Ralph and Piggy both begin their stay on the island with the attitude that it will be temporary. Ralph has no doubt initially that they will be rescued, perhaps by his pilot-father. Both take the attitude that they should make the most of their time and create a civilization to mirror the one from whence they came, complete with leaders and rules.
Jack and Roger, on the other hand, view their time as an opportunity to be free of adulot supervision, and they begrudge Ralph's and Piggy's efforts at maintaining civility. They take a sort of survival-of-the-fittest attitude and neglect the care of the younger boys altogether. They do not see an end to their time on the island; as a result, they are unconcerned with the signal fire. Instead, they worry about hunting and gradually digress to a primitive state.
Simon is, perhaps, the hardest of the boys to figure out. He sees his role on the island as one of caregiver to the younger boys, but he does not take an active role in maintaining order. He retreats to his hiding place in the forest in times when conflict brews. He knows subconsciously that his ultimate purpose is one of sacrifice, and that the others will not realize what they are becoming until his sacrifice is complete.
After the boys survive the plane crash, they are all happy to be alive and on land. However, as their stay on the island away from civilization lengthens, attitudes and behaviors change.
Ralph initially "laughs delightedly" at his surroundings; his clothes seem to become heavy on him and he quickly sheds them, baptizing himself in the deep beach pool.
Here at last was the imagined but never fully realized place leaping into real life.
After he is elected the leader, Ralph does his best to perform his role, but he finds that the other boys do not want to spend their time building shelters and maintaining a rescue fire. Nevertheless, Ralph continues to act as the leader as he begins the climb to investigate castle rock despite the threat of finding the beast at the top.
Although he makes efforts to impress upon the others that verbal communication is essential, the others are lured away from the trappings of civilization by the thrill of hunting pigs and painting their faces. Even Ralph succumbs to the inherent savagery in himself, and he becomes complicit in the deadly beating of Simon. However, he regains his rationality and takes a realistic view of his participation and feels a certain self-loathing for this participation. However, as a result of his standing alone, Ralph becomes an outcast and the hunters come after him with murderous intentions. When he is rescued by the naval officer, Ralph cries for the "end of innocence."
Piggy is a very rational boy who worries from the beginning. Quoting his aunt often, Piggy thus puts forth a feminine voice, but it is ignored. Because he is weak, Piggy's only effectiveness is through Ralph's use of his ideas, which are those that adults might take.
Frequently Piggy repeats, "What's grownups goin' to think?" because he cannot comprehend why the others do not perceive things rationally as he does. Even after the death of some of the boys, Piggy seems mainly concerned with the loss of civilized values and discipline, and appropriate behavior that has caused these deaths. Weak and unable to accept the boys' descent into savagery, Piggy refuses to admit that he has participated in the death of Simon, even when Ralph confronts him with the facts. Instead, he tries to rationalize his behavior. But, his weakness makes him a victim of the sadism of Roger.
Simon has a certain other-worldliness about him, and his bright eyes seem to symbolize this quality. He is often the only one who stays and helps with the building of shelters because he understands their purpose and because Ralph needs help. There is a certain acceptance in Simon of man's flawed nature, an attitude that differs from that of Ralph and Piggy, who feel that adults possess a higher understanding.
Simon is intuitive, and he understands that there is an intrinsic evil in man's nature. However, he can never really express this in a way that the others can comprehend. When he does try to communicate what he knows about this innate evil in all humans, Simon is attacked and killed.
Jack is a character who represents the brute force in man. He is not interested in maintaining any decorum; instead, he embraces the inherent savage in himself. While Ralph represents rational thought, Jack represents animal instinct and emotional reactions, and he competes for leadership with Ralph. He hates the conch as it represents rules, but when he can, Jack uses the conch to his advantage as, for example, when he calls an assembly in order to replace Ralph as leader. With his disregard for rules and with the sadistic assistance of Roger, he succeeds in being dictatorial, and he coerces many of the boys into savage behavior. He delights in being away from authority on the island, painting his face and celebrating the killing of pigs. Later, he descends so far into savagery that he hunts Ralph and tries to kill him.
Roger is a flat character who is purely sadistic. Unlike Jack who uses physical threats and pain in order to control the hunters and get them to obey his commands, Roger simply enjoys hurting people. For instance, early in the narrative, he throws stones at the innocent littl'un Henry, who plays happily on the beach. Without the restraints of society, Roger's cruelty increases until he brutally murders Piggy. When he releases the boulder that topples on Piggy, Roger feels "a sense of delirious abandonment."