Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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What happens in chapter 2 of Lord of the Flies by William Golding?

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By the end of chapter one of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, the boys have gathered, elected a leader, and explored the island. In chapter two, the boys gather for a meeting, and what happens at this meeting sets the stage for all the trouble ahead on the island. 

First, the boys establish the rules of the island. While they agree with Ralph's ideas, they do not appear to be taking any of them seriously: going to the bathroom away from the camp and building shelters, among other things.

Second, Piggy has the conch and wants to speak. Jack hates Piggy (a well established fact in chapter one) and wants Ralph to break the rules and refuse to let Piggy speak. Instead, Ralph allows Piggy to speak. Ralph's tacit aligning with Ralph is the beginning of all kinds of trouble between the Jack and the other two that will last throughout the novel.

Third, the youngest boys, known as the littluns, broach the subject of a beast. They have not been sleeping well, seeing the creeping vines hanging from trees and assuming they are some kind of "beastie." Ralph tries to reason with them, which is not a particularly successful endeavor; Jack claims there is no beast, but if there is he will certainly kill it. 

Finally, Ralph comes to the main point of his meeting. He says:

"Now we come to the most important thing. I've been thinking. I was thinking while we were climbing the mountain." He flashed a conspiratorial grin at the other two. "And on the beach just now. This is what I thought. We want to have fun. And we want to be rescued."

The passionate noise of agreement from the assembly hit him like a wave and he lost his thread. He thought again.

"We want to be rescued; and of course we shall be rescued."

To do that, Ralph suggests that the boys make and keep a signal fire going on the mountain so passing ships will see the smoke and come to rescue them. Of course there is no sense of urgency, as they have not been on the island very long; however, there is a grand attitude of hopefulness among the group.

Unfortunately, the boys get swept away by the thrill and promise of a fire, and this will end in the first death on the island. The boys (all but Piggy) run to the top of the mountain and drag wood enough for a conflagration. There is a an embarrassing moment when no one has anything with which to actually start a fire, but then Piggy arrives and saves the day. He has thick spectacles which the boys use to begin the fire.

The fire goes rogue and spreads immediately; soon it is rolling down the mountain. 

Small flames stirred at the trunk of a tree and crawled away through leaves and brushwood, dividing and increasing. One patch touched a tree trunk and scrambled up like a bright squirrel. The smoke increased, sifted, rolled outwards. The squirrel leapt on the wings of the wind and clung to another standing tree, eating downwards. Beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw. Acres of black and yellow smoke rolled steadily toward the sea.... Beneath the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame. The separate noises of the fire merged into a drum-roll that seemed to shake the mountain.

The savagery has begun and a life has been lost. This chapter foreshadows many events that will happen later in the novel, making it the beginning of the end.

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