Did any childhood game of yours ever get anywhere near this out-of-control? I’m thinking not. One time I was playing freeze tag with the neighbor kids and someone got hit by a tractor, because I live in an issue of Midwestern Gothic and tractors are just everywhere. But I feel a little bit like rogue agricultural machinery is small potatoes compared to “RUNNING FOR YOUR LIFE ON AN ISLAND THAT IS ON FIRE.”
Because that’s what’s currently happening. Ralph is being hunted. The island is not yet ablaze, but it will be soon. If Ralph were a notable figure in history, we would’ve at this juncture bypassed the “Early life” and “Rise to power” sections of his Wikipedia page and moved right along to:
Jack wants Ralph out of the picture once and for all. Remember when all of this started? Back when the boys wanted to survive on this island but also have fun, and nobody being killed by a lawless mob? Man, was that ever a time.
As he runs, Ralph glimpses one of the boys through the foliage. He identifies the boy as Bill, then remembers that this is not actually Bill but rather the savage formerly known as Bill. So he’s both Bill and not Bill. He is Schrödinger’s Bill. He’s either a threat or not a threat, depending on what he’ll do when he catches Ralph, but Ralph decides not to take the chance.
Things are looking grim on the “not getting stabbed to death” front. Ralph is limping through the jungle, bruised, and bloody. He discovers the pig’s head on a stick, the one Simon called the “Lord of the Flies” back in chapter 8. Instead of having some kind of major philosophical breakthrough like Simon did, however, Ralph just punches it, because at this point why not?
He approaches Jack’s camp after dark. Sam and Eric are on guard duty, so Ralph sneaks up and announces his presence in a whisper. Terrified, they tell him he must leave before Jack shows up. Ralph tries to sway their loyalty in his favor, but Sam and Eric have both been freshly tortured by Roger the Terrible, so they refuse. Ralph doesn’t understand why Jack wants to kill him; he only wanted to keep a fire going so they could all be rescued. Sam says, “Never mind what’s sense. That’s gone,” which might just be the understatement of the millennium.
I think it should be noted here that they’re hunting Ralph purely for sport. It’s not even like they’re hungry and desperate and reluctantly resorting to cannibalism, and Ralph is just really unpopular. No, they want him dead for no reason other than satisfaction and a handful of giggles. That’s gotta sting.
Sam and Eric tell him that tomorrow the tribe is going to spread out and hunt him until they find him. Ralph asks, in spite of himself, what they’re going to do to him once they track him down. He wants specifics. Sam replies by telling him that Roger has “sharpened a stick at both ends,” because apparently Roger is no longer content with merely stabbing Ralph with the business end of a spear. He did some sharpening, and now they are both the business end.
What Sam says: Roger sharpened a stick at both ends. What Sam means: Roger’s going to impale your decapitated head on a stick like so many ill-fated pigs, which is, you know… I think it’s fair to say that’s a pretty sizable “yikes.”
Having failed to recruit the twins, Ralph makes his exit, but not before telling them his plans like an idiot. They aren’t your men anymore, Ralph. You can’t trust them. You lost. Jack has played his hand masterfully. He is Cady Heron carefully dismantling Regina George’s high-status man candy, technically good physique, and ignorant band of loyal followers, and we are all Tina Fey helplessly watching this disaster unfold.
Ralph hides in a nearby thicket and falsely assumes the tribe won’t think to look for him somewhere so close. Wrong. Sam and Eric sell him out to Jack almost immediately. The boys attempt to reach him, but the thicket is too dense to navigate. A single person could probably do it, but nobody wants to challenge Ralph one-on-one—he’s armed with the stick he took from the Lord of the Flies.
Presumably, the following conversation takes place:
SAM: Yeah, he’s not coming out. JACK: Figures. Isn’t that just like Ralph, to prolong the suffering and delay the inevitability of death? Whatever. Let’s just set it all on fire. SAM: It? JACK: The island, Sam. I want it to burn. SAM: But we’re… kind of using it. The island, I mean. We live here. JACK: Your point? SAM: I just… I must not be getting this. So you want us to burn the island. JACK: Yes. SAM: The thing that we’re standing on. JACK: Yes. SAM: The thing that has coconuts and meat and shelter? JACK: I don’t know how I can make this any clearer for you. SAM: But why? JACK: There is no “why,” Sam. There is only “when,” and the answer is now. Burn it all down. Do it, or I’ll make vague threats in your general direction. SAM: Okay, jeez.
They decide to smoke him out, and let me just say this: it works like a charm. Ralph takes off running. It’s hard to say, at this point, where the fun and games end and where the relentless manhunt begins. Team Murder seems to be having a really good time, Ralph less so. He’s terrified of being caught, but even more terrified of losing his mind and allowing the fear to make a “simpleton” of him—forcing him to act on primal urges like an animal.
Jack’s tribe is closing in. They’ve worked out some pretty good hunting stratagems that involve forming a line of death and making birdcalls. Ralph has to repeatedly remind himself to think rather than simply react, but even so, it’s not looking good. He cannot evade them forever and has no long-term plan. In his words:
Sooner or later he would have to sleep or eat—and then he would awaken with hands clawing at him; and the hunt would become a running down. What was to be done, then?
And then. And then? Well, then Ralph begins sprinting to the beach with the desperation of the hunted. The others have spotted him. They’re in hot pursuit. This is about to be the end of Ralph, when suddenly… he runs smack into a naval officer! Holy conflict resolution, Batman! The man informs Ralph, who’s too stunned to speak, that they saw the enormous fire and came to rescue them. I’m not sure if Ralph is calculating how quickly they might have been rescued if the signal fire hadn’t gone out approximately 78 times or if Jack hadn’t been throwing hissy fits every five minutes, but I am, I’m doing that, and I’m simply furious right now.
The war-painted boys trudge sheepishly out of the jungle, bewildered by the naval officer and unable to comprehend the significance of his presence. The concept of civilization is so foreign to them that they simply stare. The officer takes one look at this ragtag juggernaut of death, coupled with the island that’s literally on fire behind them, and decides for whatever reason to grin and ask if they’ve been having “fun and games.”
He then asks if anyone has died, and that’s when the kids start to lose it. Ralph thinks of Piggy, of Simon, and he cries. The other boys cry, too. The officer learns what happened, and he’s deeply disappointed. They’re boys, for God’s sake, and British ones to boot. They should have at least been able to organize a fully functioning mini-society without this much murder. How hard is that? The dubious naval officer then turns away, embarrassed and feeling like these trauma survivors ranging in age from six to twelve should at least have the common courtesy to stifle their shameful weakness tears, lest they forfeit their masculinity forever.
And that’s the end of the novel, but I have some questions. How are they supposed to move past this? How do they go back to just living their lives after the things they’ve seen and done? I guess it’s not much different from the violence of a war-torn world like the one they’re going home to, but jeez. They’re just kids, and they were flinging spears and cutting off pig’s heads and straight-up murdering each other with boulders.
Besides, I think we all know that this seafaring rescue is nothing more than Charon’s boat ferrying them from one ugly, death-riddled reality to another—because not only do these boys now live in a world where they have literally ripped apart another human being, but they have come to realize that civilization is a farce whether they’re on the island or off of it. How do you make sense of something like that?
Might I suggest therapy? Something to cuddle, like a puppy? Maybe they should all go to Staples and buy some new pens. That always cheers me up when I’ve committed unspeakable horrors.
How do you think Lord of the Flies would’ve gone down if it had been a group of girls rather than a group of boys?
I feel like Jack is actually more of a Regina George than Ralph will ever be, but this begs the question: who, then, is Piggy? Is he Gretchen Wieners? Is he Aaron Samuels? Is he Glen Coco?
I’m steeling myself to blog another book. So if you have any suggestions, preferably those with prominent tropical werewolf themes, please let me know posthaste.
Find every installment of Elodie’s Lord of the Flies blog HERE, and our Blogging the Classics index page HERE!