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CHAPTER SYNOPSIS AND NOTES - Lord of the Flies
CHAPTER 4 - Painted Faced and Long Hair
The children grow accustomed to the pattern of life on the island. The mornings are bright, pleasant, and filled with enjoyment. The afternoons are hot and create strange and mysterious mirages over the sea. The boys seek relief from the heat, and often sleep in the shade of the trees. Towards evening, it begins to cool, the sea grows calm, and the mirages disappear. As night creeps over the island, the younger children huddle together to calm and protect one another; the menacing darkness causes their fears to grow.
The little ones, for the most part, live a life of their own. They come when the conch is blown, but otherwise they do not bother the older boys. Unfortunately, some of the older ones bully the children. Some of the boys, led by Jack, destroy their sandcastle, and Roger throws stones at Henry. In addition to these torments, the children have other problems with which to cope. They spend much of their time gathering and eating fruit, which in turn causes stomachaches and chronic diarrhea. They talk about the "beastie" and imagine all sorts of monsters; by nighttime, they are terrified and have trouble sleeping. Constantly tired, ill, and fearful, they play very little and cry a lot. In fact, Percival stayed in a hut for two days, refusing to eat and weeping constantly.
Jack continues his obsession with the hunt. He has smeared his face with colored clay (donned war-paint for hunting) and has his hunters do the same. They are all pleased with their savage faces and set off to hunt once again. The other boys swim in the lagoon while Ralph and Piggy lie on the beach in conversation. Suddenly Ralph jumps up and starts shouting, for he has seen a ship in the distance, a means of being saved. The boys start to rush up the hill to fan the fire and make more smoke as a signal, but the fire has gone out. Irresponsible and uncaring, Jack and his hunters have not bothered to tend the fire and keep it burning.
Shortly after the discovery of the dead fire, Jack and the hunters, covered in blood, return in a procession; they are chanting something warlike and carrying a dead pig on a stake. The excited party tries to describe the hunt in detail, talking especially about the kill and the blood. Ralph interrupts and bitterly accuses them of irresponsibility for letting the fire burn out. The hunters, still in the grip of the thrill of the hunt, ignore him. Ralph once again tries to make them realize the enormity of their blunder. Piggy also criticizes Jack and the hunters. In quick and angry retaliation, Jack strikes out at Piggy, forcefully slapping his face and breaking one lens of his glasses. Piggy, who is virtually blind without his corrective lenses, begins to wail, and Jack cruelly mimics him. Ralph is horrified at Jack's brutality and scolds him once again. Jack finally apologizes to everyone for letting the fire die out and spoiling their chance for rescue; but Jack refuses to apologize to Piggy. A barrier of resentment has been firmly planted between the leaders, Ralph and Jack.
Once again Piggy's glasses are used to light a fire. They roast the pig and have a feast. Jack is once again cruel to Piggy and refuses to give him any of the roasted pork. Simon, however, shares his meat with Piggy. To celebrate their victorious conquest, the hunters wildly dance and sing around the fire, enacting the hunt again. Ralph, envious of their joy and success and resentful of their irresponsibility, interrupts their fun and calls a meeting. The leader then walks down the hill toward the beach all by himself.
Golding opens the chapter by describing the daily routine of the boys, which should be peaceful and idyllic in this island paradise. Ironically, their aimless existence is increasingly marred by conflict. The older boys torment the little ones, destroying their sand castle and throwing stones in their direction. The little ones live in fear of the "beastie" and other monsters, and cry incessantly. The hunters refuse to accept any responsibility and let the fire go out. Jack and Ralph openly fight about this irresponsible act, and Jack brutally strikes Piggy in the face, breaking his glasses.
This gradual disintegration is very symbolic, for it is a reflection of a return to savagery. First the strong start attacking the defenseless weaker ones in minor ways. This torment only increases the fear that already exists amongst the weak ones; they become obsessed with monsters and beasts. In their innocence, the weak ones have no idea that the beast to be feared is not a creature from the outside, but a monster from within. Jack is turning into that monster. He paints his face with colored clay, a symbolic war mask that he can hide behind; it seems to free him from the shackles of proper behavior, self-consciousness, or shame. When he looks in the water at his own painted reflection, he refers to himself as "an awesome stranger." He has truly and intentionally discarded any trace of civilization. This becomes apparent when he strikes Piggy across the face and breaks his glasses, the symbol of wisdom and civilization. It is not surprising the Jack boldly refuses to apologize for his behavior; as savages do not care about the cruelty they inflict on others.
Unfortunately, it is not just Jack who has regressed. The other boys in Jack's "tribe" also put "war-paint" on their faces and leave the group to hunt the pig. When they return, the colored clay on their face has been replaced with blood, symbolic of their further deterioration towards savagery. At dinner, the hunters wildly chant and sing around the fire, enacting the hunt once again and boldly proclaiming the joy of blood and killing.
A psychological interpretation of this degeneration is that the Egos of Jack, Roger and many other boys are liberated from the memories controlled by their Super Egos. They thus give in to their Ids, which are the primitive beings located in the unconscious.
At the end of the chapter, the rational Ralph is having inner conflict. He is almost jealous of the freedom and wild excitement displayed by the hunters, subconsciously knowing he could never be so liberated. At the same time, he is very resentful of their lack of responsibility. The way he handles the celebration and his internal conflict is to try and control the situation. In the middle of the party, he announces to the excited crowd that he is calling a meeting. It is significant to note that there is little response to him or his rational plan. He walks down the hill toward the beach by himself, a foreshadowing of the isolation he will feel throughout the rest of the novel.