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Physically speaking, the "sleeping leviathan" is the giant of the ocean. The tide works in such a way that, in this particular spot near the castle rock, the water is sucked down over the course of a minute around this flat table rock and then it erupts again at the end of the minute and rages around and over the rock with incredible violence.
But the ocean in this case also likely symbolizes the sort of sleeping violence that is just beginning to show with the discussion and fear of the beast and the way that Jack and Ralph are beginning to fight more openly for control. The urge to hunt and kill and to throw off the trappings of civilization is powerful and surging forth after the moments of calm, just as the ocean seems to be quiet and receding for a minute only to return with such violence.
The raging influx of the tide also serves to highlight the isolation of the island itself and the fact that a rescue is not likely. This isolation only serves to exacerbate the trend towards mania that the boys seem to be demonstrating at this point in the novel.
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