Having never read this book before, I’m learning a lot. Strip away the finer points of civilization, and what are we? Just a bunch of meat sacks walking around with pointy sticks. That’s what I’m getting out of this. I’m also starting to think I was a bit hasty in calling Jack the Beachside Strangler, for two reasons:
I’m no better than him. I don’t even want to think about how quickly I’d swallow my scruples and resort to savagery if the situation called for it. One time I got stuck in an elevator, and within twenty minutes I had already mentally pinpointed which person I’d sacrifice to our new elevator gods. There’s a darkness inside of me. I’ll admit this.
ROGER IS SHOWING HIS TRUE COLORS, OH GOD.
We’ve spent all our time worrying about Jack when we should have been worrying about Roger. Roger’s been lurking in the shadows, biding his time, just one unobtrusive Harold hidden among the masses. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Chapter 4 opens with a sweeping description of how the boys spend their days. The “littluns” (younger boys) play in the water and eat fruit. The “biguns” (older boys) work but also play. If it’s okay with everyone, I’m just going to continue calling anyone who isn’t important “Harold.”
One day, a couple of littlun Harolds are playing on the beach. Roger emerges from the jungle with another bigun and leads the charge in stomping through their sandcastles. Kind of a jerk move. Ultimately, though, not that big of a deal. Who among us hasn’t had the urge to destroy something beautiful? This is not why I’m scared of Roger. No, I’m scared of Roger because he follows one of the Harolds down the beach and starts throwing rocks at him. Sorry, near him—he starts throwing rocks near him. The only reason he’s not throwing rocks at him is because it’s kind of socially unacceptable.
Yet there was a space around [Harold], perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.
I think I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds to know a child psychopath when I see one. How long until Roger realizes that the laws of civilization don’t apply on desert islands and that nothing matters in the great cosmic nothingness of an unfeeling universe?
Meanwhile, Jack is finally going to snag his first kill. Look, I know I said I have some inner demons, but I just don’t think I could kill a real live pig. It sounds like work. Lots of running and chanting. A fair amount of stabbing. No, thank you. Not my style.
But Jack? Jack has no such qualms. He rolls up, interrupting Roger’s rock throwing, and decides that the reason they’ve failed thus far is because the pigs see them coming. To fix this, he camouflages himself with clay and turns into a maniac almost immediately. He “began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling.” I take back what I said before about judging Jack too harshly. He is the spark, and Roger is the powder keg. Just as the conch shell imbues Ralph with the confidence of authority, the face paint seems to give Jack permission to become the lawless deviant he was always meant to be. It renders him “liberated from shame and self-consciousness.” It’s kind of like arguing in the YouTube comment section. Relative anonymity, or even the idea of it, brings out the worst in people.
Anyway, Jack rounds up Roger, Samneric, and the other choirboys and they begin the hunt, heedless of Ralph’s earlier warnings about keeping the fire going. I bet Ralph can sense this. I bet Ralph’s “JACK IS DOING SOMETHING CRAZY” senses are tingling but he doesn’t know why.
Over by the lagoon, Ralph is chilling with Piggy when they see a passing ship on the distant horizon. Unfortunately, the signal fire has gone out because no one is tending to it. Ralph, Simon, and a Harold named Maurice scramble up the side of the mountain with Piggy bringing up the rear. By the time they’re able to get the fire going again, however, the ship has disappeared.
Jack & Co. arrive on the scene. They’ve killed the pig, and they’re chanting the following:
Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.
Ralph disregards this red flag as just another classic Jack Merridew personality quirk, and he dives straight into the heart of the matter:
RALPH: Jack, you let the fire go out! JACK: And now we have bacon. You’re welcome. RALPH: We could’ve been rescued! JACK: I know. Bacon. Rescue. It was a tough choice for a while there. RALPH: You chose wrong. JACK: Nah. RALPH: We don’t even have bacon. What we have is a pig carcass on a stick. JACK: Well, how hard can it be? Besides, if we mess it up, we can always just kill another pig. RALPH: We’re not doing this. JACK: Doing what? RALPH: Starting a pig murder cult. JACK: Well, not with that attitude we’re not. RALPH: Jack. JACK: Ralph.
Ralph’s rage is LEGENDARY. There’s a dash of “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” but also “I’M GOING TO SMOTHER YOU IN THE NIGHT.” He forces them to build another fire while he watches them do it.
Later, Jack refuses to share the meat with Piggy. Simon, our Freudian superego metaphor, gives his piece to Piggy instead. Jack is just furious now. Maurice distracts him by asking him to tell the tale of his epic conquest. As Jack does so, there’s a subtle shift in the island hierarchy. Breadwinning has allowed Jack to assert himself as a rival to Ralph’s unquestioned authority. That’s a yikes if I ever saw one. WATCH OUT FOR JACK, YOU GUYS. But also watch out for Roger. He’s been here this entire time—skulking, scheming—and we didn’t even know. The call was coming from inside the murder island.
What do the sandcastles symbolize?
Do Samneric even exist as two separate entities? Are they just one person? What does this say about their sense of self?
Maurice has graduated from “generic Harold” to “full-on Maurice.” He’s been mentioned enough that I’m giving him his own name. Congratulations, Maurice! But this is supposed to be a discussion question, so what’s everyone’s least favorite color?
I expect full, well-rounded answers, people.
Find the next chapter and every installment of Elodie’s Lord of the Flies blog HERE, and our Blogging the Classics index page HERE!