What do the boys see at the end of Chapter 7 of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, and how do they react?  

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "beast" has quickly assumed almost mythological proportions in the minds of the young boys stranded on the island in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Early in Golding's novel, the notion of a "beast" lurking in the woods is introduced to the boys by a particularly young child, about six years old. This child cautiously approaches Ralph during a ritualistic gathering or assembly to inquire about a strange object he observed. As the boy is prompted to speak, the others discuss this peculiar sighting:

"Tell us about the snake-thing."

"Now he says it was a beastie."

"Beastie?''

"A snake-thing. Ever so big. He saw it." 

As Lord of the Flies continues, the threatening presence of the "beast" remains a constant source of tension and bewilderment, the unidentified object assuming ever more threatening forms while Ralph, the voice of reason, continues to argue that no such creature could exist on this island. The "beast," however, is not some figurative boogeyman, in that it exists in the children's minds only as a legend with which to have fun. Rather, the "beast" becomes a dividing point separating the boys into factions. The tension and fear associated with the "beast" does not serve to unify the boys against a common threat; it serves, instead, to create fissures among them that will prove deadly. In Chapter Five, the issue of the "beast" takes center stage, with the thin veil of civility that the boys had established giving way to the baser instincts of humanity. Note, in the following passage, how the "beast" serves to fracture any kind of consensus regarding a structured civilization governed by rules:

Ralph summoned his wits.

"Because the rules are the only thing we've got!"

But Jack was shouting against him.

"Bollocks to the rules! We're strong—we hunt! If there's a beast, we'll hunt it down!

We'll close in and beat and beat and beat—!"

In Chapter Six the twins claim to have seen the "beast," prompting further investigation. It is in Chapter Seven where the boys finally encounter the creature that has terrified and fascinated them. As Jack, Ralph and Roger approach the strange bulge, Golding's unseen narrator describes the scene:

Before them, something like a great ape was sitting asleep with its head between its knees. Then the wind roared in the forest, there was confusion in the darkness and the creature lifted its head, holding toward them the ruin of a face.

It is not at the end of Chapter Seven that Golding describes the boys' reaction to the sighting of the "beast," however. All that happens at the end of Chapter Seven, following the brief description cited above, is the boys' rapid departure from the site of the creature:

Ralph found himself taking giant strides among the ashes, heard other creatures crying out and leaping and dared the impossible on the dark slope; presently the mountain was deserted, save for the three abandoned sticks and the thing that bowed.

The identity of the "beast," or "creature," had been, the reader realizes, provided in Chapter Six with the description of a parachute dropping aimlessly onto the island, the aircraft from which it originated apparently destroyed: "There was a speck above the island, a figure dropping swiftly beneath a parachute, a figure that hung with dangling limbs." Simon, in Chapter Nine, will discover the dead figure, its corpse dragged around whenever a strong wind caught the parachute and dragged it to another location. The myth of a "beast," though, remains too important for Jack to dispense with the notion of an outside threat to the boys. After killing and cooking the boar, Jack cements his dominance over many of the boys. Ralph, Piggy, and the soon to be killed Simon exclude themselves from the "hunters'" descent into chaos, with Jack leading his followers with the chant, "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"

It is Simon, of course, who is mercilessly beaten and stabbed to death, his efforts at explaining the true and nonthreatening nature of the mysterious figure known as the "beast" a product of Jack's and his followers' bloodlust. The boys continue to fear the beast, because that serves Jack's purpose. Jack capitalizes on the notion of an external threat to rally the boys around him; his ability to provide them meat solidifies his ascendency.

andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter six, Sam and Eric are terrified by something they see on top of the mountain. They rush down to the shelters and breathlessly tell the other boys about what they believe to have been an encounter with the beast. They state that the creature followed them down the mountain. The twins' report is so believable that Ralph decides that they have to find the beast and permanently rid themselves of its menace.

Chapter seven describes the boys' climb up the mountain. When they are close to the top, Ralph, Jack, and Roger decide to continue whilst the others return to the platform since they are tired. Jack offers to do a further investigation and tells Ralph and Roger that he has seen "a thing bulge on the mountain." 

The boys continue their ascent and eventually reach the flat top. Jack points out the place where he has seen the bulge by referring to it as "a sort of hump." The three boys are clearly terrified and Ralph then sees what Jack has described:

In front of them, only three or four yards away, was a rock-like hump where no rock should be.

Ralph is overcome with fear and can hardly move. His terror sets his teeth chattering, and he becomes like lead, but he wills himself to stand up. When the moon lights up the place, the boys witness the following:

Before them, something like a great ape was sitting asleep with its head between its knees. Then the wind roared in the forest, there was confusion in the darkness and the creature lifted its head, holding toward them the ruin of a face.

The boys' terror overwhelms them, and they cry out and start running as fast as they possibly can. They desperately want to get away from what they believe is the beast. The creature they see is, ironically, the harmless corpse of a dead parachutist. Its appearance later, when the wind carries it over the beach toward the ocean, again terrifies them during a lightning storm. The boys' actions are quite ironic, for they have made the effort to seek out the beast and destroy it but, instead, flee from it.

It is only Simon who truly understands the true nature of the beast, as the following quote suggests:

However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick.

The beast is not an external threat. It is man's inner malice. At this point in the novel, the boys have not been truly exposed to their own inner malice. However, the erosion of civilized behavior and their adoption of primitive behavior unleashes the beast within. The devastating results are Simon's and Piggy's deaths, the hunt for Ralph as if he is prey, and the fire that rages on the island when they are rescued.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The boys see the hanging corpse of the dead parachutist. This is significant in that it is (or was) a man who to them represents a beast. They have, particularly in this chapter, become more like beasts themselves in the torture of Robert when they are playing the hunting 'game'. As they see the corpse at night, this adds to its mystery and fuels their belief in The Beast. Ignoring Ralph's suggestion to explore the area in the daytime has drawn them still further into primitive belief which runs alongside their descent into savagery.

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Lord of the Flies

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