"[Ralph] stopped, facing the strip; and remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood, he smiled jeeringly" (76).
Ralph often finds himself wishing he could return to those easier days, when the boys explored the island together, carefree and relishing the thought of a good adventure. During those early days on the island, Ralph still was extremely innocent; he believed in their inevitable rescue and perceived his time on the island as a way to have a "good time" without adult interference (34).
In chapter five, "Beast from the Water," where this quote occurs about Ralph's recollection of the first days on the island, Ralph now understands the seriousness of the boys' situation and the genuine hardship of the reality they face. He truly feels the pressure of leadership. As chief, Ralph now worries about the littluns' nightmares, building the huts on the beach, maintaining the signal fire, collecting water, enforcing his rules, and keeping Jack and his hunters in line. After the hunters let the signal fire go out, Ralph realizes he must call a very serious meeting, which "must not be fun, but business" (77).
Of course Ralph looks back to the first days on the island as being "part of a brighter childhood," because at that time Ralph did not have all of the responsibilities that he now carries; Ralph's leadership has forced him to grow up and be, for all intents and purposes, the 'adult' on the island.