In Lord of the Flies, what powerful statement does Ralph make about the fire?How does this affect the hunters?  

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 5 Ralph calls an assembly after the hunters let the fire go out just as a ship passes the island. Jack and the hunters know that they will be reprimanded for what they have done. As soon as Ralph says, "about the fire," the boys let out a little gasp. Jack tries to distract himself and another boy. Ralph tells the boys that keeping the fire going is the only way they can ever hope to be rescued--except by pure luck. He asks, rhetorically, whether a fire is too much for them to keep going. He points to the group and says that there are plenty of boys available to perform the task. His most pointed statement is, "Can't you see we ought to--ought to die before we let the fire out?"

His severe reprimand, expressed in such extreme language, causes "self-conscious giggling among the hunters." Most likely the boys laugh because they are not used to being in such a dire situation. Their game of hunting had been a fun distraction, but Ralph's words are shaking them up, making them face the harsh reality they live in now. In addition, most of them know that one child has already died. Ralph's insistence that they should die before letting the fire go out would bring that truth to their minds as well. So they snicker to relieve tension. However, if Ralph had been an adult lecturing them, they would not have dared laugh at such a solemn statement. 

Ralph responds passionately to the boys' laughter, reiterating his point that they need to "make smoke up there -- or die." As he continues on to another subject, the boys mutter against more lecturing, but "Ralph overrode them." However, the control he wields over them is temporary; before long the meeting deteriorates and the boys have dispersed in a random scatter after Jack's pronouncement, "Bullocks to the rules!" 

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Lord of the Flies

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