In chapter 11of Lord of the Flies, what is the significance of Ralph's intended  rhetorical question when he engages in an argument with Jack. ("Which is better....")

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Few vestiges of civilization remain as Chapter 11 of Lord of the Flies begins. For, the death of Simon and the stealth of Piggy’s glasses indicate clearly the triumph of violence and chaos, as well as the dissolution of order and vision. Piggy, the representative of rationality, is now helpless in his myopia. So, in an effort to retrieve his glasses, he insists that Ralph, SamnEric and he all go to talk to Jack and the hunters.

However, when they approach the camp guarded by the hunters, the boys are met with hostility. In fact, SamnEric are seized and tied. Piggy begs Ralph to speak; he holds up the conch and surprisingly the hunters grow quiet. But, when he scolds them for their childish behavior, there is booing; when he asks them if it is better to have rules or to hunt and kill, "[A] great clamor rose among the svages." and a rock flies past them. At this point Ralph shouts,

"Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?"

Jack begins to yell and Ralph can no longer make himself heard as Jack has his tribe assemble and they

...were a solid mass of menace that bristle with spears.....The storm of sound beat at them, an incantation of hatred. High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever.

With Piggy's death, the conch is shattered, signifying that order has left the island; thus, anarchy prevails as Jack begins screaming,

"See? See? That's what you'll get! I meant that! There isn't a tribe for you anymore! The conch is gone----I'm chief!"

When Jack, then, viciously hurls his spear at Ralph, his aim is that of savage intent upon his kill. Terrified, Ralph feels pain in his arms and other areas; so he runs, swerving as a precaution. As he flees, Ralph sees the headless body of Piggy before he dives into the forest.

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Lord of the Flies

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