How does Ralph change throughout the novel Lord of the Flies?

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The primary changes in Ralph are in maturity and learning to think on his feet. Ralph is basically an introspective, conservative person who believes strongly in the virtues of an orderly society. He thinks things over and considers all the angles before making a decision. Ralph understands that there are some limitations to his approach, but he mistakenly thinks that the defects are intellectual. Although he is sometimes unkind to Piggy, he admires him for his intelligence. Ralph is naturally a brave rather than a fearful person, so it does not occur to him that the other children—especially the younger ones—will be almost paralyzed by fear. As he is not a jealous person, neither can he anticipate that another boy will covet the leadership role that came to him so naturally.

When the children prove incapable of maintaining a cohesive society in the absence of adult supervision, Ralph not only loses his position of leadership but also is put on the defensive. Once he realizes the danger of physical violence, as evidenced by Piggy’s death, Ralph does a quick turnaround. He starts processing information very quickly, as he understands that his own life is at stake. He becomes an astute, cunning survivor.

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Initially, Ralph is a hopeful boy, who naively believes that he can establish a civil society on the uninhabited tropical island. As the elected leader, Ralph attempts to install a set of rules and priorities, which he instinctively expects the boys to follow. Unfortunately, Jack begins to publicly disobey Ralph by dismissing his orders in favor of hunting. In addition to dealing with Jack's disobedience, the littluns begin lamenting about the enigmatic beast that inhabits the island. Ralph is initially hopeful that he can convince Jack and his hunters to follow his orders and believes that he can present a rational argument that will ease the littluns' minds. After the boys miss their opportunity for rescue because Samneric join Jack's hunting expedition, Ralph holds an assembly to discuss why the boys are not completing certain tasks and attempts to resolve the issue regarding the beast. Unfortunately, Jack interrupts the meeting, and the hunters leave the assembly before Ralph is done speaking. At this point in the novel, Ralph begins to lose hope and realizes that being the elected leader is a difficult job.

As the novel progresses, Jack becomes increasingly antagonistic, and the fear of the beast becomes the predominant issue after Samneric claim they've seen it. Ralph begins experiencing more and more difficulties as the leader and even contemplates giving up his title as chief. Ralph gradually begins to lose focus and also starts forgetting about the priorities he initially established. Ralph's arguments with Jack become increasingly heated, and Ralph struggles to maintain his authority. After Ralph believes he's seen the beast, he participates in Simon's brutal murder, and Jack establishes his own tribe of savages on the opposite side of the island. Ralph is aware that he no longer has any authority and fears Jack and his tribe of savages.

Toward the end of the novel, Roger ends up killing Piggy and Ralph is forced to run for his life as the savages chase after him. Fortunately, Ralph is saved when he runs out onto the beach and a British naval officer prevents the savages from killing him. By the end of the novel, Ralph realizes that humans are inherently wicked beings and has witnessed firsthand the extent of human depravity. He also understands the difficulties of being a leader and has gained valuable insight into the nature of fear, evil, and civilization.

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Ralph begins as a rather naive boy. When they first land on the island, he cares about no one but himself. Power changes him, but not in negative ways.

He is elected leader only because he blows the conch, Which Piggy pointed out could be done. However, once leader, he takes the responsibility seriously. He institutes rules and order, trying to get the boys to build shelters, keep a fire going, and take turns speaking.

"[I]f we have a signal going, they'll come and take us off. And another thing. we ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that's a meeting. The same up here as down here" (42).

Ralph also has to contend with threats to his power from Jack. This causes him to grow up fast. Jack is a harsher, more savage version of himself. He is a natural leader with a built-in base because of the hunters. Later, he will tear the tribe apart with his appealingly savage ways.

When the tribe breaks, Ralph tries to bring it back together. Unfortunately, he never had solid leadership skills even if he did develop some compassion. He tries to convince Jack that he is still in charge, when Jack and the hunters give them meat. It proves disastrous.

When Piggy is killed and Ralph runs, he sees an adult for the first time. He cries, knowing what they have become. He knows he could not prevent it.

The changes Ralph undergoes, from self-centered to group-centered, do not reflect the island as a whole.  He is never able to convince the other boys to be responsible.  They are all too happy to abandon the trappings of society.  If they had had a stronger leader (not Ralph the incompetent or Jack the savage), they might not have had a schism, a forest fire, or two murders.

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At first Ralph celebrates when he realizes the absence of adults on the island. He exults in the sense of freedom he feels. As events transpire, he reaches the point when he desperately desires an adult presence to establish order and assume responsibility. Ironically, Ralph's disintegration mirrors that of adults who feel in control and then find themselves overwhelmed. Ralph's world on the island spins out of control, just as the world outside--run by supposedly powerful and capable adults--has also spun out of control, bringing the same results: savagery, destruction, and death.

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As he goes throughout the novel, Ralph begins to be more and more concerned with personal hygiene, for starters. He notices himself and the other boys getting filthier by the day, and this stresses him out to the point where he can't concentrate. When his tribe decides to go meet Jack's tribe, he wants them to clean up as well as they can first, to put that noticeable difference between the clean boys and the savages.

Ralph relies more and more heavily on Piggy as the novel progresses, too. Ralph finds that he can't stay focused on his plan of keeping the fire lit unless Piggy is there to remind him of it. When Piggy dies, he is forced to think on his own, and he has a hard time doing it.

Ralph's leadership as Chief changes as well. He loses confidence when Jack's group breaks off of the main group, and he begins to fear making demands because he worries it will drive off the rest of the boys, or it won't work and his ineptitude as a leader will be obvious. He even begins to fear blowing the conch, in case no one comes.

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