the beast by offering a pig’s head to the beast as a gift. He jams a sow’s head on the pointed end of a sharpened stick and thrusts the other end of the stick into a crack in the rock ; and he then says: “This head is for the beast. It’s a gift.” Thus Jack is now straying away from the values of civilization and reverting to superstition and primitive ways of life. Now it also suits him to keep the fear of the beast alive in the minds of his followers, and perhaps he himself has begun to believe in the reality of the beast.
The Hunter ; His Spirit of Enterprise and Adventure
As already pointed out, Jack’s first priority is the hunting of pigs; and he regards this activity as even more important than maintaining a fire on the mountain-top and building shelters along the beach. In fact, the desire to hunt down pigs becomes an obsession with him. In the beginning he even wanders through the forest all alone in search of pigs because the others are not as interested in this kind of adventure as he is. His initial efforts to track the pigs do not succeed; and, when he does succeed in finding where they are, they flee before he can attack them. He then evolves a new strategy to kill them. He paints his face with white clay, with red clay, and with charcoal, in order to camouflage himself so that the pigs, on being approached by him, would not recognize him as a human being and as an enemy. He would thus be able to get close to a pig and then be able to attack it with his spear or knife. We must here admit that Jack can claim to have a high degree of ingenuity. When subsequently a pig has been killed, Jack feels very proud of his achievement. Even when Ralph is speaking to him about the lost opportunity of rescue, Jack’s mind is crowded with memories of the pig which he had been able to kill with the help of the other boys. He exults at the thought that he and his companions had “outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.” And then, ignoring the question of the fire, Jack says to Ralph: “You should have seen the blood !” Jack then speaks to the boys very boastfully about his expedition. He describes his whole adventure with a feeling of obvious self-importance. Later, he points out to the boys that it is on account of him that they are getting pigmeat to eat. Nor is there any doubt that the boys are very happy to have got meat to eat because they were feeling fed up with mere fruit and an occasional crab or fish. Thus in this respect Jack is decidedly the leader. His initiative, his spirit of enterprise, and his love of adventure must be admired.
From Civilization to Barbarism
The trouble with Jack is that he does not remain merely a hunter of pigs. Pig-hunting for the sake of meat is certainly a laudable enterprise. But, in the process of the bunting of pigs, Jack’s mind begins to move rapidly away from civilization towards barbarism. In the beginning Jack shows himself to be as disciplined and civilized as anybody else. For instance, early in the novel he makes the following speech which we really admire:
I agree with Ralph. We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English; and the English are best at every thing. So we’ve got to do the right things.
Jack then undertakes the responsibility for maintaining the fire on the mountain-top and deputes two groups of his hunters to keep the fire burning. But soon afterwards his sense of responsibility begins to weaken. When the opportunity to kill a pig offers itself, he devotes his entire attention and energy to it, ignoring the need maintain the fire. He then becomes defiant towards Ralph and refuses to recognize even the rule regarding the conch. In fact, the conch ceases to have any importance in his eyes, and he snubs Piggy who repeatedly invokes the authority of the conch. He now keeps his face painted with clay and charcoal all the time, thus reverting to the ways of primitives. He begins to behave like a tribal leader and constantly refers to the hunters as his “tribe”. He encourages the mock-hunts which generate a lot of excitement and wild behaviour. His offering a pig’s head to the beast as a gift also shows him as a primitive tribal leader. In the course of the frenzy caused by a mock-hunt, the innocent and saintly Simon is killed. The death of Simon does not give rise to the least regret in Jack’s heart. In fact, Jack turns the death of Simon to his own advantage by saying that the beast had come in disguise to attack the boys. Indeed, lack’s heart has now become hardened against all human feeling. In order to have a ready means of lighting a fire, he raids Ralph’s shelters in the company of a couple of his savages and snatches away Piggy’s spectacles. Subsequently, when Piggy insists on getting his spectacles back, Roger, taking his cue from Jack, kills Piggy with a rock. The deaths of both Simon and Piggy are thus directly attributable to Jack’s brutality which is due to the great change that has come over Jack during the period of his stay on the island.
His Vindictiveness and Bloodthirstiness
Jack is now in every sense of the word a primitive tribal leader and a barbarian. When Ralph has fled to save his life, Jack orders a thorough search for Ralph. He gets a stick sharpened at both ends, evidently to torture Ralph to death after Ralph has been seized. He then orders his savages to roll down a rock which he thinks might crush Ralph at his hiding-place. When this device has failed, he orders his savages to set fire to the forest in order to smoke out Ralph. His vindictiveness makes him bloodthirsty. We do not know what barbarity Jack would have inflicted upon Ralph if the naval officer had not arrived on the island just in time. What kind of a life Jack would lead on his return to England is anybody’s guess. Would he return to the ways of civilization or would he adopt a criminal course in life, becoming a heartless gangster? Nobody can say.
His Symbolic Significance
In symbolic terms Jack represents the principle of evil. He represents savagery, brutality, inhumanity, and bestiality as against sympathy, kindness, benevolence, and humanity. Jack is a follower or minister of the Lord of the Flies. In fact, he may be regarded as himself the Lord of the Flies. He represents the reversion and retrogression to primitivism and barbarism. Free from the restraints of school discipline, social discipline, and the laws of his country, he allows his evil instincts to thrive and grow and attain unmanageable proportions till he becomes a monster. Jack is now the beast which originally did not exist on the island.
His Physical Appearance and His Fainting Fits
Simon is one of the members of Jack’s choir. He is the boy who faints often as Jack himself points out. He had fainted at Gibraltar and Addis Ababa, and he now faints when, marching with the other choir-boys, he arrives at the spot to which all the boys scattered on the island have converged. Simon is a silent type of boy and somewhat shy. For some strange reason he is chosen by Ralph to accompany him and Jack on the expedition to explore the island. Simon has been described by the author as “a skinny, vivid little boy,” with black and coarse hair. Surprisingly, he too, like Ralph and Jack, shows a lot of enthusiasm in the course of the brief exploration of the island undertaken at the very outset. However, he does not make much of an impression upon us at this time and does not give evidence of any outstanding quality. In the course of the expedition, he talks very little, one of his remarks being that he is feeling hungry. When he mentions his hunger, the other two also become aware of their hunger. On seeing some of the bushes, Simon compares them to candles and describes them as “candle-bushes”, calling their buds “candle-buds”.
Helpful in Building Huts
Simon is very earnest about the duties which are assigned to him. For instance, he is the one boy, besides Ralph himself, who takes seriously the task of building the shelters. He is the only one who has been helping Ralph in building the third hut, the first two having no doubt been built by the collective effort of a large number of boys. The initial enthusiasm being over, none of the other boys pays any attention to the task of building the huts any longer, but Simon whole-heartedly cooperates with Ralph in this respect. Ralph pays a compliment to Simon when Ralph is talking to Jack about the boys’ negligence in respect of the huts, saying that Simon is the only one to have taken a real interest in this work.
His Helpfulness to the Littluns, and His Love of Solitude
Simon proves himself very helpful to the Littluns also. Early in the novel we are told that Simon has been making excursions into the forest. Whenever he goes into the forest, he is followed by a number of little boys for whom he plucks the fruit from the higher branches of the trees which the little boys themselves cannot reach. After satisfying the little boys with the fruit which he has plucked for them, he goes alone into the thick jungle where he has found a secluded spot and where he sits down to observe the scenery around him. However, he first makes sure that he is absolutely alone. His movements are almost secretive as if he does not want to be seen by anyone. Holding his breath, he strains his ears to catch the sounds of the island. He remains sitting at this spot till the evening when darkness begins to descend upon the forest. It thus becomes evident to us that Simon is vastly different from all the other boys. His behaviour is really intriguing to us. He seems to have a philosophical or mystical temperament. He wants to be alone with Nature as if he would hold a communion with the natural objects. Evidently, he feels no fear in the midst of the thick jungle. He does not even have that uneasy feeling which Jack, the hunter, experiences in spite of his adventurous temperament.
Queer ; Funny
It is because of Simon’s singularity or unusual behaviour that Ralph thinks him to be a queer and funny fellow. When Simon has, on one occasion, gone away into the forest without informing anyone where he is going, Ralph says that Simon has “buzzed off”, and then goes on to make the following remark about Simon: “He’s queer. He’s funny.” When Ralph learns from Simon himself that it was Simon who had gone into the forest in the darkness of the night, thus causing a scare in the mind of a little one who had imagined a beastie moving through the trees, Ralph scolds Simon and warns him against thus stealing into the forest at night. Thus Simon is not afraid of going into the forest even in the darkness of the night. Simon’s utter fearlessness distinguishes him from all the other boys, and especially from Piggy who is perennially scared, largely of Jack.
The Beast Within Human Beings
Simon is one of the few boys (another being Piggy) who do not believe in the existence of the beastie or the snake-thing. When Ralph refers to the fear which the Littluns have been experiencing, Simon says: “As if it wasn’t a good island. As if the beastie or the snake-thing was real.” In other words, Simon looks upon this island as a highly desirable place and rejects the suggestion that there is any beastie living here. Later, when a discussion is going on among the boys about the existence or the non-existence of a beast on the island, Ralph turns to Simon and asks if Simon believes in the existence of a beast. Simon first hesitates to give a reply and then says that, if a beast does exist, it probably exists within the boys themselves. Thus Simon believes in “mankind’s essential illness” though he finds it difficult to express his view in a clear and coherent manner. He then suddenly asks: “What’s the dirtiest thing there is?” A little later in the story we read:
However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick.
This means that Simon is vaguely conscious of the existence of both good and evil in human nature : “a human at once heroic and sick.” Instead of being specific, Simon is able only to speak of the evil in human nature in an indirect and vague manner; and Simon is the only character in the novel who gives expression to this view, though most inadequately and imperfectly.
His Hallucination : A Confrontation With the Lord of the Flies
When Simon is sitting alone at his usual secluded spot in the forest, he witnesses Jack offering a gift to the beast, the gift being a pig’s head stuck on a stick. When Jack and his hunters have gone away, Simon keeps staring at the pig’s head. When Simon closes his eyes, the pig’s head still remains in his mind “like an after-image”. At this time, the author remarks that Simon’s half-shut eyes were “dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life.” Simon at this moment has the feeling that “everything was a bad business.” Then suddenly it seems to him that the pig’s head has spoken to him and has asked him to run away and get back to the other boys. The pig’s head now assumes the shape of the Lord of the Flies in Simon’s eyes. The pig’s head acquires a personality and a life of its own and begins to give warnings to Simon not to stay here but to go away. The pig’s head or the Lord of the Flies then claims that he is part of Simon and all the others, meaning thereby that evil is an integral and inseparable part of human nature. The Lord of the Flies then warns Simon to go away from this spot or face the dreadful consequences of staying on here. The speeches of the Lord of the Flies are a hallucination experienced by. Simon who is a very sensitive and idealistic boy. The meaning of this hallucination is that Simon is acutely conscious of the existence of evil within human beings themselves. The title of this novel is based upon this instinctive awareness on the part of Simon that evil exists inside human beings themselves. Thus the significance of the character of Simon in this novel is very great. Simon’s character and his thoughts (including his hallucination) explain to a large extent the allegorical significance of the novel.
His Loyalty to Ralph; and His Optimistic Prediction
Simon develops a liking for Ralph from the very outset. He not only helps Ralph in the building of huts but also urges Ralph not to resign his position as the chief when Ralph, feeling disgusted with the behaviour of most of the boys, expresses his desire to give up his position as the chief. Just as Piggy asks Ralph not to give up his position as the chief, in the same way Simon too believes that Ralph should continue as the chief and dissuades him from his intention. There is also something prophetic about Simon’s telling Ralph that the latter would surely get back home sooner or later. He tells Ralph that Ralph would “get back to where he had come from”. Ralph feels puzzled by Simon’s prediction and asks if Simon has got a ship in his pocket to take Ralph back home. Simon replies that he has no ship in his pocket. Ralph then says that Simon is “batty”. Simon denies the charge and repeats that Ralph would get back home safely. At the end of the novel, Simon’s prophecy would be fulfilled. Simon himself would be killed but Ralph would remain safe and would be rescued alongwith most of the other boys. Simon agrees with Ralph and Piggy when they both wish that there were some grown-up people on this island so that they could have been guided by those grown-ups in their state of uncertainty. All three boys at this time “strive unsuccessfully to convey the majesty of adult life.” Simon says that, if there had been grown-up people here, they would not have encouraged the talk about the existence of a beast. As has already been pointed out, Simon does not believe in the existence of a beast on the island. According to his view, the beast exists within human beings themselves.
His Support to, and Sympathy For, Piggy
Simon is on the side of the good as against the evil. Although Simon belongs to Jack’s choir, Simon has somehow perceived that there are strong evil tendencies in Jack. That is why Simon transfers his allegiance from Jack to Simon. Simon has instinctively understood the goodness of Ralph and the goodness of Piggy also. If he remains loyal to Ralph, he lends his support to Piggy too. When, for instance, Jack says that Piggy has made no contribution to the lighting of the fire on the mountain-top, Simon reminds Jack that Piggy’s spectacles were the means by which the fire had been lighted and that Piggy’s contribution is therefore obvious. When the boys are eating roasted meat and Piggy asks for some, Jack is unwilling to give him a share of the meat on the ground that Piggy has not taken any part in the pig-hunt. At this stage Simon throws his own chunk of meat to Piggy who grabs it and begins to eat it. Later, when the expedition in search of the beast gets delayed in the forest, and Ralph suggests that someone should go and inform Piggy that the Biguns would return to the huts late in the evening and that Piggy should not feel alarmed, Simon volunteers to go. Ralph can spare only one boy for this purpose, but none of the boys is ready to undertake this task because going alone through the forest would not be an acceptable proposition to anyone. Simon does not mind going alone through the forest at a late hour because he is a fearless boy who does not believe in the existence of a beast. In fact, Simon has often been going in the darkness of the night into the interior of the forest without experiencing the least sensation of fear.
His Dread of Public Speaking
Although Simon is unafraid of beasts and other possible dangers on the island, yet he is a nervous kind of boy. It has already been pointed out that he often faints. He faints also after having had a hallucinatory experience with the pig’s head. On this occasion Simon faints because it seems to him that the Lord of the Flies, who had been speaking to him, has opened his mouth wide, revealing a huge hollow inside. On this occasion, his nose also begins to bleed on account of the bursting of a blood-vessel. Here we have a contradiction which it is difficult to explain. On one hand, Simon has been depicted as an absolutely fearless boy, but on the other hand he has been shown to be a nervous boy who faints quite often. His nervousness is seen also in his dread of public speaking. He is aware of this drawback in himself. He deplores the fact that, while others can stand up and speak to an assembly without feeling nervous in the least, he cannot do so. Whenever he begins to speak to a gathering of the boys, he is overwhelmed by a “dreadful feeling of the pressure of personality.” Thus Simon is not capable of giving a free and uninhibited expression to his views.
His Discovery of the Parachutist’s Dead-Body; and His Death
As has been pointed out above, Simon had fainted after his hallucinatory experience in the forest and had burst a blood-vessel in his nose. When he recovers consciousness, he sees the Lord of the Flies still hanging on a stick. Simon now asks himself: “What else is there to do?” What he means is that the only right course for him is to climb to the mountain-top and verify if there is really a beast sitting there. He takes this decision because he does not believe in the existence of the beast. He then sets out on his journey even though he is already feeling almost exhausted. Sometimes he staggers on account of his weariness, but he never stops. On reaching the mountain-top he discovers the truth about the figure which had been mistaken by the others as the beast. A foul smell is now coming from the decomposed body of the parachutist. Simon experiences a feeling of nausea, but he steps forward and releases the dead-body from the strings of the parachute. He then begins his return journey down the mountain. He is now extremely anxious to convey his discovery to all the other boys in order to free their minds from the fear of the beast which does not exist. On his arrival at Jack’s camp, he has hardly uttered a few words about the dead-body lying on the mountain-top when the dancing group of boys attack him in their state of frenzy, not realizing that they are hitting Simon. Simon is killed with the blows from the boys, and the boys in their state of frenzied excitement declare that they have killed the beast.
Simon, a Saintly, Christ-Like Character
Simon has lost his life in the course of his endeavour to serve the community to which he belonged. He is a Christ-like figure. Golding has himself said that he intended Simon to be a saintly boy. Christ too had died while serving others. Simon has made a valuable discovery but the very boys, whom he wanted to serve by acquainting them with his discovery, become his murderers. Simon’s nobility and saintliness distinguish him from all the other boys in the novel. He is a tragic figure who wins both our admiration and sympathy. He is the one character who retains his goodness and who is not in the least affected by what goes on around him. He witnesses Jack’s ritual in cutting off the pig’s head and offering it to the beast as a gift, but he is not in the least infected by the evil in Jack and Jack’s supporters. While the novel deals with “the loss of innocence” on this island, the innocence of at least one boy, namely Simon, remains intact. The description of how Simon’s dead-body is carried away by the waves into the open sea is one of the most pathetic and poignant passages in the book.