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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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If Ralph had been a truly wise leader, he might have ended the meeting at this point, but he chooses to go on. With darkness beginning to surround them, they attempt a rational discussion about the fear. Can anyone talk about ghosts in the middle of a dark forest, or even in a dark house, without scaring himself? It's impossible; yet Ralph tries!

Jack is the only one who can talk about the fear, and what he says is true: "Fear can't hurt you any more than a dream. There aren't any beasts to be afraid of on this island." But, as Jack always does, he denies the beast and then turns around and implies his ability to kill it if it does exist. "Am I a hunter or am I not?" This is Jack's "what's what," hunting and killing.

Piggy also gets to say his "what's what." As reasonable proof that a beast can't exist on the island, he asks, "What would a beast eat?" The littluns make a game of it: "Pig," they say. "We eat pig," Piggy says, and the littluns shout, "Piggy!" There is irony in the use of the name Piggy and the fact that the boys kill and eat pig: It hints that Piggy will be killed by a beast, but not the one they fear. In a subtle way that nobody understands, not even Piggy, he is saying that they are the beast because they kill and eat pig.

Piggy tries to consider the problem as a grownup would. Life is scientific, he says, believing that everything can be explained. Then notice how his poor use of English undermines what he says and tells the real truth: "there isn't no beast" and "there isn't no fear, either." He means that the beast does not exist, but because two negatives make a positive, he is actually saying that it does exist.


He also tries to explain away fear by bringing forward the littluns who are scared. Of course this backfires when little Phil says he's seen something walking around at night. Then Percival comes forward, reciting his name and address the way many young children are taught to do in case they get lost. When he can't recall his telephone number, Percival is desolated and can only cry. The other littluns cry too as they all "share in a sorrow that was universal." All the littluns are lost, and the biguns are losing their childhoods. The boys and their loss reflect a world that has lost its way.

Percival also introduces a new understanding of the beast. The beast comes out of the sea, he says. The boys panic! The beast could be anywhere! It is not just a snake or some pig-eating creature from the unfriendly side of the mountain; the beast could be anything! This opens the way for many things to be called the beast. Hysteria reigns.

Simon tries to explain what he knows. "Maybe there is a beast.... Maybe it's only us." But Jack's cruel mockery of that idea and the boys' terror defeat Simon. He becomes "inarticulate in his effort to express mankind's essential illness." He already surmises the truth, that evil resides within man's nature. Simon is the only one who could save them, but Jack destroys that chance.

NOTE: GOLDING'S VIEWS ON CIVILIZATION

Here again is another strong hint of what the author is telling us about mankind in his metaphor of boys stranded on an island. Mankind, Golding says, would like to believe that civilization is evil and that nature is pure. That's why we have Tarzan of the Apes and Swiss Family Robinson. But Golding believes something different, that we need civilization and its schools, policemen, and laws in order to keep us from throwing stones at each other. Without such things we would all be savages. Stripped of civilization, the beast surfaces.

According to Golding, the beast resides within us, and that is what Simon understands and tries to explain. However, his attempt only serves to heighten everyone's terror because they can't understand what he is really saying. They can't hear the meaning behind the words. Even Piggy does not understand.

The meeting continues to break down and to slip away from Ralph's control. His original good intentions have had disastrous results. In effect the author is saying that evil often comes out of good. Too late Ralph realizes that "we ought to have left all this for daylight." He and they are defenseless against the mirages of the night. On the mountain he was sure that he had to call a meeting, but he's been undermined by his own decisions.

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