Last time, Jack finally killed a pig. In unrelated news, our survivors failed to flag down a passing ship.
I’m kidding. Those things are totally related. Jack let the signal fire go out so he could embark on The Hunt. You know how every desert island story has the one guy who doesn’t WANT to leave the island? I think Jack is that guy. Jack is our John Locke, our Wolf Larsen, and our Gilligan. I was never convinced Gilligan actually wanted to leave the island. If he did, he would have tried harder.
Chapter 5 opens with Ralph having some sort of personal crisis. He’s pacing back and forth on the beach, preparing to call a meeting, but his thoughts are interrupted by hilarious metaphysical enigmas like “Are good and evil merely a matter of perspective?” and also “What is a face?”
If faces were different when lit from above or below… what was a face? What was anything?
Somewhere in the midst of this catastrophe, he realizes that Piggy is a much better thinker than he is, and he comes to that conclusion like so: “Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains.” This sentence is a gift. From now on, whenever online dating sites ask me to describe my body type, I’m going to say “ludicrous.” It is ludicrous. I have a very short torso.
Ralph decides he can’t put it off any longer and calls a meeting. The other survivors, drawn by the call of the conch, come running. Ralph prefaces his speech by telling them this isn’t going to be one of those fun meetings. I don’t think Ralph has ever interned in an office or joined student council. All meetings are terrible and they end with a trial by combat. There are no fun meetings. There are only
Ugh lunch meetings
Ugh brainstorm meetings
“THE PROJECTOR ISN’T WORKING, AT WHAT POINT DO WE GIVE UP AND CALL TECH SUPPORT” meetings
Now that I think about it, this is sounding more and more like the worst group project ever. Ralph is the guy who does all the work. Jack is the guy who just wants to show everybody YouTube videos. Piggy is the guy who tells everyone else they’re doing it wrong. Simon is the guy who says, “Text me the topic, I’m good with whatever you guys decide.” I’m Ralph with a hint of Piggy.
Ralph complains about all the things that aren’t getting done. I think this dynamic will look familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to make a PowerPoint presentation with 4-5 other people:
RALPH: First of all, we need people to refill the fresh water supply. I for one am a fan of not dying of thirst. Who wants to be in charge of this? Anyone? SIMON: I’m good with whatever. MAURICE: Yeah, same. Whoever wants to, I guess. JACK: Maybe you should just do it, Ralph. I mean this seems like something you’re really passionate about, and I just don’t know if anyone else would be able to do it justice? RALPH: Fine.
Their second order of business is something that I can’t even believe is an actual issue.
RALPH: I realize this might a radical idea, but I think maybe we should talk about not pooping near the fruit that we eat.
RALPH: Guys, I’m serious. JACK: Where are we supposed to go to the bathroom, Ralph? Tell me that. RALPH: It’s a big island. Literally anywhere else would be great. JACK: I’m just not sure that’s realistic. ROGER: So, what, now we can’t even poop where we want? RALPH: You can poop wherever you want, Roger. Just not near the food. ROGER: Unbelievable.
When everyone told me this book was about small children on a desert island, I wasn’t expecting a thriving ecosystem, but I feel like not defecating near the food is just garden variety Common Sense. Am I wrong?
They table the discussion of fruit poop and decide to talk about the beast instead. This is a hot-button issue, and everyone has an opinion. Ralph says there is no beast. Piggy agrees; he says life is scientific and there’s nothing to fear—unless, of course, they “get frightened of people.” I’m sure that line foreshadows absolutely nothing. Jack says there can’t be a beast in the forest, because he would’ve seen it by now. Some faceless Harold suggests that maybe the beast comes out of the sea, and suddenly everyone’s talking about the possibility of a killer squid. Simon tries to bring some semblance of order to the proceedings:
SIMON: Maybe we should consider the possibility that there is no beast, save for the one we’ve created ourselves—that our very fear fuels its existence, and that we’re all capable of atrocities.
However, this goes over poorly.
RANDOM HAROLD #1: Does he mean ghosts? RANDOM HAROLD #2: I think he means ghosts.
And before long we are voting on whether it’s ghosts. I’m okay with this, because I think “ghost” is one step away from “tropical werewolf,” but the meeting descends into chaos. Jack starts ranting; Ralph tries to stop him, because Jack doesn’t have the Talking Conch. Jack, however, demands to know why Ralph’s the chief if he can’t even hunt or sing. Ouch. Way to hit him where it hurts. Jack doesn’t flat-out say there is a beast, but he DOES say he’ll hunt it down if it exists. He then votes to weaponize the children and everyone dances on the ashes of Ralph’s authority. It’s anachronistic, but I’m picturing twerking. Bloodlust twerking. Anarchy reigns supreme.
Only Ralph, Piggy, and Simon remain behind. Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch, but Ralph recognizes that he’s walking on authoritative eggshells here. If he blows the conch now and nobody comes, then it’s over. He’s lost what little power he still has.
Ralph suggests he’s not cut out to be their leader, but Piggy and Simon talk him down. Piggy says they need him now more than ever. Besides, with Jack in charge, he worries for his own safety. He knows nobody likes him, but he doesn’t know why. I think I know why. It’s because my social life is a derelict, post-apocalyptic wasteland, and yet I still somehow manage to have better people skills than Piggy.
The chapter ends with one of the little Harolds having a nightmare and screaming into the night, thus finally catapulting this novel out of “delightful children’s book” territory and into “TOME OF HORRORS.”
What IS a face?
What would Jack and Ralph’s campaign slogans be?
Would you rather fight 100 tropical werewolf-sized squids, or 1 squid-sized tropical werewolf? Did I do this right? How big is a squid?
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