In chapter 11 of Lord of the Flies, how do the boys react to Piggy's speech?

The boys react negatively to Piggy’s speech in chapter 11 of Lord of the Flies. The speech halts the fight between the leaders, but the boys do not listen in good faith: they listen to Piggy’s words intending to mock him. Before the boys get a chance to react violently, Roger releases a boulder, killing Piggy. The boys turn their attention to Ralph and hunt him like an animal.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Lord of the Flies,Piggy’s speech in chapter 11 is the indirect result of the fear of the unknown or the “beast.” The beast also symbolizes the Devil or the evil that exists in everyone. Simon does not believe such a creature exists, and when he finds...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Lord of the Flies, Piggy’s speech in chapter 11 is the indirect result of the fear of the unknown or the “beast.” The beast also symbolizes the Devil or the evil that exists in everyone. Simon does not believe such a creature exists, and when he finds the corpse of a dead parachutist, he attempts to enlighten the two groups of stranded boys. He wants to tell them there is no beast, but only their fears.

The two groups of boys are split in their approaches to their situation. Leader Ralph wishes to use reason and control in his efforts to survive. He favors fair and equitable measures and the adoption of civilized rules. Jack’s methodology for control is authoritarianism. He prefers to maintain control by fear and threats. He favors instilling fear by employing violence and destruction.

Jack and his hunters are obsessed with the hunt. On one occasion, they sadistically kill a pig in a violent ritual, cutting off the animal’s head, placing it on a stick for all to see, and offering it as a sacrifice to the beast:

He knelt down again and was busy with his knife. The boys crowded round him. He spoke over his shoulder to Roger. “Sharpen a stick at both ends.” Presently he stood up, holding the dripping sow’s head in his hands. “Where’s that stick?” “Here.” “Ram one end in the earth. Oh—it’s rock. Jam it in that crack. There.” Jack held up the head and jammed the soft throat down on the pointed end of the stick which pierced through into the mouth. He stood back and the head hung there, a little blood dribbling down the stick.

Jack is successful in riling up the boys into a frenzy chanting “Kill the beast!” Even Ralph and Piggy decide to join Jack’s feast. When Simon comes out of his jungle hideout to inform the others what he found, the group kills him, thinking him to be the monster they fear. Ralph and Piggy are filled with guilt over Simon’s death. Piggy thinks it was an accident. Ralph believes it was murder. That night, Jack’s group attacks Ralph’s group and most of Ralph’s supporters begin to follow Jack. The hunting group steals Piggy’s glasses, rendering him visually impaired. Piggy wishes to confront Jack’s group, and he and Ralph call an assembly by blowing into the conch shell. When Jack attempts to stab Ralph, they fight until Piggy picks up the conch shell and requests to speak.

The boys only half-listen to Piggy’s speech. They intend to ridicule him, but it never gets that far. Roger sends down a large boulder that crushes the conch shell and kills Piggy. The symbol of unity, democracy, and order is destroyed.

The boys from Jack’s group react with anger, cruelty, and savagery. They undermine Ralph’s authority, even though he had previously been democratically elected. Now, under the leadership of tyrannical Jack, they plan to function amidst fear, threats, and murder. They have reacted to Piggy’s speech not with reason, but with the short-term outlook of violence and commitment to the Devil, the Lord of the Flies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Piggy has the foresight to realize that acting without regard for long-term survival and rescue will only lead to the boys' demise. He and Ralph are reacting to Jack's group after they have stolen Piggy's glasses, leaving Piggy unable to see very much at all.

In this brief speech, Piggy desperately tries to reason with a group which has abandoned reason in favor of feral behavior, which seems to be much more satisfying in the short term to the majority.

Piggy's words, meant to bring reason and cohesion to Jack's increasingly irrational group, only stir them to further acts of violence. He presents to them choices, asking whether it is better to be like "a pack of painted Indians...or sensible like Ralph." The group cheers Jack's barbarism, their clamor making it difficult to hear anything else.

When presented with Piggy's options, the group chooses lawlessness. And in doing so, they fully fling themselves into violent means to take the control they desire. Jack attacks Ralph with a spear, and Roger sends a boulder down a mountainside and crushes Piggy, effectively ending any hope of reason that remains on the island.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Piggy's speech to Jack's tribe, in which he poses the question of which is best—"to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?"—is met with derision by the boys and directly leads to his own death, when Roger sends a boulder crashing down and sweeping Piggy into the ocean. Piggy's attempt to retrieve his glasses, and his appeal to Jack's tribe using reason, fairness, and justice, is unsuccessful. When Jack orders that the twins be tied up, and his orders are followed, he realizes that his authority has eclipsed Ralph's as the chosen leader. Piggy and Ralph's gamble to confront Jack and reason with him fails, because Jack's power has made questions of right and wrong moot.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Piggy is the voice of reason on the island. But to most of the boys, he's nothing more than an object of derision and abuse. Overweight and short-sighted, he doesn't present a particularly impressive figure. Because the other boys don't take him seriously, they don't pay any attention to him when he tries to speak. Piggy has the conch, and mistakenly thinks that the possession of that symbol of authority is enough to secure him a fair hearing. But it doesn't. The boys are becoming more savage and unruly. They're not prepared to listen to reason, especially if it's associated with someone they despise. Piggy's appeal to reason, though brave, is also foolish, as it involves directly insulting Jack and his tribe. Accusing them of playing at Indians isn't exactly calculated to make them change their ways. If anything, it makes them all the more determined to continue their reign of terror—a reign that will take as one of its victims Piggy himself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this chapter we see Piggy's attempt to reason with the boys go disastrously awry as he actually ends up provoking them into ever-greater acts of savagery, resulting in his own death. Seeing how things are deteriorating between Jack and Ralph, Piggy, claiming the right to speak because of his possession of the conch, then speaks a certain number of truths to the assembled boys, drawing a comparison to the leadership of Ralph and Jack. Note the three questions he asks the boys:

"Which is better--to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?"

"Which is better--to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?"

"Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?"

Note the way that Piggy introduces two opposites through these questions. Jack's leadership and rule are associated with savagery, hunting, and killing, whereas Ralph's leadership is associated with being sensible, agreement, law and rescue. However, these words turn Jack and his tribe into a "solid mass of menage that bristled with spears." The words of Piggy, hoping to reason with the boys, actually only serves to antagonise them still further, unleashing the act of violence that kills him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team