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PLOT CHAPTER SUMMARY AND SYNOPSIS
CHAPTER 7 - Shadows and the Trees
The boys continue their search of the island and moves towards the mountaintop. When they stop to eat, Ralph's mind wanders to other things. He observes the boys and again realizes they have become dirty and unkempt, a state of their freedom which he accepts as normal. Ralph then looks at the vast ocean. It seems as if the sea acts like a barrier, preventing their rescue, keeping them from civilization, and condemning them. Simon joins him and interrupts Ralph's thoughts of home. He tries to calm the leader by assuring him that they will certainly be rescued soon.
Later in the day, the hunters are delighted to discover fresh pig droppings. They decide to hunt the pig while searching for the beast. Soon everyone spies the wild boar and wildly gives chase. Ralph joins the madness, excited by the thrill of the adventure, and throws a wooden spear, which hits the boar's snout. Since it is his first hunt, he is delighted at his accuracy and tries to gain the respect and appreciation of the boys. Jack draws the attention away from Ralph by displaying his bloodied arm, wounded by the tusks of the boar. Although the hunt ends with the wild animal escaping, the boys are still filled with excitement. They have a mock play with Robert at the center representing the pig. Jack, Ralph, and the boys perform a savage dance and jab at Robert with the spears almost injuring him seriously. As Robert struggles to get free, the boys chant frenziedly. The desire to hunt and draw blood almost overpowers them, but they manage to bring themselves under control. Ralph uneasily reminds everyone that it has only been a game; but the leader now understands the exhilaration of participating in a hunt.
Since it is growing dark, there is a discussion among the boys as to whether they should stay on this side of the mountain and hunt the beast or return to Piggy and the "littluns". They decide to stay, and the kind Simon offers to go off through the forest alone to inform Piggy of the plans.
Because it is night, Ralph feels that they should postpone their search until daylight. Jack accuses him of cowardice and Ralph gives in. While the other boys stay behind, Ralph, Jack and Roger begin to climb the mountain, but Ralph still feels it is a foolish plan. Ralph and Roger wait half way up the mountainside while Jack climbs alone to the top. Soon he comes rushing down to announce that he has seen the beast; it is a terrible thing that bulges out and makes flapping sounds. Ralph, Roger, and Jack decide to climb the mountain together to investigate the creature.
Ralph is about to faint from fear, but is revived by Jack's taunt of cowardice. As they move nearer, they shake in fright with teeth chattering. In the moonlight they spy a great ape-like creature seemingly asleep and with its head between its knees. A sudden gust of wind lifts the creatures' head to reveal its face. Scared out of their wits, the three boys leap down the slope to warn the others.
When the boys reach the other side of the mountain in their search for the beast, Ralph contemplates the sea and simplistically sees it as their barrier to civilization. In truth, the barrier is the boys' themselves: their irresponsibility, their savage ways, their cruelty to one another, and their disregard for authority. As Simon earlier told the group, the "beast" lies within. At this point in the book, the beast, both literally and figuratively, begins to rear its ugly head. Before Chapter 7, the savagery and brutality of the boys have been foreshadowed, but the evil has only been interrupted by fun and frolic. From this chapter forward, the novel shows a changed rhythm of the narrative. The fun and games are totally replaced with hysterical ritual and gross brutality.
Many things about Ralph's character are developed in this chapter, and the author seems to be saying that even this rational boy is affected by the primitive nature of the island. Ralph sees the dirtiness of the boys, buts accepts their condition as a part of the freedom (almost as if he is accepting their savagery). When he participates in chasing a boar for the first time, he is caught up in the excitement of the hunt and begins to better understand Jack and his tribe. When Robert pretends to be the beast, the boy's fierceness and violence in attacking him shocks the leader, but Ralph himself had earlier joined the ritual. Golding clearly suggests that every individual has some evil in him.
The rivalry between Ralph and Jack also continues to build in this chapter. Each one tries to prove that he is braver than the other. Ralph is hesitant to climb the mountain in search of a beast in the dark, but Jack goads him onward by accusing him of cowardice. Jack, still wanting to be in command, bravely climbs alone to the top, where he spies the beast. Ralph is scared stiff by Jack's description of the beast as ape-like and too horrible to be human. The leader manages to control his fear and climbs upward to get a closer look. But Ralph also exhibits some maturity in this chapter when he confronts his enemy. He asks Jack why he hates Piggy and himself.
It is important to note that when the boys pass through the burned out forest, the ashes blind them. This temporary blindness is symbolic of the boy's real blindness, their inability to see the real beast -- the evil within their hearts.