How does Ralph change throughout Lord of the Flies?

At the beginning of Lord of the Flies, Ralph is optimistic, naive, and confident. As the boys begin to neglect their duties and ignore his authority, Ralph grows frustrated and angry, and he loses hope and begins to turn towards savagery like the others. In the end, Ralph is scared and recognizes the "darkness in man's heart."

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As the action unfolds in Lord of the Flies, we can observe Ralph gradually come to the understanding that, when it comes to establishing a civilization, violence of some kind or another is simply unavoidable.

At first, Ralph believed that establishing rules, regulations, and some kind of rudimentary system...

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As the action unfolds in Lord of the Flies, we can observe Ralph gradually come to the understanding that, when it comes to establishing a civilization, violence of some kind or another is simply unavoidable.

At first, Ralph believed that establishing rules, regulations, and some kind of rudimentary system of democracy would be enough to ensure the flourishing of a true civilization on the island.

But over time, he comes to realize—or rather, the realization is forced upon him by Jack and his gang—that no civilization is sustainable without the threat of violence against those who would jeopardize its very existence.

Because Ralph was unable to do this, Jack and his merry band of pig-sticking choirboys were free to destroy the rules-based order that Ralph had so carefully established and replace it with a brutal dictatorship. In turn, this forces Ralph to change, to become angry and savage as he tries to resist Jack's despotic reign.

Before long, Ralph is literally running for his life, drawing upon his instinct for survival in order to avoid the fate of Simon and Piggy. By the end of the story, the calm, rational administrator of the earlier chapters has been replaced by a hunted animal drawing upon his innermost resources in a desperate bid to stay alive.

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At the beginning of the story, Ralph is a relatively optimistic, naive child who believes that the boys will be able to create a civilized society on the uninhabited tropical island. After being elected chief, Ralph has faith that the group will obey his directives and that he will be able to maintain order. As the novel progresses, Ralph discovers that Jack resents him and is gradually attempting to undermine his authority while the boys begin to neglect their duties. Ralph then begins to lose hope when the majority of boys refuse to help build the shelters on the beach or follow simple instructions that would help cultivate a civilized society. In chapter 4, Ralph becomes infuriated and discouraged when they miss a rare opportunity to be rescued by a passing ship because Jack allowed his hunters to neglect the signal fire. In the next chapter, Ralph holds an assembly and attempts to address the numerous issues among the boys.

After Samneric claim that they witnessed the beast on the top of the mountain, Ralph begins to realize that they will not be able to establish a civilized society, and he slowly loses hope and confidence. Jack also becomes increasingly antagonistic, and Ralph expresses his desire to give up his position as chief. Once Ralph mistakes the dead paratrooper for the beast, Jack forms his own tribe of savages at the opposite end of the island, and Ralph recognizes that their chances of being rescued have severely diminished. He also acknowledges his participation in Simon's murder and begins to fear for his life.

After Roger brutally murders Piggy in chapter 11, Ralph runs for his life and desperately avoids Jack and his savages as they chase him throughout the island. Fortunately, a British naval officer is waiting on the beach, and his presence prevents the savages from murdering Ralph. By the end of the novel, Ralph has significantly transformed into a frightened, mature adolescent, who understands that humans are inherently evil and weeps "for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."

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At the start of the story, Ralph is optimistic, calm, and confident.  He seems to know what needs to be done to get rescued and he knows that leadership is required.  Since he does immediately state the obvious need for leadership, he is a natural choice to the boys to be the leader.  He lacks the ability to lead however.  He does not continue to command respect from the boys, he does not see that things get done and get done correctly; instead, he complains to the boys that they aren't doing things right.  Unfortunately, he does little more than complain.  By chapter 9, Ralph is beginning to sink into savagery like the other boys.  He actively participates in the circle of chanting and dancing boys who kill Simon, even if he doesn't actually lift a spear and stab at Simon himself.  He realizes later, the horror of what happened.  That attests to the idea that he still has some civility left in him.  By the last chapter, however, he is slinking through the brush and trees on the island, trying to think like a wild pig as he attempts to elude the boys who are hunting him in order to kill him.  He has had to become savage in order to survive.  At the end, when the boys are discovered by the naval officer, Ralph has just enough civilization left in him to cry for all the civilization he has lost.

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