The Lord of the Flies
William Golding
Contributed by Karim Chandra
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Chapter 4
Summary

As time passes, some boys descend into savagery, while others retain their humanity. The littluns form a kind of subculture within the group — one based on innocence, play, and fear of the unknown. One day, they make sandcastles on the beach when Maurice and Roger storm out of the bushes and destroy some on their way to the water.

Jack has recently discovered a new strategy he thinks will allow the hunters to achieve more success. He instructs them to rub charcoal and colored clay on their skin for camouflage. Then he commands them to prepare for another hunt, and Samneric join. Meanwhile, Ralph sees a distant vessel, believing its crew will see the smoke from the signal fire and rescue the boys. Unfortunately, the boys abandoned rekindling the fire, so it goes out. Upon realizing this, Piggy and Ralph rush up the mountain to relight it. However, the ship passes before they finish the job.

When the hunters return from a successful outing, they find a despondent Ralph sitting by the shelters. He berates Jack for his decision to leave the fire for the hunt when his group of boys had agreed to keep the fire alive. Although Jack is apologetic, Ralph takes a while to recover from his anger. However, once they eat, the boys relax, and a celebratory dance ensues. Ralph calls for another group meeting after the feast.

Analysis

Despite being in an unusual and frightening place, life on the island falls into a pattern normal routines for the boys. After they wake up, they carry on with daily activities and return home, hoping the next day might bring them rescue. Although each new day carries with it the potential for survival, with evening comes the menace of the beast and unknown long-term prospects. All the boys grapple with their predicament in different ways. The littluns, for instance, seem to be living in an altogether different world from the older boys. They have their own interests and passions and do not care whether the signal fire is lit. Likewise, most of the older boys start neglecting their duties to enjoy the island and live carefree days. They engage in endeavors such as eating, playing, and hunting, to the extent that they ignore critical tasks like constructing shelter and rekindling the fire. The boys’ behavior is typical of humans, who often prioritize pleasure over work. Absent any self-control, the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure often ruins lives, yet the boys are not mature enough to understand the dangers of losing focus and direction. The emphasis on unnecessary — and perhaps even counterproductive — activities hinders progress. For example, Henry discovers a new leisure activity in which he captures animals and experiments with different traps. He enjoys controlling these creatures. Henry and Jack's obsession with power and authority further separates them from Ralph's focus on civilization and democracy.

As civility fades from the boys, the jungle’s barbaric influence appears inevitable. Jack’s decision to use charcoal and clay as camouflage symbolizes the emergence and acceptance of the boys’ savagery. As they become more like the surrounding jungle, they become unrecognizable. They lose their humanity. However, some may argue that the mask that conceals humankind’s true brutality is the appearance of civility. Perhaps the boys, in donning their hunting masks, are tapping into their true selves. The terrifying prospect is, of course, that their true selves are savages, and their humanity is a façade.

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