Summary: Chapter 10
The next morning, Ralph and Piggy meet on the beach. They are bruised and sore and feel awkward and deeply ashamed of their behavior the previous night. Piggy, who is unable to confront his role in Simon’s death, attributes the tragedy to mere accident. But Ralph, clutching the conch desperately and laughing hysterically, insists that they have been participants in a murder. Piggy whiningly denies the charge. The two are now virtually alone; everyone except Sam and Eric and a handful of littluns has joined Jack’s tribe, which is now headquartered at the Castle Rock, the mountain on the island.
At the Castle Rock, Jack rules with absolute power. Boys are punished for no apparent reason. Jack ties up and beats a boy named Wilfred and then warns the boys against Ralph and his small group, saying that they are a danger to the tribe. The entire tribe, including Jack, seems to believe that Simon really was the beast, and that the beast is capable of assuming any disguise. Jack states that they must continue to guard against the beast, for it is never truly dead. He says that he and two other hunters, Maurice and Roger, should raid Ralph’s camp to obtain more fire and that they will hunt again tomorrow.
The boys at Ralph’s camp drift off to sleep, depressed and losing interest in the signal fire. Ralph sleeps fitfully, plagued by nightmares. They are awakened by howling and shrieking and are suddenly attacked by a group of Jack’s hunters. The hunters badly beat Ralph and his companions, who do not even know why they were assaulted, for they gladly would have shared the fire with the other boys. But Piggy knows why, for the hunters have stolen his glasses, and with them, the power to make fire.
Analysis: Chapter 10
In the period of relative calm following Simon’s murder, we see that the power dynamic on the island has shifted completely to Jack’s camp. The situation that has been slowly brewing now comes to a full boil: Jack’s power over the island is complete, and Ralph is left an outcast, subject to Jack’s whims. As civilization and order have eroded among the boys, so has Ralph’s power and influence, to the extent that none of the boys protests when Jack declares him an enemy of the tribe. As Jack’s power reaches its high point, the figures of the beast and the Lord of the Flies attain prominence.
Similarly, as Ralph’s power reaches its low point, the influence and importance of other symbols in the novel—such as the conch shell and Piggy’s glasses—decline as well. As Ralph and Piggy discuss Simon’s murder the following morning, Ralph clutches the conch shell to him for solace, but the once-potent symbol of order and civilization is now useless. Here, Ralph clings to it as a vestige of civilization, but with its symbolic power fading, the conch shell is merely an object. Like the signal fire, it can no longer give Ralph comfort. Piggy’s glasses, the other major symbol of civilization, have fallen into Jack’s hands. Jack’s new control of the ability to make fire emphasizes his power over the island and the demise of the boys’ hopes of being rescued.
We learn a great deal about the different boys’ characters through their varying reactions to Simon’s death. Piggy, who is used to being right because of his sharp intellect, finds it impossible to accept any guilt for what happened. Instead, he sets his mind to rationalizing his role in the affair. Ralph refuses to accept Piggy’s easy rationalization that Simon’s death was accidental and insists that the death was a murder. Yet the word
Jack, for his part, has become an expert in using the boys’ fear of the beast to enhance his own power. He claims that Simon really was the beast, implying that the boys have a better grasp of the truth in their frenzied bloodlust than in their calmer moments of reflection. This conclusion is not surprising coming from Jack, who seems almost addicted to that state of bloodlust and frenzy. Jack’s ability to convince the other boys that the state of bloodlust is a valid way of interacting with the world erodes their sense of morality even further and enables Jack to manipulate them even more.