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After the boys have all come together and successfully organized into their 'little democracy', it would be natural for the leadership group to explore the terrain in which they find themselves. Ralph, Jack and Simon set off in high spirits. Their boyish enthusiasm is evident in such unnecessary acts as rolling a huge boulder down a hill just for the fun of it (which foreshadows the same act with a much more deadly intent later in the novel for the unfortunate Piggy).
Eventually they reach the top of a mountain, and their belief that they have in fact landed on an island is confirmed by the fact they can see the ocean on all sides of them. Their enthusiasm for this great adventure culminates with Ralph's declaration,
"This belongs to us." (p.38)
As they continue to survey the wide sweep of the island before them, it is Ralph who authoritatively points out a feature enclosing more than one side of the island,
"That's a reef. A coral reef. I've seen pictures like that." (p.38)
By making such authoritative statements Ralph is assuming the leadership role expected of him, but perhaps the true significance of this event is that we can infer that Ralph's leadership will always be hampered by a lack of experience which is inevitable considering his age. He can only vaguely fall back on to the theoretical models learned in a world now far removed from his present circumstances. This will later prove to have devastating consequences for his leadership and the fate of all the boys on the island.
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