"If faces were different when lit from above or below-what was a face? What was anything?" What does this mean, what is Ralph questioning?Page 83

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ralph has noticed that things are not necessarily as they seem. If a face can look different in one light from another, Ralph ponders, what, then, is truly real?

Shortly after he calls a meeting at dusk, Ralph observes that order and discipline are gone. He tells the assembled boys, “Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why." Nevertheless, Ralph does understand that thought is "the valuable thing that got results." Unfortunately, Ralph knows thinking is not his forte"; it is Piggy who can reason deductively, rather. But, Piggy lacks the leadership qualities to accomplish things.

Further, Ralph explains that the assembly is "not for fun" or for "laughing and falling off the log—not for making jokes. . . . But to put things straight." With much sincerity and conviction in his voice, Ralph addresses the assembly, convinced that they must all join in the effort to maintain the vestiges of civilization.

Ralph understands that the boys must create meaning in a meaningless environment in which faces can look one way and then, in a different light, appear to be another way. Only if they can keep order will they have a chance to be rescued. "We have assemblies . . . we decide things. But they don't get done," he points out to his listeners. Ralph wants the boys to commit to a social contract so that they will hold together as civilized boys. Only by governing themselves, Ralph feels, can they be rescued.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ralph has called an assembly and this particular one is later in the day than any previous assembly, so, for that reason, the sun is at a different angle and lighting the faces of the boys from above rather than from below.  Ralph realizes that the faces look different with this new perspective and he wonders about reality - what is it?  He's been trying to keep the boys civilized and orderly and one of the reasons for this assembly is to remind them they must abide by the rules in so that they can remain civilized.  This, to Ralph, is what is real, i.e., civilization is reality and reality is civilization.  His awareness of the differences in the faces leads him to wonder if they can maintain civility.  He can't quite articulate yet what he is wondering, but he does worry about the problem of Jack's growing popularity and fondness toward savagery.  Ralph will come to see that civilization and reality are not the same thing, that indeed, civilization is a facade put on by people to hide their savagery. The different light perspective on the faces is like getting a glimpse of the savage behind the facade.

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Lord of the Flies

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