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Ralph in "Lord of the Flies"

Determined Ralph changes his view caused by events on the isolated island.Leslie Ann Hainke

Leslie Ann Hainke
June 24, 2002
Ralph in "The Lord of the Flies"
?The Lord of the Flies? is a novel written by William Golding. The setting is in the future on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean. An academy of boys evacuate on a plane from England, where a war is being fought. An enemy aircraft attacks the planeload of boys. The boys land safely on this island. At first, the mood is one of joy and freedom as the boys discover an island of paradise without adults. The boys decide they need a type of government and elect Ralph, a 12-year old boy, as their leader. The island seems perfect and exciting until the boys? priorities conflict. The events on the island turn to chaos as most of the boys become brain washed by Jack, and Ralph becomes their main target. The following paragraphs covers the major conflicts, and center themes, and main characters, especially Ralph, of the novel. Examples, to support the theme and conflicts, is discussed with Ralph?s characteristics.
According to the website, Pink Monkey, the centered theme governs the idea that man is a fallen creature. Golding insists evil is instinctive in man. Mankind must recognize and control a terrifying force. Individualism replaces companionship and leads to destruction. The community of boys represents and reflects the disorder and terror of the larger world.
In the conflict in the novel, Ralph strives to keep the boys civilized and plans ways to receive rescue. Jack wants to be chief and breaks away from Ralph to form his own tribe. Jack turns boys into savage hunters.
There are three main characters in ?The Lord of the Flies,? Ralph, Piggy, and Jack. Jack is the symbol of emotion and savagery. He lives to hunt, rules as a dictator, and is guided by evil purpose. Piggy is physically weak. He is an outcast, but is intelligent and is a true, wise friend. As the initial leader of the group of boys, Ralph tries to remain rational and fair. Ralph is an important character in this story. Examples of leadership, actions, courage, thoughts, outside influences, and text excerpts are used to better understand this character.
As chief, Ralph lays down rules and tries to organize a society by
using a conch shell to show his authority. He is one of the only boys on the island who knows right from wrong, and strives for the right. He tries to keep the boys civilized and plans ways to receive rescue. With the help of Piggy, an outcast, Ralph assures the shelters are built. He makes sure the fire burns for smoke signals for their rescue. Ralph calls meetings with the conch twice a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. He conducts the meetings so the boys feel a sense of unity and security.
At first, Ralph?s actions are unfair, ignorant, and selfish. He first chooses Jack and Simon to climb the mountain to decide whether the land is an island or not. Piggy helps Ralph start the meeting and he wants to tag along, but Ralph and the others are rude to Piggy and leave him out. Ralph?s decisions are not always wise. Near the beginning of the novel, the group of boys starts a fire on the mountain, by Ralph?s command, and it gets out of control. All of the boys run around, including the little ones. The loss of the youngest boy causes Piggy lose his temper. He tells the whole group:
The first thing we ought to have made was shelters down there by the beach. It wasn?t half cold down there in the night. But the first time Ralph says ?fire? you goes howling and screaming up this here mountain. Like a pack of kids! ? How can you expect to be rescued if you don?t put first things first and act proper? ?Then when you get here you build a bonfire that isn?t no use. Now you been and set the whole island on fire. Won?t we look funny if the whole island burns up? Cooked fruit, that?s what we?ll have to eat, and roast pork. And that?s nothing to laugh at! You said Ralph was chief and you don?t give him time to think. Then when he says something you rush off, like, like?. . . .And that?s not all. Them kids. The little ?uns. Who took any notice of ?em? Who knows how many we got . (Golding, 45-46)
Golding?s quote foreshadows the trouble the boys are entering. Ralph is selfish in his decisions. He does only what he believes is right. He does not give others a chance by strictly sticking to the conch rule until he sees what Piggy has to say. Ralph becomes nicer to Piggy when he realizes how intelligent he is and how valuable Piggy?s ideas are. Here, Ralph becomes a rational and fair boy.
According to the Homework Online web site, ?Ralph has courage when the occasion demands it.? After Jack?s tribe raids Ralph?s tent and steals their fire and Piggy?s specs, Ralph shows his real courage. He goes to the tribe full of savages and stands up for himself, Piggy, and the moralities of man. He makes a good point to Jack, saying:
You pinched Piggy?s specs?You?ve got to give them back?I say! You voted for me for chief. Didn?t you hear the conch? You played a dirty trick?we?d have given you fire if you?d asked for it?You could have had fire whenever you wanted. But you didn?t. You came sneaking up like a thief and stole Piggy?s glasses. (Golding, 176)
Again, while his life is in extreme danger, he shows courage when he
approaches Castle Rock to speak to Samneric. Another example of his courage is his strength and desire to continue. He does not surrender, nor turns himself to Jack?s tribe. Instead he stays sane and does the best in his power to stay alive and away from the savages. When he is able to escape from courage, though, he executes. After he realizes the kill of the beast is the murder of Simon, he avoids the thought. He does not have enough courage to face the truth, nor admits participating in the murder. Instead, he lies to himself in hopes to reduce the guilt.
Golding reveals Ralph?s thoughts throughout the novel. In ?Lord of the Flies,? Golding writes how Ralph feels about his cleanliness, ?He discovered with a little fall of the heart that these were the conditions he took as normal now and that he did not mind ? (110). This shows, not only Ralph, but how all of the boys are adjusting to life on the island. Dirtiness becomes very common to Ralph. Ralph?s mind travels back in time and reminisces about life before the island. ?Once following his father from Chatham to Devonport, they had lived in a cottage on the edge of the moors. In the succession of houses that Ralph had known, this one stood out with particular clarity because after that house he had been sent away to school.? Golding continues, ?When you went to bed there was a bowl of cornflakes with sugar and cream. And the books?they stood on the shelf by the bed, leaning together with always two or three laid flat on top because he had not bothered to put them back properly?? Golding continues regarding Ralph?s memories about books, and ends the paragraph with a phrase that is thought provoking, ??. Everything was alright; everything was good-humored and friendly.? This thought in Ralph?s head, reminds him, and the readers, he is still a kid. He is someone who should be free of hate, pain, and troubles caused by the events on the island. Ralph misses his past. The island, which was exciting at once, turns sour from the evil released (112).
The novel is in the third person, but near the end of the novel, Golding writes in first person to explain Ralph?s thoughts, such as on pages 198 and 199. When the tribe hunts Ralph, he thinks, ?Perhaps he can hear my heart over the noises of the fire. Don?t scream. Get ready?.Don?t scream. You?ll get back. Now he?s seen you. He?s making sure. A stick sharpened.?
Ralph is the only ideal leader out of the boys. He strives for the best when influenced by outside influences. He keeps his priorities in correct order by focusing on signals for rescue, even when the savages attempt destroying his life. The boys associate as well as they can. The turning point is when a boat sails by the island without stopping. There is no smoke because Jack and his hunters leave the fire to hunt. Ralph is furious. Their ticket home is eliminated. This causes a resistance between Ralph and Jack. Ralph harps on Jack about the smoke. Jack completes hunting. Soon, Ralph disgusts Jack, and separates the group. Jack has the desire to become a strong leader. He entices more boys from Ralph?s group and forms his own tribe. The savages forget their civilized ways and behave like animals. Ralph maintains focus on rescue to keep the smoke. Ralph?s action, after Piggy is killed and Sam and Eric are converted into savages, is impossible. His determination for rescue still flows thick through his blood. Near the end of the story, the tribe sets fire to the island to capture Ralph. They chase him through the forest to Ralph?s shelters. Ralph?s will pays off because standing in the sand, is a naval officer, who sees the smoke signal on the island. The boys are rescued and Ralph lives.
Without Ralph, there would be no rescue. Jack would become the leader and would not have anyone, like Ralph, to threaten his leadership. All of the boys may become savages earlier, cause more trouble, and the evil may have become more out of control. They may not have meetings, groups, or organization. The boys would have felt alone, scared, and insecure. Ralph has courage when needed. His actions reflect his thoughts and wishes for rescue. He does not resign, even when the surroundings affect him. Ralph creates a sense of unity and belonging for the boys. Each are in the same situation and Ralph is the only hope for a return to home.
The title, ?Lord of the Flies,? is a metaphor for the evil within human beings. ?Golding shows how civilized boys change to savages. I find "Lord of the Flies" an excellent piece of literature. The way the innocent kids change into bloodthirsty savages is fascinates me. I found it frightening to see how the boys obeyed the most powerful leader, and how they developed a barbaric lifestyle. I was surprised most of the boys did not choose to be part of the organized? society, and found it more important to hunt than to keep the fire going. The book is not only about some boys stranded on a desert island, but is about our civilization too. Are we turning into savages with world wars and terrorist attacks? Golding implies how men easily turns away from civilization and becomes hunters and savages.

Works Cited
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group. 1954.
?Lord of the Flies.? 1997-2001. Pink Monkey. Explorer. 20 Apr. 2001.
?Lord of the Flies.? 1998-2000. Homework Online. Explorer. 20 Apr. 2001.
Valsamas, Vel. ?William G. Golding.? 1997. Geocities. Explorer. 23 Jun. 2002
?William Golding.? 1998-2002. Literature Classics. Explorer. 23 June. 2002.

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