Introduced in Chapter One as the "fair boy" with "a golden body," Ralph is described as twelve years old, but having
lost the prominent tummy of chilhood and not yet old enough for adolescence to have made him awkward....There was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil.
When Ralph learns that there are no adults on the island, he "laughs delightedly."
In this first chapter, too, there is mention of Ralph pushing back his fair hair. However, as the boys remain on the island, their hair, of course, grows long. Later in the narrative, Ralph becomes irritated with his long hair, the symbol of the boys' spiritual degeneration. Chapter Four establishes Ralph's personality as Jack and Ralph argue about the signal fire having gone out,
Ralph flung back his hair. One arm pointed at the empty horizon. His voice was loud and savage, and struck them into silence.
"There was a ship. Out there. You said you'd keep the fire going and you let it out!" He took a step toward Jack,who turned and faced him.
The two boys faced each other. There was the brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of longing and baffled common-sense.
Jack apologizes, but Ralph makes no response. He has"asserted his chieftainship...." Ralph goes to Piggy and takes his glasses to start the fire.
“Not even Ralph knew how a link between him and Jack had been snapped and fastened elsewhere.”
While Ralph is the leader, there are yet many failings in him. There is often a "shutter" that falls on Ralph and he cannot think of the correct words with which to lead the boys. :
The trouble was, if you were a chief you had to think, you had to be wise. And then the occasion slipped by so that you had to grab at a decision. This made you think; because thought was a valuable thing, that got results....
Once more that evening Ralph had to adjust his values. Piggy could think....Ralph was a specialist in thought now, and could recognize thought in another.
But, later, "The hair was creeping into his eyes again" and Ralph confronts his darker self as he hunts and "sunned himself in their new respect and felt that hunting was good after all." (Ch.7) Still, he misses home and civilization as he notices the lowering sun:
"Early evening. After tea-time, at any rate."
By now, Ralph had no self-consciousness in public thinking but would treat the day's decisions as though he were playing chess. The only trouble was that he would never be a very good chess player....
Ralph sighed, sensing the rising antagonism, understanding that this was how Jack felt as soon as he ceased to lead.
"Why do you hate me?" (Ch. 7)
Finally, Ralph, too, has descended into savagery as he becomes "half-hidden by hair and smut." (Ch. 8)
Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society.
And, yet, as Ralph always knows what has truly happened to Simon. He longs for civilization:
His mind skated to a consideration of a tamed town where savagery could not set foot.
As Golding shows the battle between civilization (respect for rules and order) and savagery (lawlessness and brute force) through the conflicts between Ralph and Jack, with the final conflict is that of Ralph as he seeks to evade the hunters who try to kill him:
He... became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet...
Once rescued, Ralph "wept for the end of innocence."(12)