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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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CHAPTER FIVE

Ralph calls a meeting to talk about what's important for the boys' survival. Jack breaks up the assembly with a frenzied dance.

NOTE: THE USE OF IRONY

Golding's use of irony becomes more obvious as the story continues. You can recognize irony when something is said to be true and you know that the exact opposite is in fact true. For example, Jack says that the boys are not "savages," but that's exactly what they turn out to be. And not only can we spot the irony in the events and conversations of the story, but Ralph, the character in the story, is also aware of irony. This shared perception allows us to be close to Ralph and to experience the situation along with him, yet the irony forces us to step back and think about what the author is saying.

Bringing us close to the action while keeping us distant from it is a deliberate device that Golding uses repeatedly. It will force us to think about our own attitudes, and it will give us a picture of the world beyond ourselves.

The irony of Ralph's situation begins to present itself to him. As he walks along the beach, trying to think, he can't help "remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood." Once he had daydreamed and pretended, like the characters he'd read about in books; now he considers how wearisome life really is. He has to figure out everything for himself: "every path was an improvisation." Suddenly he realizes that a big part of life is just keeping alive and out of danger: "a considerable part of one's waking life was spent watching one's feet." Ralph smiles "jeeringly." He sees the gap between what he hoped life on the island would be and what that life is turning out to be. He also recognizes that the Ralph he used to be and the Ralph he's becoming are opposites.


And he doesn't like "perpetually flicking the tangled hair out of his eyes." Ralph wants civilization back; he doesn't want to be dirty and wild. He is slowly moving toward an adult awareness of his needs.

Ralph tries to think about leadership of the boys. Being chief is beginning to mean he has to act like a chief! ("You had to think, you had to be wise.") Again there is irony. Recall how playfully Ralph took on the role; it was all a game then, but now he thinks that "the meeting must not be fun, but business." Ralph is growing up, and he has to "adjust his values." What he thought once is no longer true; he is being forced to change.

Ralph's growing up creates in him a dawning awareness of others. He appreciates Piggy's friendship more and respects his ability to think. Ralph talks to the assemblies in such a way that everyone, even the littlest boys, will understand what he has to say. He wants to establish in everyone's mind-but also in his own-what is important. He calls it "what's what," meaning what's really important.

For the first time Ralph recognizes the seriousness of the situation and acts responsibly. And Ralph wants the others to understand and adjust their values also. He takes an adult stand.

"We've got to make smoke up there-or die." Ralph tells the group what he expects of them so that they may remain civilized and be rescued or survive. Ironically, the smoke that the others try to kill him with at the end of the book is what saves them all.

"Things are breaking up. I don't understand why." For all his growing authority, Ralph cannot understand what's happening to them. Recall the idea of confusion when a person reaches midlife; Ralph falls into confusion as he tries to understand adult problems. Even when he links "the beastie, the snake, the fire, the talk of fear," he doesn't recognize that all these fears are one fear, the fear of the unknown, symbolized by the jungle beast.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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