Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 8 - Gift For the Darkness
Early the next morning Jack, without permission, blows the conch and calls a meeting to discuss the beast. During the meeting, Jack heightens the general fear by telling everyone that the existence of the beast is real, for he has seen it. The boys grow even more afraid when Ralph does not seem to have much faith in Jack's hunters to protect them. In fact, Ralph is feeling depressed and helpless. At the meeting there is a showdown. Jack confronts Ralph and calls him a coward. But when he calls for a vote on removing Ralph as chief, the boys do not support him. Jack cannot bear this humiliation, declares that he is no longer a part of Ralph's group, states that he will form his own group on the other side of the island, and walks away by himself. Piggy is openly delighted to see him go.
Simon suggests climbing the mountain again to confront the beast, but Ralph, who is now feeling hopeless, decides it is safer to stay on the beach. At Piggy's suggestion, the boys decide to build a signal fire right on the beach and start working enthusiastically on the project. Once the pile is ready, Piggy himself lights the fire using his glasses. The children start dancing and singing around it; there is excitement in the air. But the excitement dies along with the fire. Ralph discovers that the hunters have followed Jack and is worried by this desertion. Piggy convinces him that they can do without them.
On the other side of the island, Jack gathers his group of boys. They cover themselves with "war-paint" and leave on a hunt. They find a pig and feel great pleasure in its cruel and bloody slaughter. To celebrate their victorious hunt, they mount its head on a pole. This head is offered as a gift to the beast. The boys, at first, take bloodthirsty delight in their savage act; but the excitement soon ebbs and they feel slightly ashamed.
The night is hot and still, as if there if going to be a storm. Piggy and Ralph sit on the beach discussing the recent events. They cannot understand why the others cannot be serious about the fire and worry about the fact that everything seems to be breaking up. Suddenly Jack and his hunters burst upon the scene and raid their fire. Jack also invites them to come to a feast, revealing they have killed another pig. The thought of meat is tempting to the hungry boys. So is Jack's offer to join his tribe on the other side of the island.
Simon, the visionary of the group, wants some time alone to sit and think. Before Jack raided the campfire, Simon had walked into the jungle to the clearing he had visited before and was greeted by the boar's head with flies buzzing around it. Simon seems unable to take his eyes off "The Lord of the Flies". Suddenly the head seems to grin and speak to him. The creature tells him that he is the beast and warns him that the beast is part of everyone. The head then explains that is why things are going badly. The beast continues to threaten Simon, who soon faints.
Chapter 8 is a central one to the whole novel. The boys are very frightened after hearing the proof of the beast's existence, but Jack tries to tell them the hunters will protect everyone. Ralph is contemptuous of the hunters and calls them boys armed with sticks. Ralph obviously has not recognized or accepted this group of boys as savages. His shortsightedness about the hunters is a blunder; his insults of them only bring out their savagery.
In response to Ralph's comment, Jack's resentment overflows. He compares Ralph to Piggy for whom he has only contempt. He tries to take over and asks the boys to vote for him to be Chief. Jack feels total humiliation over their refusal to oust Ralph. When he lays down the conch that he has been holding, he seems to give up hope of ever winning in the present organizational structure where Ralph is destined to be Chief. The only alternative for him is to move elsewhere. He announces he is leaving the group to form his own tribe and is soon followed by the hunters.
The hunters quickly cover themselves with more war-paint than ever before; it serves as a symbol of their expanding savagery, which is soon displayed. In the forest, they find a pig and are extremely cruel and savage in killing it. They also mount its bloody head on a pole and plant it in the forest as an offering to the beast. They next turn on Ralph's group and enter their camp with war cries. They have come to steal fire, even though Ralph would have offered it to them if asked.
The most crucial part of this chapter is Simon's encounter with the "Lord of the Flies". Ironically, the pig's head has been made as an offering (almost a religious event) to the beast by boys who have themselves turned into beasts. But Simon is transfixed by the sight of the pig's head ,even before it seems to speak to him. He is first told that the beast is part of all human beings, a theory that Simon earlier spoke to the deriding group of boys. "The Lord of the Flies" then suggests that they are all going to have "fun". Simon suddenly realizes with horror that it is the devil speaking and that for him "fun" can mean only trouble. This knowledge is too much to bear, and Simon faints; symbolically it is into the mouth of the pig that he seems to be falling. As such, it is a clear foreshadowing of Simon's fate at the hands of the savage boys.