As we near the end of this book, the death toll inching ever higher, it’s with a sense of shame because we, much like Ralph, watched this bonkers murder parade spiral out of control and did nothing to stop it. What could I have done, though, really? This is a fictional novel; I’m just a person.
But there’s plenty I could have done. I could have thrown the book out the window before it got this far. I could have ripped out the pages where Jack Merridew was introduced, set them on fire, and then danced on the ashes. I could have broken the seventh seal and ushered in the apocalypse. I failed, utterly. This one’s on me, guys.
So far, two people have died. I’m not counting our friendly neighborhood dead guy in a parachute—because RIP sky demon, we hardly knew ye. I’m sure he had a long, worthy life and plenty of adventures, but we don’t even know his name, and also his dumb carcass caused problems for the ragtag team of preadolescent survivors whose fates I’m invested in.
I am, however, counting Simon and that kid from chapter 2 who was abruptly barbecued. The jury’s still out on whether Simon’s death was murder. The jury’s also still out on whether the kid who got char-grilled is even dead. They’re still hoping he’ll just wander back some day. I’m not as optimistic, though. I’m calling it. Kid’s been gone for weeks.
And now I’m counting Piggy, whose death in this chapter marks a stark contrast to the others in that he was unquestionably murdered. With vicious intent, and also a boulder. He was murdered so hard that to say “he died” without adding “oh yeah, and it was on purpose” would be laughable. That said, it was also easily preventable. If you should ever find yourself on a desert island with a raving lunatic who’s cutting off pig’s heads and smiting nonbelievers willy-nilly, here are some useful tips for not getting murdered:
Rule #1: Do not run afoul of the island lunatic! This is important! I can’t believe I need to keep saying this! Jack is not a rational man. He’s hosting murder dances and leaving half-pigs all over the jungle as an offering to a deity.
Piggy thinks they can solve this whole problem with logic. Last night, Team Murder raided the beach and stole his glasses. He thinks if they just explain that he needs those things to see and also to make signal fires, then Jack & Co. will cooperate. He thinks Jack can be reasoned with. Ralph immediately forgets everything he knows about Jack and agrees that civilized discourse will win the day.
Rule #2: You should be secretly judging everyone you meet and arbitrarily deciding whether or not they’re capable of cold-blooded murder. Later, when you are proven correct, you won’t be caught unawares, and you can say, “I knew it!” Maybe discuss it in hushed tones with someone you have judged to be the not-murdering sort. I think having one of those heart-to-hearts on day one would have helped Ralph and Piggy. It would have prepared them for this eventuality. As of right now, they are both acting infuriatingly naive as they trudge across the island to Jack’s stronghold, Ralph leading Piggy as he would a lamb to slaughter.
Rule #3: Never approach the bad guy’s fortress with anything even resembling ill will, be it a confrontational scowl or even a less-than-peaceable gait. You and I both know that not every face-to-face encounter is an act of war, but Jack doesn’t know this, because Jack is a maniac. Our do-gooders are all carrying spears, except for Piggy, who’s carrying the conch shell. This is a terrible idea. I don’t know how many people are in Jack’s tribe, but for all intents and purposes let’s just say there are upwards of a billion of them and only four of you, and one of you is blind. This is not a fight you can win. You may think these spears are just for protection and that actual violence is off the table, but for Jack, violence is the only thing on the table.
Rule #4: Do not bring dispensable secondary characters with you. Now you’re just tempting fate. I can only assume Ralph doesn’t like Sam and Eric very much, because he must know that he’s all but signed their death warrants by bringing them along. Indeed, Sam and Eric are almost immediately set upon and taken hostage by Jack’s tribe.
Rule #5: Remember your objectives. Ralph has forgotten why they even came here. Piggy has to keep reminding him that they came here for fire, and his “specs.” This is another consequence of savagery, that Ralph is in danger of forgetting his goals and succumbing to the animal instinct of “JUST SURVIVE.” Piggy has to cut in because he’s our symbol for logic and reason, but he’s also blind and terrified because he can hear the waves below and he can sense that they’re near a cliffside, so he’s got some perspective.
Rule #6: Diplomacy does not always work. Personally I think any semblance of diplomacy has gone clear out the window by now, because Jack’s trying to straight-up stab Ralph with a spear. Ralph loses his temper and shouts to Jack, “You’re a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief!” This doesn’t sit well with Jack, as it shouldn’t. Are you really a tyrant if people can just shout things at you? Piggy steps forward, grabs the conch, and tries to smooth things over.
Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?
Ralph senses that the bulk of Jack’s tribe, who are guarding the entrance to the fortress, are about to charge. I don’t know what he would’ve done in that situation. Stand and fight? Leave Piggy behind? But he’s never forced to make the choice.
Rule #7: Don’t bring a conch shell to a boulder fight. Roger, who’s stationed overhead, releases the boulder they keep handy for situations like this. It sails toward them and Ralph dives out of the way, but Piggy never even saw it coming. The conch shell shatters as the boulder strikes him. He plummets forty feet off the cliffside, and his body is swept away by the sea.
Rule #8: Sometimes you’re just bad at negotiating. Accept your limitations. I don’t know how Ralph went into this seeking Piggy’s glasses and wound up with no glasses, no conch shell, a dead Piggy, and two people taken hostage. Jack is delighted by what his general “RIDE OR DIE” precedent has wrought. He cries triumphantly:
See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I meant that! There isn’t a tribe for you anymore! The conch is gone—I’m chief!
Ralph high-tails it out of there as an airborne spear barely misses his face. Jack deals with Sam and Eric, asking them what they meant by bringing spears to his side of the island. They’re too terrified to respond, and Jack sics Roger on them. I’m sure this can only mean good things.
We have one chapter left. Truthfully, I have no idea where this is going. Will they ultimately find rescue? Will the adults who put a stop to this madness balk at what appears to be a failed experiment in the science lab of humanity?
Would you have swallowed your misgivings and joined Jack to avoid a fate like Piggy’s, or would you have taken the moral high ground?
Is Jack pure dag nasty evil? Is Roger?
What happened to Wilfred? I thought he was going to be the Chosen One. I thought he was going to lead us to a better tomorrow.
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