Lord of the Flies | Study Guide

William Golding

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Chapter 6

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 6 of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

On a dark night with only a sliver of a moon, while the boys sleep there is an air battle in the sky above the island. One of the crew parachutes out of his plane and dies upon landing on the mountain. His parachute flaps in the wind and his body moves along with it.

The next morning, Samneric, who were on the mountain tending the fire, awaken. While gathering more tinder wood for the fire, the twins discover the deceased crew member. They mistake the parachutist for the beast and run off to tell Ralph.

Ralph calls a meeting, and the twins say that they saw the beast. Jack calls for a hunt. Piggy suggests they stay there and avoid the beast, but this idea is rejected. When Piggy tries to talk again, claiming the right because he has the conch, Jack says it does not matter anymore. In the end, Piggy stays back with the littluns while the others, including Ralph, follow Jack on the hunt.

As they walk, Simon contemplates the beast and is frustrated with himself for not being able to talk at the meeting. When they get to their destination, Ralph says he will go alone because he is chief. As he first sets out, Ralph feels fear but calms as he continues. Jack quickly follows Ralph, and the two of them recall their earlier adventure.

Ralph says they must go to the mountain where Samneric saw the beast so they can keep the signal fire burning. Jack thinks he worries too much about the fire. They go back to the other boys who soon start playing. They want to continue to do so, but Ralph insists they relight the fire. The others are annoyed with him, but eventually they agree. Jack again leads the way.

Analysis

Ralph and Piggy talk glowingly of adults and being back in the civilized world with them. However, the battle that takes place in the air shows that adults are not acting in a civilized manner, either. They are in the midst of a war that includes atomic bombs and has brought great destruction. Like the boys on the island, adults are engaged in a battle between civilization and savagery. That war brought the boys to the island and continues to threaten them now as the dead parachutist is mistaken for the beast. Where can the boys turn for inspiration and role models?

The boys' fear causes them to act irrationally. Samneric glimpse the dead parachutist. By the time they tell the story to Ralph, their imaginations are running wild, as they see the darkness "full of claws" and "menace." The exaggeration continues on a grander scale when they tell the group of boys who gather for the meeting. Both Simon and Ralph recognize that Samneric's story about the beast does not make sense. In a group setting, however, reason succumbs to growing fear. The result is mass panic.

Jack senses the fear and uses it as part of a power grab. He insists they go on a hunt, and when Ralph hesitates, he asks if he is afraid. Ralph admits that he is afraid. By this time, Jack is ready to get rid of the rules. He says the conch is irrelevant now, and everyone knows who should talk. He says that the others should keep quiet and "leave deciding things to the rest of us." Like a dictator, Jack wants to make the rules and decide who should talk.

Once Ralph and Jack discover the beast is not in the area, Ralph returns to his insistence that they go and make sure the fire is kept burning. Again he is trying to reestablish order. However, the other boys want to play explorer and make a fort. Part of their reluctance can be traced to fear. If they stay where they are, they feel a sense of safety. Piggy used the same logic when he suggested they stay on the beach and avoid the mountain where Samneric said they saw the beast. Of course, this fear makes the boys—even the usually clear-seeing Piggy—shortsighted. The ultimate goal is rescue, and that cannot be achieved without the fire and the smoke to alert ships that may pass the island. Ralph's focus on this aspect is his truest strength. He understands what is important, and he will not be deterred.

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Questions for Chapter 6

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