What changes do we notice in Ralph's personality by the beginning of Chapter 5?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The beginning of Chapter 5 of Lord of the Flies evidences a maturation in Ralph:

Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment.  He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one's waking life was spent watching one's feet.

Ralph realizes the responsibility of leadership, the demands that it makes upon him, especially in the absence of any rules of society.  Gone is the carefree innocence which he first felt when he arrived on the island:

...remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood, he smiled jeeringly.

Ralph scoffs at his naivete, his childish thinking. Now, he knows that he must make no mistake as he calls an assembly since there is an urgent need to preserve order after Jack has earned the respect of the boys for having procured meat.  For, as the boys rejoiced in the killing of the pig, Golding writes, Ralph watched them, "envious and resentful" of their freedom as he realized the responsibilities that fall upon him as the leader.  He yearns for a return to civilization where he can again be a boy: 

With a convulsion of the mind, Ralph discovered dirt and decay, understood how much he diliked perpetually flicking the tangled hair out of his eyes, and at last, when the sun was gone, rolling noisily to rest among dry leaves.

In addition, Ralph realizes that he does not have the reasoning ability necessary for leadership:

Only, decided Ralph as he faced the chief's seat, I can't think.  Not like Piggy....He could go step by step inside that fat head of his, only Piggy was no chief...Ralph was a specialist in thought now, and could recognize thought in another.

At the meeting, Ralph wishes to "put things straight."  In his maturity, he explains that immediate gratification is problematic; he tells the hunters excited about the pigs,

You hunters! You can laugh!  But I tell you the smoke is more important than the pig, however often you kill one....We've got to make smoke up there--or die.

Unfortunately, Jack has gained power with the respect he has earned and the meeting does not go well as Jack undermines Ralph's authority by blaming Ralph for first personifying the beast.  As the boys argue, Ralph blows the conch for order.  But, Jack yells, "Bollock to the rules!  We're strong--we hunt!"  The savage brute strength contends now with the call to civilized order and Ralph shudders at the thought of losing control, a premonition about which he has had at the very beginning of the chapter:

We're all drifiting and things are going rotten.  At home there was always a grownup.  Please, sir; please, miss; and then you got an answer.  How I wish!

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding, the author shows us a group of children, including Ralph, who love to be paly and be free particularly in a nice warm tropical white-sanded paradise island with plenty of fish, fruit, coconuts and water to consume. Now, he begins to show us a child turning, perhaps prematurely and unwillingly, into a man. Ralph has changed in becoming objective - he can look at himself from outside - like an adult - and feels like he is looking down on himself from a great height and is harsh on himself. Actually, he is wrong when he says 'we've got to make smoke or die' in a physical sense for some of the chosen ones, as there's plenty to eat, but spiritually (and in reality for some)  - yes, he, Piggy and others are in danger.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the major change that has happened in Ralph's personality is that he is less sure of himself at this point than he had been before.  At the start of this chapter, we see him walking along being sort of confused.  Later, we see him in a "mood of speculation that was so foreign to him."  He is starting to lose faith in his abilities to keep the group organized.

The conch has lost most of its color.  It is white and transparent.  Since the conch is the symbol of authority, this shows that authority is weakening -- becoming pale and delicate.

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Lord of the Flies

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