How does Ralph symbolize democracy in Golding's Lord of the Flies?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Golding associates Ralph with democracy by showing his leadership style and by contrasting it with Jack's. The first thing Ralph does after accepting the vote that names him chief is to share the power. He tells Jack, "The choir belongs to you, of course," and allows Jack to choose the role he and the choir boys will take on. He then chooses two boys to accompany him on the exploration of the island. He institutes the rule of the conch for meetings and generally abides by it and enforces it. This is a way to allow all members of the society to have their say without being overpowered or shouted down by others.

Ralph doesn't use his role as chief to get out of doing manual labor; he works hard at making the shelters even after most boys abandon the work. When he does find it necessary to take command and issue decrees (such as where to have the fire and what area should be used for the lavatory), he quickly balances the top-down control by opening the meeting up to a topic that everyone can contribute to. He announces, "This is what people can talk about." Ralph often gets advice from and listens to others, especially Piggy, but also Simon and Samneric.

When Jack tries to silence others at the meeting by saying, "It's time some people knew they've got to keep quiet and leave deciding things to the rest of us," Ralph "could no longer ignore his speech. The blood was hot in his cheeks." Comparing Ralph's leadership approach to Jack's is one of the easiest ways to determine that Ralph stands for democracy. Jack's rule is authoritative, dictatorial, and ruthless. Ralph's egalitarian approach stands out sharply in comparison to Jack's attempts to concentrate power.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For one thing, Ralph wants to play fair and to have it put to a vote before he or anyone else becomes the leader. In the beginning he wields a natural authority over the boys which he loses little by little to Jack, the more audacious and outspoken of the two. It is his idea too that the holder of the conch is the person who can "be heard out," much after the model of a public forum (or a Congress filibuster, if you like!). Ralph functions by structure and order, and he tries to impose these norms of society for the well-being of all the survivors.

Ralph, in the true democratic spirit, also protects the interests of the more vulnerable, particularly "the littl'uns." He encourages the older boys to protect (instead of bullying) them and to be aware that their needs are not the same as those of the older ones. He is aware, for example, that the  younger ones are susceptible to nightmares and also that their health is more fragile.

Ralph is also democratic in that he doesn't try to do the job alone but seeks the help of Piggy and Simon.  These two characters have their respective weak points (Piggy is nearsighted and Simon suffers from epileptic spells), but Ralph knows he can count on them just the same.

In all these respects, Ralph symbolizes democracy.

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Lord of the Flies

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