How does Golding vividly portray Ralph's growing understanding of human nature in Lord of the Flies?

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kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ralph's understanding of human nature is informed by his relationships with and the actions of the other boys on the island. In the beginning, Ralph believes that people are inherently good and want to work towards a better, more cohesive society. This is perhaps best demonstrated in Ralph's proclamations at the beginning of Chapter 2, when he directs the boys to begin building a society together and supporting one another to work towards a more secure future and point of rescue. However, Ralph slowly loses faith in humanity over the course of the novel: 

  1. The fire goes out: Ignoring Ralph's insistence that the signal fire stay lit, Jack leads the hunters on their first successful trip. Jack, in response to Ralph's quiet anger, takes out his own embarrassment and anger on Piggy, whom he shoves, breaking Piggy's spectacles. 
  2. The conch loses power: Slowly, Ralph's democracy breaks down and the boys become more unruly and crueler. This is particularly evident in their treatment of Piggy, who despite holding the conch, is constantly belittled, interrupted, and ignored. 
  3. Simon's death: In a frenzy of fear and animalistic pleasure, the boys attack Simon and beat him to death, maintaining that he is the beast. Their perverse joy and release in this brutal ritual, which Jack calls their "dance", leads to Ralph's deep depression. 
  4. Piggy's death: Piggy's violent murder, which symbolically also shatters the conch, Ralph's attempt at civilization, is punctuated by Jack throwing a spear at Ralph's side, claiming ultimate authority over the boys. 

By the end of the novel, Ralph's faith in humanity has been systematically destroyed until he himself has also become prey rather than human. 

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Lord of the Flies

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