Compare the naval officer and Ralph in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is set on a tropical island; its characters are all English schoolboys who survive a plane crash on the island. The first schoolboy Golding introduces to the readers is Ralph, and he is properly dressed in his school uniform.

Ralph is quickly elected leader of the group; however, soon the boys begin to follow their own desires and there is no longer much order on the island. This is best demonstrated by the clothing the boys do--or do not--wear. Even on the morning after the crash, some of the youngest boys (aged five or six) have already begun to shed their clothing. Jack is the chief hunter, and eventually he and his tribe are wearing very little. Certainly anything they are wearing is unrecognizable as a uniform.

Though his clothes grow quite uncomfortable and stiff from sand, sun, and salt, Ralph continues to wear his school uniform. In the final chapter, Ralph is the only boy who is not part of Jack's tribe of savages, and he is being hunted by the others. In desperation, he runs for his life until he finally reaches the exposed beach and attempts to beg for his life, knowing he will soon be killed.

That is when he sees the naval commander standing just a few steps away. The man is wearing "a white-topped cap, and above the green shade of the peak was a crown, an anchor, gold foliage. [Ralph] saw white drill, epaulettes, a revolver, a row of gilt buttons down the front of a uniform." The officer stands tall and straight as he takes in the unbelievable sights on this island.

In contrast, the officer looks at Ralph, in what remains of his uniform, and sees a "little scarecrow in front of him. The kid needed a bath, a haircut, a nose-wipe and a good deal of ointment." Ralph, once chosen as leader of the boys because of "his size, and attractive appearance" (he looked like a leader) is barely able to talk and soon bursts into tears.

Ironically, though they look nothing alike, both men are wearing a uniform: one of them is enlisted in an actual war, and the other has barely survived another kind of war. 


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Lord of the Flies

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