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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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THE CHARACTERS

William Golding has chosen the names of his characters with special care. You will notice that in most cases the root meaning of a name is related to the personality of the character.

RALPH

Ralph, originally from the Anglo-Saxon language, means "counsel." Ralph holds group meetings to share his power as leader.

Ralph, a blond boy of twelve, is the first character you meet. Golding says he is strong like a boxer and quite handsome. He is likable from the start. He turns cartwheels in the sand when he realizes there are no grownups on the island, and before enjoying his first swim in the lagoon he drops his clothing about the jungle as if it were his bedroom. Ralph is like Adam in the garden of Eden, like a child left alone to play his favorite games.

His most distinguishing characteristic is his strong belief that someone will come to rescue the boys. Initially he is so assured of this that he doesn't worry about their situation. Later he insists the boys keep a fire going as a signal to passing boats. Ralph's clinging to his belief establishes the conflict in the story between himself and Jack.

Ralph is not as thoughtful or as questioning as Piggy, not as spiritual as Simon or as aggressive as Jack. There is something good-natured about Ralph; he reminds us of someone we know or would want to know.

Ralph shows fairness when he tries to share leadership of the boys with Jack, and he shows common sense in establishing rules to run the assemblies.

Ralph is an embodiment of democracy; he is willing to be a leader but knows that it's important for each of the boys to be able to speak his mind. When there is a decision to be made, he lets the boys vote on it.


Even when the boys do not live up to the responsibilities they've agreed on, Ralph does not use punishment to get them to do what he believes is right. Instead he tries to talk sensibly to them. You might consider Ralph a strong person who doesn't want to use force as a method to get things done on the island. On the other hand, Ralph could be called stupid for not using force to take control of the boys in an extreme situation. (Depending on your own beliefs, you may find yourself siding with the attitudes of some of the important characters.)

Ralph undergoes a profound change of personality during the island stay. Because of Jack's aggressiveness, the fear of the beast, and his own insistence on a signal fire, Ralph begins to grapple with the problems of being a leader. The playful part of his nature is lost as he begins to recognize that he does not have Piggy's skill for thinking. Unsuccessfully, he tries to ponder the boys' fears and to act like an adult. He becomes more considerate of others as his self-awareness grows.

Ralph can be said to represent the all-around, basically good person. He is not perfect, but he recognizes the need for responsibility, and he takes it on even though he is not particularly skilled at it.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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