Are you reading Lord of the Flies right now in class? Is it boring? I’ll bet. But it doesn’t have to be boring. It could be hilarious and exciting—full of fun and whimsy! And with me at the helm, it will be! If you’re game, go catch up on chapter one, and then come back here so we can learn about unsupervised toddler pyromania together. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
I’m guessing at least a few of my readers are not expert survivalists and therefore know next to nothing about starting a controlled fire in the wilderness. Don’t worry—I’m in the same boat. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know my way around flammables. I think you probably rub some sticks together, but I don’t know that for sure. Thankfully, chapter 2 addresses some of these issues. We don’t learn how to build a fire so much as we learn how NOT to build a fire, but I think that’s just as valuable.
You’ll remember that Ralph, Jack, and Simon—the A-team, as it were—have been off having some jungle fun. They return to tell everyone that the island is full of pigs and trees, but no adults. Ralph seems a little bit too excited about this. He thinks this will be a good time. He says that the island is “a good one,” but I have no idea what authority he has to make this claim or what criteria he’s using to do so.
To bring some semblance of order to the proceedings, Ralph announces that only the person holding the conch shell may be permitted to speak. Classic Ralph. He runs a tight ship, but at the end of the day, we’re all better for it.
One little boy comes forward and says he saw some sort of terrible beast in the jungle at night. A “snake-thing,” he calls it. This is throwing a bit of a wrench into Ralph’s plan to host an unchaperoned island rager. He adamantly denies the existence of such a beast. The conversation looks like this:
RANDOMKID: So this beast in the jungle—will it kill all of us or just some of us? Will it torture us? Will there be time to weep? RALPH: I already told you, there isn’t a beast. KID: But what if there is? RALPH: There isn’t. Jack, help me out here. Tell him there isn’t a beast. JACK: You know what I think? KID: What? JACK: I think there’s a beast inside all of us. RALPH: Why are you like this?
Is there a beast? I’m not sure. I hope there is. I hope it’s a Smoke Monster. I hope it’s either that or the tropical island werewolf of false promises with which William Golding has yet to gift me.
Piggy points out that they’re not likely to be rescued any time soon because nobody knows where they are. Ralph snatches back the talking conch from Piggy’s unworthy hands and says OF COURSE they’re going to be rescued (eventually), but in the meantime they’re going to have some fun on this post-nuclear island of death, dammit. They’re going to have fun whether they like it or not. Everyone applauds his optimism. I think if you’re going to read any single sentence in this book, make it this one: “Ralph flushed, looking sideways at Piggy’s open admiration, and then the other way at Jack, who was smirking and showing that he too knew how to clap.”
Let’s talk about Piggy. He’s whiny, which is why nobody likes him, and I identify with him so much it hurts. I bet he probably can’t parallel park and is a writer living in Michigan.
The thing about Piggy is that he’s saying all the right things, but he’s saying them in such an obnoxious way that nobody wants to listen to him. Even I don’t want to listen to him. If Piggy were telling me to make shelter and forage for food, I’d probably do the exact opposite just on principle. I would starve to death on this island just to make a point. It’s like Piggy is saying, “Let’s apply a metric smidgeon of logic to this scenario,” and everyone else is banging their fists and chanting, “NEVER!”
First things first: they need to make a signal fire. Unfortunately, they don’t know how. Wasn’t anyone here ever a boy scout? I mean, I was never a boy scout, but I expect everyone I meet in the course of my day-to-day life to have been one. All I know about campfires is that they’re like nature’s glow sticks, so I’m assuming you shake ‘em up real good and then never eat them. These are, I think, the basics:
Rub sticks together.
That should do it.
It didn’t work? Huh.
The island boys opt for a different strategy. They all climb to the top of the highest mountain in a disorganized, overzealous mob, excited as they are by the prospect of setting fires, and Jack swipes Piggy’s glasses to harness the sunlight and get a flame going. Symbolism alert! I think the glasses represent knowledge and enlightenment! I sure hope nothing happens to them, or to the head they are perched on, also known as Piggy.
As the boys struggle to stoke the fire, they accidentally set a bunch of trees ablaze. Before they know it, they’ve got a full-fledged wildfire on their hands and it’s burning through a quarter-mile’s worth of jungle. Piggy chastises everyone for failing to “act proper.” He’s also angry at them for failing to respect the power of the conch, which is in his possession, thereby making him the speaker. Jack responds by telling Piggy to shut up. Come on, Jack. If we don’t have conch-mandated limitations, do we really have anything?
Piggy then realizes that one of the younger children—the one from earlier who warned them about the snake-beast—has gone missing. He was last seen playing near the fire. Well, that’s just great. It’s only been, what, a couple of hours? Already half the island’s gone up in smoke and a nameless, faceless Harold has been sacrificed to the island gods. We’re one Harold down. I think Jack is probably responsible for this, but I’m not sure how. I can’t believe a bunch of kids charting their own destinies could have gone this wrong this fast.
At this juncture in the book, I’ve got a couple of questions.
Thematically, would it make a difference if all of the characters suddenly had lobster claws? Why or why not?
Which character do you think gives the hardest high-fives?
Has Jack ever gotten on an elevator full of people and then only gone up one floor? I think probably yes. What do you think?
Find the next chapter and every installment of Elodie’s Lord of the Flies blog HERE, and our Blogging the Classics index page HERE!