After leaving Castle Rock to search for the beast, the boys stop to eat. What is Ralph thinking about during this time?
Well, here it is, the pause to eat and think and talk at Castle Rock:
While they ate, Ralph thought of the afternoon.
“We’ll be like we were. We’ll wash—”
Sam gulped down a mouthful and protested.
“But we bathe every day!”
Ralph looked at the filthy objects before him and sighed.
“We ought to comb our hair. Only it’s too long.”
“I’ve got both socks left in the shelter,” said Eric, “so we could pull them over our heads like caps, sort of.”
“We could find some stuff,” said Piggy, “and tie your hair back.”
“Like a girl!”
“No. ’Course not.”
“Then we must go as we are,” said Ralph, “and they won’t be any better.”
Eric made a detaining gesture.
“But they’ll be painted! You know how it is.”
The others nodded. They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought.
“Well, we won’t be painted,” said Ralph, “because we aren’t savages.”
Samneric looked at each other.
“All the same—”
He tried to remember.
“Smoke,” he said, “we want smoke.”
He turned on the twins fiercely.
“I said ’smoke’! We’ve got to have smoke.”
There was silence, except for the multitudinous murmur of the bees.
As last Piggy spoke, kindly.
“ ’Course we have. ’Cos the smoke’s a signal and we can’t be rescued if we don’t have smoke.”
“I knew that!” shouted Ralph. He pulled his arm away from Piggy. “Are you suggesting?”
“I’m jus’ saying what you always say,” said Piggy hastily. “I’d thought for a moment—”
“I hadn’t,” said Ralph loudly. “I knew it all the time. I hadn’t forgotten.”
Piggy nodded propitiatingly.
“You’re chief, Ralph. You remember everything.”
“I hadn’t forgotten.”
“ ’Course not.”
The twins were examining Ralph curiously, as though they were seeing him for the first time.
Things are falling apart. It's becoming harder and harder to maintain the veneer of civilization: clean faces, clean hair, a clear mind, and a sense of propriety and of right and wrong.
Dirty faces look almost like painted face, but painted faces are something else, entirely. Painted faces are masks to hide behind, masks to hide things you wouldn't do if you could be identified. Painted faces free the savage within, and Ralph knows the danger, the threat that savagery brings.
And Ralph is thinking, too, of the fire and what it still potentially means to all the boys on the island, the hope for rescue and salvation. The hope of being saved from themselves and what has become of them.