As the boys’ chief, Ralph relies on logic in attempting to effect their rescue from the island. He understands the critical importance of keeping the signal fire burning, despite the hard work and self-discipline required to maintain it. Ralph represents the voice of reason in civilized society, and he is unable to understand the rejection of logical thinking by the other boys.
Ralph’s character, however, is more complex than that of a sensible leader who knows how to think. He criticizes Jack Merridew’s obsession with killing pigs, but when Ralph confronts a wild boar and wounds it with a spear, he feels elated. On two other occasions, Ralph joins the boys in acts of violence, most significantly when Simon is murdered during a frenzy of dancing and chanting. For Ralph to succumb to savage behavior suggests that bloodlust lies at the heart of man’s nature, controlled but never eradicated by the constraints of civilized society. Even Ralph is not immune to the darkest impulses of humanity, nor is he immune to the instinct to survive. Hunted by the murderous Jack and his tribe, Ralph runs for his life, “screaming, snarling, bloody,” driven into an animal state by a biological imperative far more powerful than human intellect.