Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Ralph, a British schoolboy who is the boys’ chief until Jack weans them away and turns Ralph into their prey. Ralph is the chief spokesman for civilized values in the novel. It is Ralph who finds the conch shell that comes to symbolize order and Ralph who advocates building shelter and keeping a fire going. The son of a naval officer, Ralph is dedicated to duty and the hope of eventual rescue. For Ralph, keeping a fire going is almost an obsession, and it is ironic that the fire set at the end of the novel to drive him out of hiding attracts the ship that lands to rescue the boys. At times, however, Ralph is tempted by the allure of barbarism, a conflict apparent early in the novel when he encounters Piggy. First taunting Piggy, then regretting his behavior, he foreshadows his later hesitancy in asserting the values he initially represents. In fact, Ralph is toying with the idea of giving in and joining Jack’s band when he learns that Jack is planning to kill him.
Jack Merridew, another schoolboy, Ralph’s antagonist. Jack is a charismatic leader unable to accept a subservient role in the society created by the boys. He revels in the hunt and the power it confers on him, and he relishes the anarchy accorded the group by the absence of adult supervision. Jack uses fear, ritual, and violence to secure the blind obedience of the other boys. For Jack, superior strength and weaponry, not rules,...
(The entire section is 617 words.)
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Themes and Characters
The principal characters of Lord of the Flies are English schoolboys ranging from young children to older adolescents. These young men represent the upper level of British society; they are members of an elite school system from which the nation draws its leaders. Ralph, one of the main characters, vividly recalls the tranquility, safety, and comfort of the life he and the others have left behind. He remembers his room at home, stocked with all his favorite books, as a place where "everything was all right; everything was good-humored and friendly."
At the beginning of the book, the boys organize themselves into an orderly society inspired by the regimented life of school. The youngest boys, known as the "littluns," look to their more mature classmates for safety. Among the older students, several leaders quickly emerge. Ralph, a decisive young man who is determined to keep the group of boys together, engages them in productive work for the benefit of all, keeps the signal fire burning, and becomes their leader. Ralph learns to rely upon Piggy, an ungainly young man who has been teased because he is overweight, asthmatic, and physically uncoordinated, but whose advice can be trusted and whose loyalty is unwavering. Simon, another member of the group, works hard at first but later slacks off. Characterized by Ralph as "funny," Simon undergoes a direct confrontation with evil forces later in the novel, stirring the boys into a frenzy of fear and...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Ralph, Piggy, Simon, and Jack are the boys most singled out for attention in the novel. As Everyman, a character with both admirable qualities and faults, the boys' chosen leader, Ralph, is caught between two characters representing two sides of human nature, reason and irrational impulses. Piggy, the rationalist, is ridiculous in his assertion that life is scientific and that ghosts and beasts cannot possibly exist because "things wouldn't make sense. Houses an' streets, an' — TV — they wouldn't work," Once Piggy is murdered, the rational view ceases to exist.
Jack, leader of the "hunters" has a bit of the bully in him which turns to true savagery. Simon is the visionary; he understands that the "Beast" the boys fear is really the evil inside themselves, the dark side of themselves they are afraid to face and that eventually takes them over. The one boy who could free them from their fear, he is murdered in a fearful, frenzied dance.
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Like Maurice, Bill is initially confused by the clash of values among the boys. At first he seems seduced by Jack's painted face into joining the hunters in their anonymity; yet he then turns fearful and runs away. Eventually, however, Bill imagines group hunting and "being savages" as "jolly good fun" and thus a way of banishing these fears. He tries to convince Ralph's group to accept Jack's invitation to the feast, thinking that Jack is less fearful than Ralph about going into the jungle to hunt. Soon he has defected to Jack's group and is seen painted like a savage and stalking Ralph.
Henry is the biggest littlun and a relative of the littlun with the mulberry-marked face who disappears after the first big fire. Henry is the object of Roger's seemingly innocent game of throwing stones. Later, Henry defects to Jack's camp and is part of the raiding party that steals fire from Ralph and Piggy.
Along with Percival, Johnny is the smallest of the littluns. He is described as "well built, with fair hair and a natural belligerence," which he soon shows by throwing sand in Percival's face. Later, Johnny is shown crying when he thinks Eric may be bleeding from his encounter with Jack's fire-stealers.
The littlun with the mulberry-marked face
Otherwise unidentified except as a...
(The entire section is 2683 words.)
In a summary of the book, the author said that his characters were symbolic. Thus, what the characters represent is indicated in these analyses. The facets of human psychology found in the boys apply to adults and indeed all of humanity.
Ruffle-haired, blue-eyed, thin, bony, freckle-faced, ugly, is taller than Ralph. Before arriving on the island, he had been choirmaster and right away leads the black-cloaked boys in military style along the beach. Like Ralph, he is accustomed to being a leader. At first he hesitates to stab a piglet but develops a taste for it. He leads the others in hunting, tempting Samneric away from tending the fire. He has fear but overcomes it by acting tough, aided by masking his face with paint and doing killing chants. He bristles when Ralph doesn’t respect his getting meat for the group, only talking about the fire. He mocks cowardice, especially in Piggy, and comes to break the “order” of assembly as imposed by Ralph. Hiding tears of humiliation, he leads a mutiny by his hunter-followers and becomes their chief. He is guarded and adorned like a god. Beyond order and reason, only he makes rules, enforcing them with physical punishment. He represents leadership by intimidation and rebelliousness. By the end he is compared to an “ape” and called a “savage.”
Short, fat, awkward, asthmatic, has wispy hair that doesn’t grow (like a piglet)....
(The entire section is 1071 words.)