How does the fire become uncontrollable in Lord of the Flies?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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After Jack steals Piggy's glasses to start the fire on the mountain in Chapter Two, it quickly grows out of control. The huge pile of dead and rotten wood "yielded passionately" to the flames, which grew twenty feet in height. The heat became intense and "Trunks crumbled to white dust" before the whole fire "fell inwards." However, it soon became renewed, catching leaves and brush on fire, and then saplings, and soon a quarter-mile of the forest was afire. Trees exploded like bombs.Lost somewhere was the boy with the mulberry-colored birthmark--the first of the boys to die on the island.

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rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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At the second meeting, after Ralph, Simon, and Jack have explored the island, Ralph talks about rescue and suggests that the boys can help themselves be found by making a signal fire. As soon as he says the word "fire," the boys start shouting, "A fire! Make a fire!" Half the boys rise up, and Jack leads them and everyone else into the wooded part of the island. Ralph follows and points out a place that seems to be a great source of firewood. It was a "patch [that] might have been designed expressly for fuel." The boys work together to build a pile, and they make a huge stack topped off with dried leaves. Then, using Piggy's glasses, they set it alight.

Because the fuel they have chosen is so rotten, the stack burns wildly, and the boys keep adding wood to feed it. However, it seems to go out quickly as soon as they stop adding branches. While a discussion ensues about how to build a more effective fire, the flames have been creeping unobserved toward the patch of dry forest. Piggy is the first one to notice it. Soon, "beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw." The flames encompass acres of the island: "a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame."

Piggy pronounces with irony: "You got your small fire all right." Soon all the boys are laughing at the thought that they had so recently been bemoaning the lack of smoke from the fire. Piggy lectures them, and then comes to the horrifying realization that the littlun with the mulberry birthmark is not among them--that he certainly perished in the flames.


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