Discuss the significance of the Ralph vs. Ralph conflict in Lord of the Flies.

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lord of the Flies, Ralph is chosen as the leader of the boys. He seems to be the most qualified. As the novel's protagonist, Ralph has a name that is symbolic for counselor: 

[Ralph's] name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “counsel.” Twelve years old. Fair-haired and athletic in build. Naturally charismatic, he is initially elected chief of the island by popular majority vote and attempts to run the island democratically. He rivals Jack for leadership.

As the story progresses, Ralph is internally torn between what is right and wrong. A Ralph versus Ralph conflict becomes significant. The Ralph who is civilized seeks to keep order on the island. His first instinct is to build shelters for all the boys. Also, Ralph tries to keep a fire burning in order to signal a passing ship of the fact that there are boys stranded on the island. 

No doubt, Ralph is trying to keep the boys from turning into savages, but he is fighting Jack. Jack is becoming more and more powerful. He is enjoying the hunt. When Roger cruelly twists his spear in the anus of the pig, Jack and his hunters become hysterical with laughter. In fun, Jack slings the blood from the pig he has just cut open:

Jack begins to rub the blood on his hands onto Maurice, and then they notice Roger withdraw his spear. They become hysterical because he had pinned the sow by driving the spear through its anus.

No doubt, the boys are becoming less and less civilized. Without adults and rules on the island, the boys are slipping into barbaric actions:   


As time passes, the boys begin to resemble less and less the civilized British schoolchildren they used to be. Their uniforms deteriorate and their hair grows long and ragged. 

Ralph is facing internal conflict as he joins Jack and his hunters to eat the pig and dance lustfully and uncontrollably. When Simon is emerging from the forest, the boys think it is the beast. They jump on Simon. They beat him to death. This is when Ralph is faced with a Ralph versus Ralph conflict. He knows it is not right to kill Simon. This, however, does not stop Ralph from entering into the blood-thirsty dance that the boys were performing:  

The boys become so swept up in the dance that Simon, emerging from the forest, is mistaken for the beast. All the boys, marginally including Ralph and Piggy, beat him to death. The tide sweeps his body out to sea.

Ralph has joined Jack in his perversion. Ralph is experiencing inner turmoil. Ralph is not pleased with himself the next day:

Ralph begins to talk about Simon and what happened. He says it was murder. Piggy insists that it is no good to talk about it like that. He says it was only because they were scared. 'I wasn’t scared,' said Ralph slowly, 'I was—I don’t know what I was.'

Clearly, Ralph is torn within himself. He was caught up in the moment when Simon was killed. Now, Ralph is regretful of the boys' murderous actions. Even though his participation was minimal, Ralph did find himself at the scene doing nothing to save Simon. 

When the naval officer rescues Ralph and the boys, Ralph breaks down and weeps. He is sorrowful for the loss of his friends Simon and Piggy. Because Ralph is rescued in time, no more innocent lives will perish while Ralph in in charge. Hopefully, Ralph will return to his civilized state of mind and gain inner peace once again.   

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Lord of the Flies

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