Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What are adjectives that can describe Ralph in Lord of the Flies?

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That's a great question. If you add his cumulative list of descriptors together, Ralph doesn't make an excellent leader on paper. And perhaps he isn't an excellent leader at all, and that is one of the reasons the boys' society crumbles near the end. But he is one of the best choices among the group. Here are some words I'd use to describe Ralph:

Advisable: Unlike Jack, who is fairly impossible to reason with, Ralph is willing to consider wise counsel, especially from Piggy and Simon.

Insulting: Especially at the beginning of the book, Ralph arrogantly insults the boy who tries to help him most (Piggy), calling him "fatty" and ridiculing him in front of the group.

Strong-willed: Ralph isn't afraid of a challenge and doesn't mind reminding Jack who is in charge. Both physically and verbally, Ralph doesn't back down easily.

Focused: Whether it's the signal fire, building shelters, organizing duties, or keeping up with "littluns," Ralph is fairly focused on the important tasks that need to be done and reminds the group about their need for rescue--not merely continued survival on the island.

Most of the boys begin to gravitate toward Jack near the end of the book, and Ralph himself gets caught up in the blood thirst, so he's not a perfect leader by any means. However, without any adults around and in the absence of any sort of order, he does better than most in trying to keep the group focused on the most worthwhile efforts.

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I believe that Ralph changes drastically during his stay on the island. He does not start out as mature--in fact, every time he becomes excited about being alone on a "good island" without adult supervision, he can't even find the words to express himself, so he stands on his head to express his enthusiasm, which is quite immature.

He is certainly not accepting and tolerant at the beginning, either, as he appears to be quite prejudicial against the fat boy with thick specs named "Piggy." He tries to sneak away from Piggy at first, but then, realizing that Piggy will not be left behind, Ralph grudgingly puts up with his company. After Piggy asks Ralph not to tell the others of his humiliating nickname, Ralph goes right ahead and tells them anyway (again displaying the immaturity he arrives with on the island). Noble at this point is out of the question.

Ralph tries to be somewhat responsible up to a point, but he's not that interested in responsibility--that is Piggy's forte. A list is supposed to be made of all the kids on the island, but it does not come to fruition. Then there is the fire on the mountain, and the boy with the mulberry birthmark is killed--and they can only account for his death because of the noticeable birthmark. This is when Ralph takes a more serious turn.

As the other kids lose their sense of civilization, Ralph tries more and more to be responsible and noble, even though he, too, at times, lapses, such as in the killing of Simon.

The traitorous and violent turn that Jack takes makes Ralph very fearful for the boys who are still on his side and for himself, especially at the end when he is being hunted. As they are rescued, this fear has its catharsis in the weeping that Ralph is finally able to give in to.

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accepting and tolerant



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