In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, what does Ralph try to do and how does he respond to various events and situations?

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Ralph wants to keep order on the island, but his attempts to do so mostly fail because he has no leadership skills.

Ralph is chosen to be the leader of the group of boys because he is the one who blows the conch, and because he is sort of good-looking.  He doesn’t have any actual leadership skills, however.  Jack, who has some as the leader of the choir, would have made a much better leader.  This is what leads the group eventually to split apart.

Ralph attempts to keep a fire going and build shelter, but this does not go well because he has no follow-through and cannot enforce the rules.  The boys do not get much done.  Ralph finally gets fed up and points this out at a meeting.

Two shelters were in position, but shaky. This one was a ruin.

“And they keep running off. You remember the meeting? How everyone was going to work hard until the shelters were finished?” (Ch. 3)

The result is not much better though.  Ralph’s rule is doomed.  Jack is much more fun.  As soon as he puts himself in charge of hunting, that is the beginning of the end.  Jack seems to know from the beginning what he is going to do, at least instinctively.  He returns to a more base form of human nature, while Ralph fights to maintain civilization.  Civilization is just no fun.  The next thing you know, the boys are painting their faces and yelling to kill the pig.  As soon as the schism happens, boys are more likely to side with Jack than Ralph.  Ralph is telling them to be sensible, and Jack is having fun.

“Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!”

Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering. (Ch. 7)

On a more basic level, the hunters are getting food.  However, they are also doing more than that.  They are fulfilling their desire to kill and be savage.  They are letting go of all of their inhibitions.  They are becoming savage, as demonstrated by Jack’s tying kids up and beating them for what seems to be little or no reason.  Ralph’s attempt to keep everything from descending into chaos failed.  He could not compete with the pull of Jack’s personality, and what he had to offer.

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Lord of the Flies

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