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

Jack challenges Ralph's leadership, then leaves. Later he offers a pig's head to the beast and Simon talks with the Lord of the Flies.

Once the fear of the beast's existence gets into Ralph, the power of the civilized world slips further from his grasp. The shell that has symbolized order is now called a "blob"; the conch is becoming insignificant in the way that civilization is. This symbol is the first of many symbols whose importance to the boys will be diminished.

The boys talk about the reality of the beast. They can't light a signal fire because the beast may see it.

And if they can't do that, Ralph says, "We're beaten." Fire, another symbol, is losing its power to give hope. Jack is insulted by Ralph's unwillingness to believe that he and the hunters can go after the beast. Jack "inexpertly" blows the conch to call an assembly, thereby bringing to a head the festering problem between him and Ralph. His blowing the conch indicates his desire to take control; that he does it poorly is a comment on his abilities. Jack denounces Ralph's leadership. He accuses Ralph of being like Piggy, that is, being too weak to lead. (Recall Ralph's asking Jack why he hated him, which was something Piggy would do. Jack is correct in saying that Ralph is acting more like Piggy, but that does not necessarily mean he is weak.)

Jack sounds childish when he says that Ralph "isn't a prefect," meaning he hasn't been given authority over the others by some adult. He accuses Ralph of giving orders he wants obeyed. Again Jack is correct about Ralph, but he lacks the human compassion that Ralph has developed.


When Jack again loses the boys' vote on the leadership, he begins to cry. We see Jack's desire for power side by side with his immaturity and his inability to understand human relationships. His desire to force himself on the others as leader and his childishness are placed together several times in the story. In doing this, Golding may be hinting that those who seek power in this way are often immature and without understanding of the human situation.

Jack leaves the tribe, and the end of the story begins here with Jack's decision.

Piggy is glad Jack is gone, and Simon continues the discussion about the beast. He suggests they climb the mountain to find out whether there really is a beast. The boys react with terror- even Piggy doesn't understand what good it will do. Simon says, "What else is there to do?"- implying that the only way not to fear the beast is to face it. Simon's final journey begins and ends with that question.

Piggy suggests they build a fire on the beach, away from the beast. We watch his stature emerging; with Jack gone, Piggy is able to think and to contribute to the group. Civilization functions well when the threat of savagery is removed.

But the effort to keep the fire going is too much, as it has always been, and the boys slip away into the jungle. Piggy insists they can do all right, but Ralph is not sure. He is aware that Simon is missing.

In a brief scene we follow Simon up the mountain. He is the pilgrim or prophet type, like a Jesus or a Moses, who goes off alone to pray. He meditates, surrounded by dancing butterflies and threatening heat. This combination of beauty and menace will appear again; it is the key to understanding Simon's vision.

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