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If the littluns retold the events that happened on the island, how would their...

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shortstuff937 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 18, 2010 at 2:52 PM via web

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If the littluns retold the events that happened on the island, how would their experiences differ from the point of view of the older boys?

I know that the littluns feared the beast more than the older boys and they were having nightmares. But how would they have felt about all their experiences on the island compared to the older boys?

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:48 PM (Answer #1)

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Good question.

The littluns are not major characters in the novel as a whole and do not have a massive part to play in the development of the story. But Golding does very cleverly make their story clear as a subplot to the main events with the older boys.

They are often a barometer for how the boys as a whole are feeling:

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.'

The terror of the littluns is only heightened later at the meeting when first Ralph and then Jack entirely fail to crush the silly rumours of the idea of a monster. Jack, in particular, has absolutely no sympathy for them at all:

'So this is a meeting to find out what's what. I'll tell you what's what. You littluns started all this with the fear talk. Beasts! Where from? Of course we're frightened sometimes but we put up with being frightened... Anyway, you don't hunt or build or help-you're a lot of cry-babies and sissies.

Neither Ralph nor Jack seems to know how to appeal to the littler boys, and it is only Piggy (who, of course, takes responsibilty right at the start for getting all of their names down) and Simon (I'll come back to him in a second) who know how to ease their fear and make them feel better. This meeting, though, ends in the littluns screaming with terror:

....the littluns were no longer silent. They were reminded of their personal sorrows; and perhaps felt them¬selves to share in a sorrow that was universal. They began to cry in sympathy, two of them almost as loud as Percival.

At the end of the chapter, too, Golding closes ominously on the wailing from the utterly terrified Percival:

A thin wail out of the darkness chilled them and set them grabbing for each other. Then the wail rose, remote and unearthly, and turned to an inarticulate gibbering. Percival Wemys Madison, of the Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, lying in the long grass, was living through circumstances in which the incantation of his address was powerless to help him.

It is an incredibly sympathetic picture: these are very small boys ("tiny tots", as they are seen at the end by the Naval Officer) away from home, and entirely without comfort. And the blame for that has to lie at the feet of the older boys - except perhaps Piggy and certainly Simon.

Simon, in line with the Jesus-like role he plays in the novel, helps out those less fortunate for him, at one point actually passing fruit to the littluns, who by later in the novel appear to have been forgotten about altogether:

Simon found for them the fruit they could not reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back down to the endless, outstretched hands. When he had satisfied them he paused and looked round. The littluns watched him inscrutably over double handfuls of ripe fruit.

So if you're writing this essay, focus on the early death of the birthmark boy and the rise of the littluns terror. Say some positive things about Simon. But the truth of the matter is - and this is a good point in itself - the bigger boys, by the end of the novel, hardly take the littluns into account at all. We don't even hear how they are managing (or not) to survive.

 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:54 AM (Answer #2)

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This is an interesting idea to ponder.  It's true the story would contain much more fear (though the older boys have nightmares, as well); however, there are plenty of significant things we wouldn't know if they littluns told this story. 

  • We would not know how Ralph and Piggy met, how the conch was found, or how the meeting--and therefore any order on the island--was only called accidentally.
  • We would not know what happens when Jack, Ralph, and Simon explore the island, revealing their individual temperaments early on.
  • We would not see the impact of lessened law and order and conscience on the boys throwing stones; we would only see that some older boys were picking on a few of the younger ones.
  • Meetings would look like a party and we would probably not get a true sense of Piggy and Ralph's frustations and fears during them.
  • It would be a novel full of stories about day-to-day life on the island but not about any of the complexities--such as the balance of power, guilt, or hate.
  • Any objects which are symbolic would remain mere objects to them--Piggy's specs are nothing more than glasses, and the conch is nothing more than a shell which makes a cool noise.
  • Simon's death would have been just part of the hunting game, and Piggy's death would just be about protecting their fort.
  • Because boys will be boys, we'd undoubtedly get plenty of joking around about getting "caught short."
  • And the list goes on--use your imagination and it won't take long to add many more items.

So many of the undertones and interpretations of events would be lost--such as the choir voting for Ralph over Jack for leader.  Any such subtleties would be way beyond their capacity to understand.  I don't want to dimish the fear of these young boys who have suffered a traumatic experience, which we see in the face of Percival as he talks to the officer who comes to their rescue.  We would have a story, but it would be more a story of island life and being away from home than about the laws of human nature without any moral, social, or legal restraints.

Lori Steinbach

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