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The boys on the island have different ideas about the beast. The first boy to introduce the idea ("mulberry-birthmark") seems to see the beastie as a snake. He sees the creepers in the jungle at night and is frightened. Then the littluns as a group seem to join in this belief, crying at night and huddling together in fear in the huts.
At first, Ralph laughs at the idea, indeed laughing at "mulberry-birthmark" when he first proposes the beast's existence. He then is kind and tries to use reason to persuade the littluns that the beastie couldn't "exist on an island this size." Later though, Ralph is willing to believe that the beast exists.
Simon is the first biggun to admit that the beastie might be real. However, he immediatly links the beastie to good and evil and the island itself. In Chapter 3 the boys have this conversation:
“I mean the way things are. They dream. You can hear ’em. Have you been awake at night?”
Jack shook his head.
“They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if—”
“As if it wasn’t a good island.”
Astonished at the interruption, they looked up at Simon’s serious face. “As if,” said Simon, “the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing, was real. Remember?”
Later, other bigguns begin to believe in the beast--most notably Samneric who verify the beast's existence through their eye witness account.
Jack closely identifies with the beast, claiming that it is a hunter and eats pig, just like him.
Piggy's comments on the beast show that he does not identify with it. At an assembly, he says,
I know there isn’t no beast—not with claws and all that, I mean—but I know there isn’t no fear, either.” Piggy paused. “Unless—” Ralph moved restlessly. “Unless what?”
“Unless we get frightened of people.” [Piggy answers]
Piggy comes to the same conclusion that Simon does, that the beast is within us. He seems to understand that the beast is that thing within that causes humans to destroy things out of fear.
Simon's conversation with the pig's head finally reveals the argument Golding makes through his characters and plot. The sow's head says:
“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appre- ciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”
The more rational boys on the island realize this truth to a greater or lesser degree, seemingly through instinct. However the rash and quick-tempered boys like Roger and Jack do not, or if they do, they keep the information secret so that they can more effectively control the boys who remain afraid of the beast.
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