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Chapter 12

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 12 of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Ralph, whose body is bruised and scratched in many places, is hiding in the forest not far from Castle Rock. He recognizes that the savagery will only grow and that Jack's crew will come after him. He comes across the Lord of the Flies and knocks it off the spear that is holding it, taking the spear as a weapon. Ralph longs to join the others and pretend things had not gone as they had, but he knows this will not work.

He sees Samneric guarding the Castle Rock. Ralph goes to them, but they tell him he must flee because the tribe is going to hunt for him the next day. They also say that Roger has sharpened both ends of a stick, making a more dangerous weapon. Ralph can't understand why they want to hurt him. When Ralph asks Samneric to come with him, they refuse out of fear. He tells them of his plan to hide near the hunters' camp, figuring Jack and his followers would not look for him there. Before Ralph leaves, Samneric give him a piece of meat, an act of kindness. As Ralph goes away, he can hear one of the twins being beaten.

Ralph goes to sleep in the thicket. The next morning he overhears Jack questioning Samneric, who give him up under more beatings. A few of the boys go toward the area the twins indicate. Ralph escapes. Jack and his tribe push big boulders toward the area. Then Jack and his tribe set the forest on fire to smoke Ralph out.

Ralph escapes the fire and reaches an opening. A boy stands between him and the rest of the forest. Ralph launches himself at the boy and gets past him. He runs into the forest with the boys in full pursuit. He hides again, anxious about how to get away.

A boy finds Ralph while he is hiding. Ralph runs past him, gets to the beach, and falls down in exhaustion, Jack's tribe in full pursuit. When he looks up he sees a naval officer and his ship. The officer says, "We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?" Ralph begins crying, and others cry as well.

Analysis

Both Ralph and the hunters have lost their identities and become something else. The other boys have become savages, constantly going around with painted faces. Ralph sees a person whom he thinks is Bill but realizes that he is not Bill. Instead, he is some savage boy who has replaced Bill. Jack's followers, the savages, hunt Ralph as if he is one of the pigs they sought for food. The reader can easily speculate that if they had caught him, they would eat him. They have lost all vestiges of civilization.

In the face of danger, Ralph himself becomes both like the pig that the hunters seek and ultimately savage himself. He snarls while being pursued, hides in the thicket, and runs wildly when chased. However, unlike the pig, Ralph will not go down easily. He arms himself with a spear and is ready to use it if it becomes necessary.

Despite these actions, Ralph still maintains a sensibility and a craving for civilization. While in hiding he thinks of Simon and Piggy, and he questions why it was so terrible to want to keep the signal fire going and what the boys are thinking when go to burn down the forest.

The way the boys are discovered is full of dramatic irony, where readers understand something that the characters do not. Ralph has tried ceaselessly to keep the signal fire going, an insistence that ultimately leads him to be despised by Jack and his hunters. From the beginning, Jack showed little interest to keeping the fire going. His greatest desire from the beginning has been hunting. Yet in the end, it is the fire that Jack sets for destructive purposes that leads to the boys' discovery. The author may be saying that the line between civilization and savagery is a fine one. It is simply interpretation and intention.

The naval officer has no clue as to how awful the situation became on the island, as is clear from his scolding of the boys and interpretation of the happenings as fun and games. His lack of clear understanding—and the fact that he is the officer of a military engaged in a planetwide destructive war—calls into question his right to scold them. The boys have mimicked the action of the adult world. Their inability to live decently paints a bleak picture of the future, which looks exactly like the destructive present. This understanding is what causes Ralph to cry as the book ends.

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