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Lord of the Flies

by: William Golding

Ralph

Jack’s in charge of the choir. They can be—what do you want them to be?

After Ralph is democratically elected as chief of the island in Chapter 1, he allows Jack to maintain control over his choir. While Ralph’s gesture is friendly, his generosity ultimately backfires when Jack, hungry for power, decides to take his hunters and start his own savage tribe in the second half of the novel.

We’ve got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day there may be a ship out there… and if we have a signal going they’ll come and take us off. And another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that’s a meeting. The same up here as down there.

In Chapter 2, Ralph tries to create an orderly civilization among the boys by prioritizing the signal fire and establishing rules about meetings and communication. Throughout the novel, Ralph insists on the need for an organized system of government, as symbolized by the conch. Ralph also prioritizes the need for maintaining the fire over the need for hunting, which leads to his eventual clash with Jack.

Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!

In Chapter 4, Ralph angrily realizes that Jack and his hunters let the signal fire burn out while hunting a pig. As he believes the signal fire is their only legitimate means of rescue from the island, Ralph becomes furious with Jack’s short-sighted obsession with hunting and killing a pig rather than focusing on getting rescued.

Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy.

In Chapter 5, Ralph doesn’t understand why everyone else can’t see the logic in maintaining a signal fire, or in helping build the shelters. Ralph realizes that their idyllic first few days on the island were short-lived, and that building a civilization is difficult, particularly when everyone has conflicting ideas about how society should run.

The fire’s the most important thing. Without the fire we can’t be rescued. I’d like to put on war-paint and be a savage. But we must keep the fire burning. The fire’s the most important thing on the island, because, because—

After Jack and his hunters invite Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric to their feast in Chapter 8, Ralph admits he’d like to join Jack and the others in living a more carefree lifestyle, but he can’t. Ralph believes in the good of the group and the promise of rescue, and therefore cannot participate in Jack’s savage game. However, even Ralph begins to lose sight of the reason the fire is so important. This quote marks one of the times Ralph’s thinking becomes confused and he loses his focus, which undermine his ability to be a strong and convincing leader.

That was Simon...That was murder.

Ralph is the only character to admit that he helped kill Simon in Chapter 10, while Samneric and Piggy prefer to lie and make up excuses. Ralph acknowleges that the boys have killed Simon, one of their own, not the imaginary beast they believed they were attacking. By using the lawful terminology to refer to what the boys have done, Ralph returns the boys from their frenzied fantasy to the brutal reality of their actions.

I’m frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home.

In Chapter 10, Ralph grapples with his grief the morning after the boys kill Simon. Ralph understands that he has committed an unspeakable act. His new knowledge of his and the other boys’ capacity for violence causes him to fear their situation evne more than before. In a reminder that these characters are merely children, Ralph wants to return to the safety of his home.

Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?

This quote, which comes in Chapter 11, sums up the essential conflict between Jack and Ralph. Ralph believes in law, order, and working towards the common good – in this case, rescue, while Jack prioritizes hunting, chaos, and living for the moment. Ralph pleads one final time with Jack and the others to see reason, to rejoin the group and help him build a civilization. But in an escalating fight to get Piggy’s glasses back, the boys refuse to compromise and in the chaos that follows, Piggy is murdered by Roger, signaling the triumph of Ralph’s worldview over Jack’s.