"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..." (78).
Ralph considers these truths as he waits for the assembly to discuss the importance of keeping the fire lit. He recognizes that he is not a great strategist--especially under pressure. When Jack and his hunters let the signal fire go out because they were hunting, Ralph was an ineffective leader during the confrontation that followed. He concludes that he is not a great spur-of-the-moment thinker under stress.
The scene in which Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric prepare to meet Jack and the hunters at Castle Rock show how Ralph's decision making ability has almost completely eroded under the strain of stress. He emphatically tells the boys that they will not paint themselves like savages and then struggles to remember about the signal fire being the most important thing. When Piggy reminds him about the smoke, Ralph becomes extremely agitated:
"'I knew that!' shouted Ralph. He pulled his arm away from Piggy. 'Are you suggesting--?'
'I'm just saying what you always says,' said Piggy hastily. 'I'd thought for a moment--'
'I hadn't,' said Ralph loudly. 'I knew it all the time. I hadn't forgotten'" (173).
The truth is that Ralph had forgotten about the fire, and Piggy did have to remind him. This scene reveals Ralph's denial about losing focus on rescue and fire being the most important thing; Golding's use of dialogue between the characters suggests that Ralph is slowly slipping into savagery. The once confident leader of the tribe is regressing into a lesser version of himself, barely able to communicate simple thoughts to his friends.
"There were many things he could do. He could climb a tree; but that was putting all of his eggs in one basket. If he were detected, they had nothing more difficult to do than wait. If only one had time to think!" (195)
This quote taken from the scene in which the hunters attempt to 'smoke' Ralph out from the thicket at the end of the novel is a good example of how time and pressure have robbed Ralph's ability to concentrate and make decisions. He is trapped in a very tense, life-threatening situation in which the other boys have "sharpened a stick at both ends" to kill him, and Ralph struggles under the pressure to make a decision that could save his life or at least buy him more time.