In Lord of the Flies, what is the beast from chapter five "Beast From the Water"?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lord of The Flies by William Golding illustrates the potential for disaster if a group of school boys whose maximum age is about thirteen is left to fend for itself, share responsibility, make life-changing decisions and still manage to find food and shelter while being mindful of the need to be rescued. It makes having "grown-ups" around not such a bad idea after all.

As the days progress, it is obvious that Ralph and Jack have very different priorities. The boys get tired very easily. Jack and his hunters hunt but with little success so when Jack does finally kill a pig there is much celebration. The signal fire has gone out, Ralph gets hardly any support, fear grips the littluns and becomes a central issue, and communication could be better. It is time for an assembly, a meeting, before matters get out of control.

Ralph says that getting frightened is "littluns' talk," and "there's nothing in it." Jack is not subtle like Ralph and blurts out the news about this "Beast" that the littluns talk about and how they are just "sissies." Unfortunately, Jack, in his raving, gives this beast a physical form by telling the boys that there is no "animal," and he has been all over the island, so he would know.

It is the littlun who first mentioned a beast who speaks about "something big and horrid." Trying to make him think of it as nothing more than a nightmare is not working and eventually Simon admits that he was outside and so the boys can discount that beast because it was Simon moving about in the dark. However, when Percival Wemys Madison begins to give his account, the littluns start to cry and Jack discovers that this beast "comes out of the sea." After a lot of commotion, Simon intensifies the situation by agreeing that there could in fact be a beast; it could even be a ghost, someone suggests. There is no resolution and Piggy's assertion that there are no ghosts or beasts does not help much either. Percival's nightmares only intensify their fear. 

It seems therefore, that the beast remains a mystery. It is perhaps from the sea; it is a ghost or it is an animal. Only time and the boys' wild imaginations will resolve the problem.  

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Lord of the Flies

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