In Chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies, why does Roger throw stones at Henry, and why doesn't he hit him?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 4, Roger watches from a distance as several littluns play on the beach. Roger then picks up a handful of stones and begins to throw them at Henry, who continues to play in the sand. Roger throws stones at Henry because it amuses him and because he is experimenting with breaking the rules that he grew up obeying. Interestingly, Roger is careful not to hit Henry and purposefully aims approximately six yards away from him. Golding writes,

"Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins" (87).

Essentially, Roger is still influenced by society's laws and expectations, which is why he is careful not to hit Henry with any of the stones. Roger has not been on the uninhabited island long enough to disregard the rules and customs of his childhood, which he learned growing up in Great Britain. At home, Roger would have been punished for hitting Henry with stones and avoided breaking the rules. Roger's intentionally poor aim illustrates the extent of his conditioned behavior. As the novel progresses, Roger gradually descends into savagery and completely disregards his learned civil behaviors.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter four is an interesting chapter in that it represents the boys losing their sense of what it means to be civilized. Roger is losing the restraints that society demands which allows him to throw the rocks, however he is still the tied to the traditions and restraints that is required by a civilized society. It is the latter that prevents Roger from actually hitting Henry. Golding  suggests that there is a moment for all human beings when they have the capability of possessing both of these powerful conflicting emotions. Once the 'rules' are ignored, whatever those rules are, most of humanity will have trouble being 'human'.

podunc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Roger's throwing rocks at Henry seems merely like a boyish game at first. He is, after all, "throwing to miss" the child. The narrator tells us that Roger does not hit Henry because around him there circled a "taboo of the old life"--a life full of "parents and school and policemen and the law." These things have always kept Roger and the other boys in line. Roger, whose arm is "conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins," will not respect these taboos for much longer. He will become one of the most brutal members of Jack's tribe.

nikkikat | Student

setting roger apart from the other boys, roger has sociopathic tendencies. Having someone dangerous on the island causes the sense of craziness and unrest to escalate. 

bushkiller | Student

It seems to me that Roger is becoming aware of his environment.  He realizes that he no longer has to follow 'rules', and he sees that he can gain power if he acts as Jacks right-hand man. 

Oh... and... Bush sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question