What are the internal and external conflicts of Ralph? Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a main character, Ralph of Lord of the Flies experiences several conflicts.  These struggles are what move the plot forward, in fact. Initially, Ralph, who mistakenly thinks that he has arrived on an idyllic island, finds himself elected leader of the boys and burdened with much responsibility.  At first, with the assistance of the rational Piggy, Ralph establishes order by using the conch to call the boys to meetings.  He convinces them initially of the importance of building and sustaining a fire with green branches that will send smoke high into the air as a signal so they can be rescued. Yet, even with Piggy, Ralph has some conflict as they disagree at times. However, as previously mentioned, Ralph's leadership is most challenged by the aggressive and proud Jack, once leader of the boys' choir, who now wishes to rule the boys and have them join his own group of hunters [see ch.4].  The external conflict comes of the civilized manner of Ralph's leadership which involves building shelters and maintaining the rescue fire vs. Jack's control of the boys by brute force and having them engage in hunting the feral pigs on the island.  This force of Jack and his hunters along with his sadistic friend, Roger, defeats Ralph's group by stealing the fire; after this, anarchy rules the island and the hunters go after Ralph, who is only saved by the rescuing warship and its captain.

Within Ralph there are, of course, internal conflicts, which his inner thoughts reveal.  One important one is his desire to join in the hunt, as previously mentioned. In Chapter 5, for instance, Ralph experiences another internal conflict in his realization that he does not have enough to command the leadership:


Again he fell into that strange mood of speculation that was so foreign to him.....The trouble was, if you were a chief you had to think, you had to be wise....

Once more that evening Ralph had to adjust his values.  Piggy could think.  He could go step by step inside that fat head of his, only Piggy was no chief.  But Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains.  Ralph was a specialist in thought now, and could recognize thought in another. 

By the end of this chapter, Ralph begins to wish for the return to civilization where adults have the answers.  He realizes inside himself that he is not equipped to handle what changes are occurring on the island.


Before writing an essay on Ralph review the character analysis in the site below. Go back through the novel; hopefully, you noted significant passages.

 What you want to do, essentially, is analyze the character of Ralph, discussing what traits he possesses and how he deals with his internal and external conflicts; that is, discuss the development of Ralph as a character.  Explain how he resolves (or does not resolve) these external conflicts/struggles with Piggy, the littl'uns, and Jack.  And, identify his internal struggles--what he worries about, wants, etc.--explaining how he deals with these conflicts. 


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

External conflict in literature is conflict that happens between the character and something outside of him.  This can be society, or another character, or even the weather.  But in this case, the most obvious external conflict for Ralph is his conflict with Jack.  They spend the whole book, just about, competeing with each other for power.

The major internal conflict for Ralph, I would say, comes when he is tempted to join Jack and the hunters.  He participates in a dance and is really ashamed of himself.

Overall, though, I'd say that the conflict between him and Jack is more important.

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Lord of the Flies

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