In chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies, when Henry "poked about with a bit of stick" at the beach, what is Golding referring to?

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In this scene, Henry (one of the littluns ) has gone down to the beach where the tide is coming in, bringing with it small sea creatures that Golding identifies only as "tiny transparencies" that then scavenge for food on the sand. When Henry sees them, he is enormously interested...

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In this scene, Henry (one of the littluns) has gone down to the beach where the tide is coming in, bringing with it small sea creatures that Golding identifies only as "tiny transparencies" that then scavenge for food on the sand. When Henry sees them, he is enormously interested in their movements and begins poking at the sand with the stick he is carrying. He uses his stick to draw little tunnels in the sand where the creatures will be trapped when the water recedes. With his stick, he can control their movements.

Henry's feelings as he goes about this activity are actually very significant in relation to the novel's themes:

He became absorbed beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things. He talked to them, urging them, ordering them. 

The thrill that Henry feels (a feeling more intense than mere happiness) is rooted in basic human nature as Golding reveals it in the novel--the need to exert one's will over others, the need for power and control. This urge, then, as seen in Henry, is present even in the youngest of the young on the island. Because he is a littlun, however, Henry's sense of power and control is, as Golding writes at the end of the scene, only "the illusion of mastery." It is this same basic human need for control and mastery, when exercised by adults without limits, that has caused the horrendous war going on in the world beyond the island.

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