Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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In Lord of the Flies chapter 5, what are the 3 best quotes that symbolize the civilization falling apart? I would also like a brief description for each of the quotes about why they are so significant in symbolizing civilization falling apart.

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In chapter 5, Ralph holds an assembly. He attempts to organize the group of the boys, discipline them for not carrying out their necessary assignments, and encourage them to work together in order to cultivate a civil society. Ralph's opening words reveal that the civilization on the island is gradually falling apart. Ralph tells the boys,

We have lots of assemblies. Everybody enjoys speaking and being together. We decide things. But they don’t get done. (Golding, 112).

The fact that certain policies and assignments are discussed during assemblies, but are never completed, illustrates that civilization is slowly falling apart. The boys are not acting as a group. They neglect their responsibilities, which foreshadows the impending anarchy on the island.

Ralph continues to criticize the boys for their lack of effort. He specifically brings up the importance of the signal fire. Throughout the story, the signal fire can be used as a way to gauge the boys's civility and symbolically represents the hope of being rescued. When the signal fire goes out, the boys's chances of rescue dramatically decrease. The lack of hope for a return indicates that civilization is diminishing on the island. Jack and his gang are adapting and accepting their condition. Ralph goes on to say,

Look at us! How many are we? And yet we can’t keep a fire going to make smoke. Don’t you understand? Can’t you see we ought to—ought to die before we let the fire out? (Golding, 114).

The fact that Ralph has to remind the boys about the importance of the signal fire reveals that civilization is slowly falling apart. The boys completely dismiss his instructions and only focus on hunting pigs. Ralph then brings up the issue regarding the beast, which causes him to lose control of the meeting. Jack becomes aggressive with Piggy. He interrupts him while he is speaking and threatens him. When Ralph tells Jack that he is breaking the rules, Jack responds by saying,

Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong—we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat—! (Golding, 130).

Jack blatantly rejects the rules, disobeys the conch, and offends the elected leader of the group, which emphasizes the diminishing civility on the island. Jack then leaps down from the platform. His hunters follow him without being excused. Their actions reveal that they have absolutely no desire to help cultivate a civil society and are gradually transforming into brutal savages.

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In this chapter, Ralph tries to reestablish the original order he'd engineered when they arrived. Boys are now being careless with the fire. They are becoming filthy from lack of bathing. And they are using the restroom all over common areas. In response to this, Ralph tells them,

Things are breaking up. I don't understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then--

Ralph understands that the lack of order is eroding both their sense of safety and their sense of civilization. He knows that as leader, he must try to gather the boys back under a collective sense of responsibility and order, but he still doesn't quite understand how things are changing so quickly.

Simon, always the center of great wisdom, shows profound insight into the increasing sense of disorder when he says,

Maybe there is a beast.


What I mean is... Maybe it's only us.

Simon understands that the boys have wild savagery within themselves that is capable of bringing down all sense of order. They themselves are what they should fear. They have a "beast" within each of them. And this beast seems to be rising out in greater strength as the days pass, putting them in increasing danger as the norms of civilized society fall away.

Later in the chapter, Ralph realizes that his power is waning. He hesitates to act at this point, telling Piggy,

If I blow the conch and they don't come back; then we've had it. We shan't keep the fire going. We'll be like animals. We'll never be rescued.

The boys are slipping away from the confines of the law they established, and Ralph understands that if he keeps pushing them to conform, they will likely rebel into complete anarchy, leaving all of them at the mercy of the wilderness. They no longer care about the fire which they reasonably need or the thought of rescue; more and more, they only care about the wild fun that Jack can offer. And Ralph senses his time of authority, and therefore order over them, is increasingly weakening.

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It is in this scene that we see Ralph try to maintain order but ultimately fail, and the "civilisation" that Ralph has tried to maintain descends into anarchy when Jack leads the majority of the boys onto the beach to engage in a tribal dance - signifying loss of order and also man's primal urges.

One quote you will definitely want to use is: "The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away." This reflects the situation on the island and makes a comment about humanity at large. The boys are plunged into an environment without the normal checks on society - there are no policemen, no parents to tell them what to do and what not to do. Without these checks, they slip into barbarism and show the darkness that is in all of us.

It is the conflict between Jack and Ralph that indicates this precipient breakdown of civilisation: '“The rules!” shouts Ralph. “You’re breaking the rules!” “Who cares?” Jack shouts back. “Because the rules are the only thing we’ve got!” But Jack shouts him down. “Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong—we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat!”' This rejection of "rules" indicates the boys' descent into savagery.

In spite of Ralph's attempts, the assembly erupts into a mob "of noise and excitement, scramblings, screams and laughter." This quote indicates Ralph's loss of control, and in response to this he is left tongue-tied and realises that he cannot express himself verbally. This chapter sees the breakdown of the power of the podium - symbolising order and civilisation. The group devolves into "arguing gesticulating shadows. To Ralph, seated, this seemed the breaking up of sanity." Order has been lost, not only in the sense that Ralph has lost control of the group, but also in that the group is losing control of itself.

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