How effective is the opening chapter in "Lord of the Flies" at introducing the characters, themes, and language of the novel?William Golding's "Lord of the Flies"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In an allegorical way, the opening chapter of "Lord of the Flies" is effective.  First of all, the emergence from the forest of the single character, Ralph, establishes him as an important personage, and that Piggy arrives next sets him as secondary to Ralph.  Then, too, the symbolism of the conch and its importance is indicated by the fact that this first chapter is entitled, "The Sound of the Shell."  The conch represents the order of society as it calls the boys to meetings and organizes them.  Later, in the novel when the conch is ignored, the reader cannot but recognize the anarchy that exists.  Even later in the narrative, as the conch is dashed against the rocks, its symbolism extends to the end of rationality as Piggy himself is hurled to his death against the rocks.

Ralph and Piggy swim in a lagoon and discover the conch. as they rest, William Golding writes that Ralph sits in the "green shade on a convenient trunk."  (green is a pleasant color)  Sitting on the fallen trunk, "tangled reflections quivered over him," but Ralph "dreamed pleasantly" as he ignores Piggy's "ill-omened talk."  Clearly, here Golding foreshadows the character flaw of Ralph which leads to future conflcts in the novel.  Golding writes,

Piggy looked up a Ralph. All the shadows on Ralph's face were reversed; green above, bright below from the lagoon...'We got to do something.'

But Ralph looks

through him.  Here at last was the imagined but never fully realized place leaping into real life

and, for Ralph, Piggy becomes "an irrelevance."

Then, other boys appear, some of whom have already removed their clothes, the trappings of civilization.  a group of boys in black cloaks march into the scene.  These boys are led by Jack, whose evil persona is easily perceived:

The boy himself came forward, vaulted on to the platform with his cloak flying, and peered into what to him was almost complete darkness.

Ralph, "sensing his sun-blindness, answered him."  Out of the other boy's face "stared two light blue eyes, frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger."  These lines establish the future conflicts between Ralph as the good force and Jack as the evil force.

The last of the main characters, Simon, is also introduced in this first expository chapter.  "A slight, furtive boy whom no one knew, who kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy" is seen right before the choir boy who has fainted sits up against a palm trunk, saying that his name is Simon.  The significance of this scene is later understood as Roger, who represents primordial evil lurking in secrecy at this point later emerges as part of the "beast" who confronts the sensitive Simon, who faints in his presence in a later chapter.

Jack establishes his choir as the hunters in the first chapter, and they pay "no attention" to Piggy who declares that he was with Ralph when he discovered the conch.  Golding writes, too, that "a kind of glamour was spread over them"--the attraction of evil.

While the boys at this point retain the trappings of society, Jack's avowal that he will not miss the pig at which he stabs indicates the future descent of the boys into inherent evil.  Golding, thus, effectively introduces his themes in this first chapter as he clarifies the allegorical roles of the main characters.

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Lord of the Flies

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