Lord of the Flies | Study Guide

William Golding

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Chapter 4

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Mornings are pleasant for the boys, but middays are strange. Mirages and illusions arise. The end of the afternoon is also pleasant, but darkness sets in quickly.

The boys settle into patterns, including referring to the smaller boys as the littluns. They are all around six years old and lead a distinct life. They spend their days picking fruit and eating it, whether it is ripe or not. They also play on the beach and build sand castles. They are terrified at night, however, and huddle together.

Three of the littluns are playing on the beach. Roger and Maurice, two of the older boys, go for a swim and walk through the area where the littluns are playing. Roger strides through the castles, knocking them over and destroying them. Maurice follows along, laughing and also destroying. Roger decides to follow one of the littluns. He hides and throws stones at him but deliberately misses.

Jack finds Roger, and he continues to talk about hunting. He puts on camouflage paint, convinced that he cannot kill a pig because the animals see his skin and run away. The two of them, along with others, are on the hunt.

Ralph and Piggy have been swimming. Piggy talks about building a sundial. Ralph is disinterested and goes back to swim again. Piggy follows him, and Ralph sees a ship. He and Piggy realize that their signal fire is out, so Ralph runs up the mountain. He's followed by a few others. They arrive too late to restart the fire, and Ralph is furious.

Just then, Jack and his crew come up the mountain while chanting a war chant. They have killed their first pig, and Jack wants to tell the story. Ralph complains that they let the fire go out, but Jack says they can relight it. Ralph tells them that there was a ship. Piggy starts reprimanding Jack, and Ralph resumes his own recriminations. Jack doesn't know what to say. When Piggy starts attacking him again, he cannot take it anymore. Jack hits him, and the blow breaks one of Piggy's lenses.

Jack mocks Piggy's complaining, and the other boys laugh. Ralph borrows Piggy's glasses to relight the fire, and they cook the pig. The boys have a feast. During the feast, they reenact how they caught the pig. Ralph calls a meeting.

Analysis

The boys have settled into routines. The littluns, while they come to meetings and sleep in the huts, lead a separate life. While their existence of nothing but eating and playing may sound ideal, it is far from it. The fruit makes them sick as they eat indiscriminately and regularly suffer stomach aches. They spend their nights in fear and "huddle[d] together for comfort."

Even among the littluns there's a hierarchy. Percival is at the bottom, and he is teased by the others while building a sand castle. Because Henry is a little taller, he is the leader of a small group. Johnny has a "natural belligerence" that shows itself in his dealings with Percival. The descriptions of the littluns reveal that they are not all that different from the bigger boys. They share similar qualities and, in time, will come to the same challenges and difficulties.

When Roger and Maurice walk over and destroy the littluns' sand castles, they are showing dominance over them. They are bigger and stronger—might makes right—and therefore can act however they please. While Roger deliberately misses when throwing stones at Henry, he does so because he still retains a civilizing conscience. However, it is only a question of time before Roger will lose the constraints that conscience imposes. When he does so, he pushes the boulder that kills Piggy.

In painting his face, Jack takes another step away from civilization and toward savagery. The paint, which the narrator calls a "mask," liberates Jack from "shame and self-consciousness." He feels bloodlust. The hunting chant makes it clear that each of the hunters feels it as well. Upon returning to the mountain, Jack grins when he sees Ralph and the others. He is feeling triumphant and can't wait to share the story of the kill. The blood on his hands barely disturbs him—he simply wipes it on his pants. When Ralph tries to tell Jack about the ship, Jack can't hear him—he is too excited to share the story of the killing. The first kill only intensifies his bloodlust, and he declares that they will hunt every day.

Jack wants Ralph's approval and for him to share in the joy Jack feels. He is truly hurt when Ralph is angry and chastises him. His respect for Ralph prevents him from taking action despite the shame and anger he feels. Piggy offers an acceptable target, however, as he feels no respect for the boy of intellect, the outsider. Jack eventually apologizes for letting the fire go out, but this act actually adds to his stature among his followers. His apology is perfunctory and does not clearly reflect true contrition. The hunters respond with "admiration" to Jack doing "the decent thing" and see the exchange as placing Ralph "in the wrong," a perception that is reinforced when Ralph refuses to make an "appropriately decent answer." Whatever the effect on the others on the island, the sequence of events solidifies Jack's hold on his hunters and increases his appeal to some of the other boys.

Jack's insistence that everyone eat the pig is a way of showing dominance. He can feed the boys. He has fulfilled a promise and is giving the boys something they all crave. He is a strong and powerful leader. This contrasts with Ralph, who talks about a fire and rescue but who has delivered nothing. The combination of events results in a break between Ralph and Jack and the worlds they represent.

Piggy's outsider status is underscored by some details in this chapter. He is the only boy whose hair does not seem to have grown and whose clothes remain intact. His desire to make a sundial reflects his wish to have a rational social order—the society they are no longer a part of and the school that they no longer attend were ruled by the order of time.

Gender differences underlie the boys' decline into savagery, which becomes apparent in this first successful hunt. English public schools for boys were notorious for the aggressive, sometimes brutal, behavior of schoolmates toward each other. The bullying of Piggy, Jack's control over the choir, and the older boys' dominance over the littluns all reflect these patterns, which are decidedly male. The hunters' chant about killing the pig includes the phrases "Cut her throat. Spill her blood," extending male aggressiveness to an act of destruction of the female. Later in Chapter 8, the hunters kill a sow nursing her young, which intensifies the identification of their behavior with an unrealized desire to wipe out the female.

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