The Lord of the Flies
William Golding
Contributed by Karim Chandra
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Chapter 2
Summary

After Ralph and the others return from their expedition, he blows the conch to summon the boys and brief them on their journey. Before Ralph addresses his concerns about the island, Jack interrupts him and argues for establishing an army of hunters. The boys bicker and talk over each other. To create order, they decide that only the person holding the conch should speak, unless Ralph — the chief — interrupts. Piggy says that no one knows they survived the crash and landed on the island, implying they might remain stranded there for a while. Some of the younger boys claim they have seen a beast in the woods, but they are told off by the older ones. Ralph reassures everyone that they are safe and that someone will rescue them soon. He suggests that they light a signal fire to alert passing ships of their presence.

The boys then trek to a mountaintop, where they collect dry wood and use Piggy’s glasses to start a fire. Jack promises the group that his hunters will keep the fire alive by rekindling it. While most of the boys celebrate their first success of lighting the fire, Piggy reprimands them for not being cautious enough to construct shelters first. He mentions the likelihood of some of the small boys being consumed by the fire while playing in the forest. Ralph first blames Piggy for not taking charge to control the movements of the young children. They are forced to accept the reality that no one knows the true whereabouts of every single boy on the island.

Analysis

In Chapter 2, political roles develop and corresponding tensions emerge. Ralph embraces his position as leader by trying to convince the boys to prioritize activities that will increase their chances of survival. Despite his effectiveness in communicating ideas with authority, Ralph realizes group dynamics are challenging to manage. Piggy showcases his natural intelligence and channels it through Ralph, who is a more persuasive speaker. Therefore, Piggy and Ralph forge an alliance and respect each other.

Unfortunately, most of the boys possess neither Piggy’s rationality nor objectivity. Instead, they are easily swayed by emotional appeals, which Jack uses to influence them while on the mountain. As a result, the boys begin to view Jack as a powerful figure who can control the masses fearlessly. However, the only boy who can assess reality accurately is Piggy, but his lack of rapport with the group delegitimizes his ideas. At one point, he raises his voice to force the boys to listen to his argument for building shelters. Although the conch temporarily helps Piggy draw some attention from the crowd, his control does not last when Jack dismisses the conch’s importance.

When the young boys claim to see a “beastie” at night, this creature represents the evil lurking in the boys’ hearts. Although it has not yet overwhelmed them or drawn them into complete chaos, it threatens their stability. Whereas the beastie’s wandering occurs at night, the boys describe creeper vines that burn and assume shapes of snakes during the day, causing them to tremble with fear and cry. Arguably, the snake-like shapes may be an allusion to the biblical depiction of a serpent that replaced man's innocence with bestiality. The young boys think of the beastie as a physical being that can be hunted and killed, but there is no beast. The only beast present on the island has no physical form but poses a great threat to the boys: the savage and cruel nature within them. Whereas the young boys sense its presence, the older boys dismiss it until it is too late.

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