What does it mean when Ralph takes off his school uniform in Chapter One?Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As an allegory, William Golding's novel removes man from the influences of society and places him on a pristine island in order to examine the essential nature of man.  So, in Chapter One after Ralph discovers that he is on a beautiful island with rocks--"that preposterous token of time"--and realizes,

Here at last was the imagined but never fully realized place leaping into real life.

There are no adults; it is like the coral island of Ballatyne's work.  Like Adam, Ralph stands naked and beautiful before the wondrous beauty of nature, laughing "delightedly" as he gazes around at his Garden of Eden.

Symbolically, of course, the clothing that Ralph sheds is the last vestige of society that he possesses.  By removing his clothes, therefore, Ralph now becomes a natural man who will be unaffected by external forces of civilization.  All that remains of his civilization is the conditioning which has taken place in Ralph.  This conditioning, of course, begins to wear down as Ralph is affected by his removal from society as well as the actions of the other boys with whom he tries to survive.