In Lord of the Flies, since Percival is inarticulate, what does this fact demonstrate about the boy's experience on the island?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since the use of the word inarticulate is in the question, perhaps the reference is made to Chapter Five of Lord of the Flies in which the assembly is held and Percival Wemys Madison is called upon to testify about sighting the beast.  When he is asked his name, Percival can no longer remember his phone number:

As if this information was rooted far down in the springs of sorrow, the littlun wept....At first he was a silent effigy of sorrow; but then the lamentation rose out of him, loud and sustained as the conch.

His crying reminds the others of their sorrows; they weep, too. When Jack asks him about the beast, Percival yawns and staggers. As Jack grabs him, he sags.  Finally Percival tells Jack that the Beast comes from the sea.  It is Simon who attempts to explain that the beast may be real: "maybe it's only us."  When Piggy shouts "Nuts!" Simon then becomes inarticulate and his effort

falls about him in ruins; the laughter beat him cruely and he shrank away defenseless to his seat.

Later, as Ralph cries desperately,

"If only they could get a message to us....If only they could send us something grownup...a sign or something.

Then, a thin wail out of darkness chills them, sending them grabbing for each other.

...the wail rose, remote and uneartly, and turned to an inarticulate gibbering. Percival Wemys Madison, of the Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, lying in the long grass, was living through circumstances in which the incantation of his address was powerless to help him.

Like Simon, Percival senses the evil of man, the inherent evil that causes him also to be inarticulate and powerless.  His experience parallels that of Simon, rendering him inarticulate and well; this experience presages the one of the final scene of the novel in which Percival

sought in his head for an incantation that had faded clean away.

 Young Percival has become the subject of the Lord of the Flies, powerless to dispel the evil and savagery that dominates the island.  When the sea captain arrives, it appears to be too late for Percival's rescue.




MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This moment comes at the end of the novel, when the officer is questioning the boys on the island. Percival's attempt to respond ends with him in tears. His inability to remember even his own name shows how far into savagery the boys have sunk. The loss of innocence is so complete that even the youngest boys are barely recognizable. This level of inhuman existence has been building throughout the novel, culminating in Piggy's death and the hunt for Ralph.

At the beginning of the story, Percival Wemys Madison is very proud of the fact that he can recite his name and his full address. This is how he introduces himself, and how he prefaces his responses. When Piggy and Ralph seek to question him about the beastie, he only gets as far as his address before bursting into tears. This recitation of societal identity is what keeps him connected to his life before the island. As he is pulled further and further from that existence, he eventually forgets everything holding him to it. Even his own name is lost in the mad descent into darkness.

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Lord of the Flies

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