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The opening chapter introduces us to the characters and the conflict and poses a question: If people were dropped on a distant island that offered plenty of food and no dangerous conditions, would the experience be a good one or a bad one?
Ralph is the first person we meet. He wanders out of the jungle, followed by a fat boy. Although they were dropped by a plane that was under attack during an atomic war, Ralph thinks he is in a paradise. It's especially wonderful because there aren't any adults around.
But is it really? The first paragraph gives you a clue to what the author thinks about the island. There is a "long scar smashed into the jungle" where the plane dropped them the night before. As Ralph breaks through the creepers (even that word says something), a red and yellow bird, the color of fire and heat, flashes into the sky with a "witch-like cry." Ralph stands among the "skull-like coconuts." These are subtle suggestions that the author thinks the island is not quite what the boys expect.
Ralph wears a belt with a snake-clasp that also implies menace. Snakes are an important symbol that we will encounter again.
Ralph doesn't see any of this. It's a wonderful setup for playing, he thinks, and he turns cartwheels. At twelve Ralph is strong, tall, and handsome; a natural athlete, he has been swimming since he was five. He drops his clothes in the same way he willingly leaves the world behind. He has returned to Eden.
A fair-haired boy, Ralph is often described in the presence of sunlight, which implies goodness and naturalness. "A golden light danced and shattered just over his face." He looks at his shadow and thinks it's green. Ralph accepts his new surroundings easily; he's at home on the island.
The fat boy who follows Ralph is worried. An asthmatic, nearly blind without glasses, he sees his life easily threatened because of his weaknesses. He doesn't belong in a wild place like this, and he knows it. He has diarrhea from eating the fruit: The jungle is making him sick.
When he asks Ralph his name, we realize that not all of the boys on the plane knew each other. Ralph is not polite enough to ask his in return, but the fat boy reveals his dreaded nickname, Piggy. When he tries to tell Ralph his real name, he is interrupted by Ralph's teasing, and we never learn Piggy's real name. Ralph is not intentionally mean when he mocks Piggy. He's just not very sensitive or aware, and he's too busy playing to be thoughtful.
NOTE: THE USE OF NAMES
Names are significant in Lord of the Flies. The main characters' names have something to do with their roles in the story. Certain boys' names we never learn; the littluns and biguns are groups of boys known only by their size. Some boys lose their names, and one forgets his by the end of the story. When you read old legends and tales, you find that characters were cautious about revealing their names. A person was believed to have power over another if he knew his name. A man who wanted to protect himself against his enemies made up a name and did not tell his real one. Keep names, naming, and the loss of a name in mind as you read.