Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

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What deeper meaning is there to the statement "We ought to die before we let the fire go out" from Lord of the Flies?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter five, Ralph holds an assembly to address the fact that the boys have been neglecting their agreed-upon duties and pleads with them to follow his directives. Ralph then mentions that the signal fire is the most important thing on the island and says that it is essential to maintain the fire at all times in order to increase their chances of rescue. Ralph then asks,

Don’t you understand? Can’t you see we ought to—ought to die before we let the fire out? (Golding, 144)

Ralph's comment can be interpreted as a challenge for the boys to maintain their civility at all costs. In this context, the signal fire can symbolically represent civilization, structure, and hope. By applying a deeper meaning to Ralph's quote, one can interpret Ralph's comment as a call for the boys to maintain their civility and a warning that they will eventually die if they neglect the fire. Ralph is metaphorically telling the boys that they will die as a result of chaos and anarchy if they lose their civility and begin acting like savages, which is exactly what happens. It is also important to note that the maintenance of the signal fire is a good indicator of the boys' civility and savagery on the island. Once the signal fire goes out and is relocated, the boys rapidly descend into savagery.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a quote from Ralph in Chapter 5.  The deeper meaning has to do with civilization and the need to keep it alive.

When Ralph speaks this line, he is talking about the need to keep their immediate environment clean and the need to keep the fire going rather than trying to hunt pigs.  In this context, the fire represents civilization and maturity and duty.  Ralph wants the boys to keep these civilized virtues in mind rather than becoming lazy and dirty and hedonistic. 

The deeper meaning of the quote, then, is that they ought to die rather than give up on being civilized.  It is a statement of the value of maintaining civilization and civilized mores in the face of chaos.

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